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MCHS to let go of two teachers for next school year

Board voted on resolution in preparation of budget cuts

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 9:29 p.m. CDT

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MORRIS – Morris Community High School will operate with two less teachers beginning the next school year.

The Morris District 101 School Board passed a reduction in force resolution to let go of Patti Tesdal, full-time art teacher at Morris Community High School for the past 21 years, and Sarah Pichon, full-time special education teacher for the past three years at MCHS.

“This is always a really tough thing,” said Kelly Hussey, principal of MCHS. “The process where the finances of a district dictate the staffing need.”

The board voted on the resolution during Monday’s school board meeting.

Because of the declining equalized assessed property value in the district, the district aims to trim $300,000 from its budget in the 2014-15 school year.

“This is a financial cost-saving measure,” said Pat Halloran, District 101 superintendent. “These situations are always difficult on all parties involved. We appreciate the contributions to the district both staff members made.”

Enrollment figures in those two department are down and the staff reduction should save the district $137,000, Halloran said before Monday’s meeting.

The board also passed a resolution authorizing a settlement with Midwest Generation. Per the settlement, District 101 and Midwest Generation agree to drop all charges and end the 13-year lawsuit.

District 101 was the first taxing body involved in the settlement to vote. The Grundy County Board is slated to discuss and vote on the litigation during tonight’s County Board meeting.

All taxing bodies involved must vote on the settlement before it can become official.

“The goal is to have it passed by all of the taxing bodies by Feb. 19,” Halloran said.

In 2000, Midwest Generation disputed the equalized assessed property value of the Collins Power Station – formerly located on a 2,000 acre plot in rural Morris – claiming the assessed value of the property was too high. The taxing bodies that received funds, based on that EAV, appealed Midwest Generation’s claim to avoid repaying almost $25 million in tax dollars to the company.

Morris School District’s 101 and 54 – the two largest players in the litigation – would have been responsible for paying back $19 million. The school districts received the most tax dollars from the Collins Power Station and therefore had the most to lose

The settlement will most likely be passed by all taxing bodies involved.

The official settlement document still is being finalized, but Halloran said it stipulates the taxing bodies and Midwest Generation will drop any previous charges and walk away from the lawsuit. With the settlement, the taxing bodies would be free from paying back millions.

The settlement would be good news for Morris School Districts 101 and 54, which would save thousands in legal fees. The districts also could see an increase in locally generated income once the settlement goes through.

Before closing in 2005, Collins Station accounted for 56 percent of District 54’s tax base and 35 percent of District 101’s base.

The 2,000 acre plot of land has sat undeveloped since the plant’s closure thanks to the long-lasting lawsuit. Now, Midwest Generation is free to sell or redevelop the land, which could greatly increase the area’s tax base.

“We’re looking forward to that valuable piece of property coming back on the tax rolls and helping the business climate in Grundy County,” Halloran said.

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