Members of Save McCune School have spent months going through USD 247 Southeast budgets with a fine-toothed comb.
The group, which is dedicated to keeping an elementary school in McCune following the board of education’s December vote to close the facility, has been looking for discrepancies.
They verified a major error through a records request that sent the school district digging through paperwork from 2012. Out of that process the district discovered it had collected capital outlay tax in error for the 2013-2014 school year.
"It’s the right thing to do to show they are making major mistakes over at that board office, and I want the public to be aware of it," said Justin Shaffer, spokesperson for Save McCune School. "I have asked them to meet with us so we could talk about this and see where to go, and they refused to meet with me."
Shaffer said that is why the open records request was initiated.
"We requested a copy of the valid capital outlay resolution from Bill Nott (business manager and board clerk) on Friday (Aug.) 1," Shaffer said. "They have yet to respond to that request. We did not know for sure they did not have a valid resolution until the news release last night. We only suspected it was not valid because they would not respond to records requests."
The district and Save McCune School have been at an impasse throughout the summer, with Save McCune School requesting that the USD 247 and USD 504 Oswego talk about transferring the McCune building and surrounding valuation to USD 504, and USD 247 declining to participate in that conversation.
"All I want him to do is talk to Oswego," Shaffer said of USD 247 Superintendent Glenn Fortmayer. "We have the opportunity to have a grade school in our community. The right thing to do would be to give it to Oswego."
Shaffer said enough students are expected to transfer to Oswego that USD 504 is considering adding a second McCune bus route.
"They’ve obviously upset the majority of this community," Shaffer said.
Save McCune School patrons also are forcing an election on the budget for the coming school year, which proposed doubling capital outlay taxes (from four mills to eight), and Shaffer said the fight will continue.
"As long as we’re part of this district and as long as I’m alive, I’ll be there (fighting)," he said. "I’m going to keep digging. I’m going to dig and dig and dig because our community has been singled out."
USD 247 update
USD 247 public information officer Chris Wilson said the district has spent Wednesday seeking legal and professional advice on the situation and is prepared to return the funds to the Crawford County Clerk’s office.
They also are looking into the status of a special election after Aug. 25 and before Nov. 1 tax statements are issued.
The current proposed budget is available on the Polices page of the district’s website at usd247.com, but has not yet been adjusted for the drop to zero mills in capital outlay.
The district also declined to identify a clerk who made the original error.
"We have no intention of identifying an individual for making a simple mistake," Wilson said in a district statement. "Please understand that we are still in the process of learning why we are just now learning about this, are working to resolve it with the taxpayers and are addressing the losses without directly affecting students."