The Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board got through several discussions and votes at its meeting Wednesday, but not without some members questioning or challenging several of the administration's recommendations.
Board member Scott Herr initiated much of the debate, beginning with Superintendent Scott Thompson's call to spend $3 million on capital projects next summer. Herr said he supported spending more of the budget surplus to keep chipping away at building improvements that were deferred repeatedly during the district's fiscal crisis. The majority of projects slated for completion next summer are outstanding from the nearly decade-old life safety audit.
Thompson said he appreciated the input but pointed to the new life safety audit being conducted next summer. He said the study will be an opportunity to identify and more quickly tackle an updated list of highest-priority projects. Craig Phillips, the district's environmental services manager, predicts the bulk of those items will be related to old mechanical systems, sanitary lines and flooding at certain schools.
"We think being patient is prudent at this point in time," Thompson said.
Herr then challenged a five-year financial forecast given by Assistant Superintendent Mike Adamczyk, saying part of the projections were misleading and "just totally wrong" because certain expenditures were being counted twice. He added that Adamczyk changed his reporting method from past "proper" budgets.
Adamczyk responded that the new format better illustrates the required transfer of project money between funds. He noted that other districts follow the same practice and said District 15's year-end fund balance ends up being the same in either case. Thompson said he approved the new form because it seemed to make sense but that administrators will re-examine the change.
The discord then moved on to the goals Thompson has this year, with board member Manjula Sriram saying she felt "blindsided" by his brief overview because the board didn't have time to prepare questions. Herr added that Thompson's new contract should be reopened to accurately reflect ongoing and new goals, an issue discussed at length during a meeting last month.
Thompson again reiterated that he intends to see through goals he has outlined, whether or not they're formally listed in his contract.
I'm going to work on those (goals). You can either trust me or not," he said.
Herr, Sriram and Gerard Iannuzzelli, who have consistently aligned themselves since the April election gave the other four board members a voting majority, challenged several more recommendations that included topics to be discussed at an upcoming communication forum, the accuracy of meeting minutes and whether the board's annual goals should be more detailed. Board President Peggy Babcock said it was bordering on micromanaging.
When a roll call was taken to adjourn the meeting, other clearly frustrated board members answered either "abstain" or "no" to reflect disagreement throughout the night. Afterward, Babcock said the board won't always reach a consensus.
"It's a Democratic process," she said. "Sometimes we'll agree and sometimes we'll disagree."