St. Charles school board shoots down spending limit increase

 
 
Updated 12/5/2016 12:12 PM
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  • Steve Spurling

    Steve Spurling

With an April election ahead, St. Charles school board members positioned themselves this week to renew the fiscally conservative platforms that have been a hallmark of successful candidates in the city.

District 303 administrators pitched a plan to allow staff members to buy goods or services up to $25,000 without approval from the school board. That would have more than doubled the current spending limit of $10,000.

Seth Chapman, the district's chief financial officer, explained staff members wanted to raise the limit to $25,000 because an increasing number of expenses surpass the $10,000 threshold. About 3 percent of the 12,000 checks the district writes each year total more than $10,000.

"It's really just a matter of timing," Chapman said. "Some people in the trades, they don't want to wait. We get calls from some people who are frustrated that we haven't paid the bills."

Paying a large bill can take a month to run through the school board approval process. That's why most taxing bodies use a $25,000 limit. The guideline came into place from a 2008 state law.

Members of the school board's policy committee weren't interested in what other taxing bodies do.

"I don't like creating the concept that we don't care about $10,000 anymore," school board member Steve Spurling said. "It might send the wrong message. I understand the reasons for doing it, but I think it might not look great if we do it."

Spurling is one of four school board members with expiring terms in April. Jim Gaffney, Corinne Pierog and Ed McNally are also up for re-election.

School board President Kathy Hewell is not on the April ballot. She agreed with Spurling, Gaffney and Lori Linkimer that requiring school board approval for any expense greater than $10,000 is the right thing to do. Hewell said getting detailed information about big expenses will be key to the learning curve for any new school board member. And getting to know the spending preferences of the school board will benefit the new district administrative staff, who will come into place when Superintendent Don Schlomann retires in July, she said.

"I don't think our community wants us to be less hands-on, less vigilant," Hewell said. "I have absolutely no concerns or doubts about the administration. I just think, in my role as a board member, this is what I should be doing."

The full school board will take a final vote on the proposed policy change proposal later this month.

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