Tight budgets key in BHC agreement
By Vinde Wells
Uncertain revenue streams will be an important factor in the discussions this year as Oregon school and park district officials hammer out a new agreement for the Blackhawk Center (BHC).
The BHC, which was completed in 1997, is owned by the park district and was built to meet the school district’s needs. It is attached to Oregon High School by a corridor.
Under the present three-year intergovernmental agency agreement, which expires Aug. 31, the park district manages and staffs the facility, and the school district pays rent as the primary user.
Both school superintendent Tom Mahoney and park district executive director Erin Folk said Tuesday that negotiations are in the very early stages and probably won’t be finalized until sometime in August.
“We’re going through the process of negotiating a new contract,” Folk said. “It may change and it may not.”
Shrinking revenues is the issue facing both sides.
Although the school district pays $168,000 annually in rent, that covers only 70 percent of the total operating expenses of $235,000.
At a committee meeting in late March, park district board members discussed their concern that revenues will decrease if the assessed value of Exelon’s Byron Generating Station is reduced.
Exelon officials have filed appeals of their 2012 and 2013 assessments with the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB).
According to the committee meeting minutes, Folk told the committee that the park district needs to find ways to reduce costs at the BHC and may want to consider turning over ownership to the school district because 90 percent of the facility’s use is for school functions.
Mahoney said he is sympathetic to the park district’s financial concerns because the school district has its own problems with dwindling state aid and other state education funding.
“From my perspective, we need to look at all the options available to us. What is the challenge for us now is finances with what’s going on with the state,” he said. “I entirely understand their [the park district’s] position. We’re all in the same boat though.”
The school district and park district first entered into a 10-year intergovernmental agreement concerning the BHC in September of 1995.
The agreement has been renewed and altered to meet the needs of both districts over the years.
Under the terms of the agreement, the school district has priority use of the BHC and the two districts jointly work out annual schedules.
High school physical education classes, athletic practices, and athletic events, including tournaments are held at the BHC. Some park district events are also held at the BHC.