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    Posted April 3, 2015 by
    CIMediaGroup
    Location
    Neoga, Illinois

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    Neoga Illinois Voters Face Dire Decisions and Deadlines.

     

    District says more new local revenue sources desperately needed; future of small town schools and economy at stake pending April 7 tax vote.

     

    A small central Illinois school district is facing the prospect of borrowing money just to keep its doors open next year, but its new interim superintendent says she can turn things around … with a little help.

     

    Dr. Beth Pressler, who in February took over as superintendent of Neoga Community Unit School District 3, says an $800,000 referendum up for consideration on the April 7 ballot is the key to keeping the district afloat.

     

    “I keep saying this, and I really need for people to understand it,” said Pressler in a recent interview with WTHI-TV. “There are two things that have got to happen. You’ve got to have new revenue come into the picture; there’s got to be new money flowing in. At the same time, they (Neoga) have got to curtail their spending.”

     

    Pressler, whose experience bringing a similarly sized district back from the brink of economic catastrophe made her a sensible fit for the Neoga post, has already been working on the curtailed spending; she spent her first few weeks on the job making nearly a half-million dollars in budget cuts for the 2015-16 school year with more set to come off the books the following year.

     

    Referendum proponents say any more cutting will devastate an already picked-over school system, which in turn will take its toll on the community at large.

     

    “At a certain point, a district like Neoga can cut itself right out of being able to do the very thing it exists to do - educate children in a quality manner, while continuing to instill the small-town values that keep families in this community for generations,” said Neoga Community Alliance co-chairs Kristy Buescher and Brian Titus in a media release.

     

    “Why flirt with reaching that point? If at any juncture our schools offer nothing more than a bare-bones education, the negative effects on our children and our community leave us no better off than if they just disappeared. People leave. Property values plummet. Businesses suffer. Churches wilt away. It is often said a school is a small town’s heartbeat, and all we want to do is keep that heart beating as strong as possible.”

     

    The NCA, an independent group of concerned citizens with a stated mission of “maintaining a strong, vibrant community”, has calculated the referendum will increase property tax bills in Neoga by an average of 17 percent, but has also looked at long-term projections that could allow the district’s school board to levy much less than the full $800,000 amount – thus lessening the citizens’ tax burden – in just two or three years.

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