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Batavia school board vacancy attracts interest

Christopher Solfa, candidate in spring election, to apply

Christopher Solfa, who unsuccessfully ran for Batavia school board in the 2019 spring election, is applying for the position being vacated by Bob Baty-Barr.
Christopher Solfa, who unsuccessfully ran for Batavia school board in the 2019 spring election, is applying for the position being vacated by Bob Baty-Barr.

BATAVIA – The vacancy on the Batavia school board is attracting applicants, including attorney Christopher Solfa, who was a candidate in the 2019 spring election.

School board member Bob Baty-Barr resigned last week because of a change in residence, creating an open seat on the seven-person panel.

The remaining six board members are scheduled to conduct interviews with applicants on Aug. 6 and are likely to announce a decision that same day.

District 101 Superintendent Lisa Hichens said after the July 23 board meeting that two people already had applied for consideration, but in keeping with past board practice declined to name them.

Solfa approached Hichens and board President Kathy Dremel and informed them that he intends to apply as well.

In the April 2 election, voters elected three board members from among six candidates.

Solfa placed fourth, with 1,166 votes. The top vote-getter was newcomer Erin Meitzler with 1,625 votes. Dremel was reelected with 1,552 ballots, while Chris Lowe also was reelected, tallying 1,449.

The deadline for applications is noon on July 30, Dremel said. The interviews and selection of the new board member will be conducted in closed session, Dremel said.

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen, a registered voter and a resident of the school district for at least one year.

The school board meets the third Tuesday of every month.

At their July 23 meeting, board members placed on public display the district’s budget for the coming fiscal year.

The document’s figures differ slightly from what was presented a month ago.

As it stands now, the board members are considering a $118.9 million spending plan, with $122 million in revenues producing a $3 million surplus.

However, the big variable is the estimated $46 million figure now budgeted for teacher salaries.

District administrators continue to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the Batavia Education Association (BEA). The union’s contract with the district expired June 30.

Chief Financial Officer Tony Inglese, a member of the district’s negotiating team, said the bargaining sessions have been going well.

The first day of school is Aug. 14, meaning it is possible that teachers will return to the classroom without a contract in place.

Inglese said the district and the union are discussing not only salaries, but health insurance benefits.

“It’s a key aspect of the negotiations,” Inglese said.

The school district has a teaching staff of about 420 full-time equivalents, according to the budget documents, with enrollment this year projected at 5,688 students.

The 2020 fiscal year will already be underway before the final spending plan is approved by the school board on Sept 24. A public hearing on the budget will be held Aug. 20.

The budget appears inflated because it includes $27 million in “on-behalf” contributions from the state of Illinois paid directly to retired District 101 teachers, but is included in the district’s bookkeeping.

Without including that money, the district’s revenues are placed at $95 million, with the lion’s share coming from local property taxes.

The district operates Batavia High School, Rotolo Middle School and six elementary schools.

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