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Jefferson County prepares for Election Day

MOUNT VERNON — The voters of Jefferson County will once again make some big decisions regarding local government as the General Election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 8.

The contested races in Jefferson County for this November include: Jeff Bullard (R-Incumbent) and Rodney King (Independent) for the position of Jefferson County Sheriff, Connie Simmons (D-Incumbent) and Joseph Davis (R) for the position of Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder, Joey McDermott (R-Incumbent) and Kathy Hulbert (D) for the District Three seat (Mt. Vernon 7, Shiloh 1 and 2) on the Jefferson County Board, and Jeff L. Williams (R-Incumbent) and Derrek Wilson (D) for the District Six seat (Dodds 1 and 2) on the Jefferson County Board.

Jefferson County Clerk Connie Simmons said as of Thursday night her office has sent out/accepted 2,157 ballots including in-person and mail-in ballots. She noted that not all of those ballots have been returned. Simmons said that everything is on track so far regarding the election.

“We always have things come up, people that were mailed a vote-by-mail ballot and changed their mind and there are (rules) they have to follow if they bring the ballot back, there will be more of that probably because of that permanent vote by mail,” Simmons said. “But as far as I know everything else is set to go.”

Simmons advised people, per election laws, to not wear any political apparel and to not discuss politics/who to vote for while waiting to vote. People also have the option to vote at the Jefferson County Courthouse on Election Day as well.

All the voters in Jefferson County will be submitted the following Constitutional Amendment Proposal. It is advised that “failure to vote on this ballot may be the equivalent of a negative vote, because a convention shall be called or the amendment shall become effective if approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election. (This is not to be construed as a direction that your vote is required to be cast either in favor of or in opposition to the proposition herein contained.) Whether you vote this ballot or not you must return it to the Election Judge when you leave the voting booth.”

The Proposed Amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution states the following:

“The proposed amendment would add a new section to the Bill of Rights Article of the Illinois Constitution that would guarantee workers the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively and to negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions, and to promote their economic welfare and safety at work,” the proposed amendment states. “The new amendment would also prohibit from being passed any new law that interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and workplace safety. At the General Election to be held on Nov. 8, 2022, you will be called upon to decide whether the proposed amendment should become part of the Illinois Constitution.”

People will be able to vote yes or no on the proposed addition of Section 25 Article I of the Illinois Constitution.

Those in Farrington CCSD 99 will see the following yes or no question on their ballot. “Shall the Board of Education of Farrington Community Consolidated School District Number 99, Jefferson and Marion Counties, Illinois, be authorized to issue $250,000 bonds for a working cash fund as provided for by Article 20 of the School Code?”

Superintendent of Farrington CCSD 99 Dana Waggoner explained that the district has had this referendum for about a decade and this would mark the third or fourth time it is being voted on.

“They (the voters) have consistently supported that, because Farrington at one time was probably just a dollar away from being broke,” Waggoner said. “It was at first intended to keep everything running, but as things have increased and prices have increased there have been some mandatory things that we have had to do that we have used that money very wisely to address.”

Waggoner said even though the district is financially healthy thanks to the voters approving the previous referendums, they still face some really serious issues.

“For one the mandatory salary increase for all staff. For teachers the minimum teaching salary is going to be mandatory at $40,000 and then the minimum wage is raising for all the non-certified staff,” Waggoner said. “Those are the minimums, but to keep us competitive with other districts we have to go above the minimum.”

Waggoner said another issue the district is facing is that they don’t know what unexpected building costs could happen in the next four years.

“We have an aging boiler system, we have aging bathroom facilities, our buses are near ancient,” Waggoner said.

Waggoner said today Farrington School is doing well financially, because of the previous support of the taxpayers in the district. She said, however, it takes only one unexpected cost such as a building issue to take all of that money away. There were two things that Waggoner wanted the voters to keep in mind when they go to vote.

“One, it is not a tax increase. ... When we look at our tax rate, according to the information I have been given by Jefferson County, it is $1.99 and Bluford Grade is $3.11 and Field is $2.26. When we are looking at the schools right near us, we are the lowest and that tax rate includes our working cash bond,” Waggoner said. “The second thing I wanted to say is just an absolute overwhelming gratitude and appreciation to the Farrington community, because they love and support our school and our kids, because they know (the students) are the next community in Farrington. ... When we need something here at the school, our community they have got our back and they hold these kids up and make sure that they have what they need.”

Finally, those living in the limits of McClellan CCSD 12 will see the following yes/no proposition on their ballot:

“Shall the limiting rate under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for McClellan Community Consolidated School District Number 12, Jefferson County, Illinois, be increased by an additional amount equal to .65000% above the limiting rate for levy year 2021 and be equal to 2.56210% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property therein for levy year 2022?

The approximate amount of taxes extendable at the most recently extended 2021 limiting rate is $393,011 and the approximate amount of taxes extendable if the proposition is approved is $526,611.

For the 2022 levy year the approximate amount of the additional tax extendable against property containing a single family residence and having a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $216.67.

If the proposition is approved, the aggregate extension for 2022 will be determined by the limiting rate set forth in the proposition, rather than the otherwise applicable limiting rate calculated under the provisions of the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (commonly known as the Property Tax Cap Law).”

McClellan Interim Superintendent Dave Schulte explained that this vote stems from the previous discussions/meetings about the dissolution of the school district and many members of the community expressing their desire to pay more in taxes rather than dissolving the district and annexing in with another district. The board of education voted down dissolving in March of this year, Sentinel archives state.

“We are very small, 54 students this year, have been very small for years and with that number of students it is just hard to make ends meet financially,” Schulte said, later adding, “So for us to get some additional money, because of the {span}PTELL and tax caps, we needed to go to the voters and ask them if they were going to approve or not approve this referendum to increase the amount of the levy, our rate, for the taxpayers of the district.” {/span}

{span}Schulte said that they are looking at a 65 cent increase per $100 of assessed valuation. He said they were one of the lowest tax rates in the county range. {/span}

{span}”There are some schools in the district under $2, a $1.96/$1.98, several in the $2 range. We were at $2.12 and we are asking for 65 cents to make it $2.77 and there are some schools that are above $3 in the county,” Schulte said. “The amount is about $18 per month on a $100,000 home, $216 per year on a $100,000 home.”{/span}

Schulte said that the district would still survive if this proposition did not pass.

“It just takes a lot of money these days to operate, there are a couple bonds out there that the district has taken out in past years,” Schulte said. “One of those will be paid off in 2024, which will be helpful and the other is not paid off until 2036 and then when you sell the bonds you have to pay interest on those things. We don’t have a lot of excess money for any kind of major project, if we needed a new roof, if the HVAC system went out, those kinds of things. We are looking to increase our reserves to have a little bit of a rainy day fund if those things happen.”

Schulte spoke on what the district could do if this proposition passes. He said the district feels that passing this would be in the best interest of the school and maintain the quality education McClellan students have had for decades.

“It will provide us additional funds to improve our curriculum, provide any additional services that the students might need,” Schulte said. “Perhaps we could find someone to do some music and some art instruction on a part-time basis.”

Mount Vernon police and fire personnel responded Friday morning to a two-vehicle crash in the 700 block of South 42nd Street. Two occupants were taken to a local hospital with injuries.

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CASA aims to help foster families this Christmas

MOUNT VERNON — CASA of Jefferson County will be helping out foster families in need this holiday season by providing them with “Night Before Christmas” baskets.

Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, is a nonprofit organization that recruits and trains community volunteers who are appointed by judges to be independent fact finders and to speak up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the community, Sentinel archives state.

In honor of this year’s Christmas holiday, CASA will be giving each of the foster children served by the organization a “Night Before Christmas” basket. The baskets will include a pair of pajamas and socks for each child, a family game, a Christmas book, brownie or cookie mix, popcorn, cocoa, and other items meant to provide “holiday family fun,” states a CASA news release.

Inside the local CASA office at 612 N. 12th St. in Mount Vernon, there is a Christmas tree that is decorated, in part, with roughly 200 tags. Written on the tags are the pajama sizes and other information for each foster family that will receive a basket. The public is asked to come into the CASA office and choose a tag from the Christmas tree and then to purchase the needed basket items for the family whose tag they selected. The tree is known as the CASA Angel Tree.

“Our ‘Angel Tree’ includes tags for each of our kiddos to make sure they all get to enjoy these Christmas baskets,” the news release states. “Some of our families could use a little bit of extra help with Christmas gifts, so those items will be included on the tree as well. Stop by our office and grab some tags, hit the store and grab the items on the tags, and drop them back by the office by Monday, Nov. 21.”

CASA officials say the items are needed early because of how much work is involved in putting these Christmas baskets together.

“We will then prepare the baskets so that the CASA Advocates can deliver the Christmas goodies during their December monthly visit,” the release states.

CASA Educational and Well-Being Liaison Cassie Porter remarked on the Christmas program Friday.

“This is one great way to help CASA if you’re not in a place where you can become an advocate but you still want to help out,” Porter said. “It’s one of those great ways you can still get involved with us without having to dedicate so much time to it if you don’t have the time.”

The tags can be picked up and gift items can be dropped off from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the local CASA office.

This initiative is similar to the Christmas Eve Bag program CASA launched last year, except this year the agency will be giving away baskets instead of bags.

For more information or to learn more about becoming a CASA advocate, contact CASA Executive Director Whitney Hodge at (618) 204-5453.

The 10th annual Wrestling for a Cause Breast Cancer Awareness fundraiser by IWA Productions was recently held at the IWA Productions Event Center in Mount Vernon. This year, the raised funds went to the mammogram department at Crossroads Community Hospital.

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MVPD investigates shooting incident on 25th Street

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Police Department is investigating an incident early Friday where a residence was struck with several bullets in the 800 block of South 25th Street.

The incident in question was reported at 2:32 a.m. Friday. According to MVPD incident logs, a woman reported that her son called her and advised that someone had shot at their residence on South 25th Street. The son was home and downstairs at the time but reportedly did not see anyone or a vehicle at the time the shots were fired, the logs state.

Just prior to this report, at 2:28 a.m. Friday, someone called authorities to report hearing eight to 10 gunshots near the 600 block of South 24th Street.

MVPD officers responded to the 25th Street residence and found several bullet holes at the back of the home. Evidence was then collected at the scene. No injuries were reported and no arrests have yet been made in connection with this incident, said Mount Vernon Assistant Police Chief Robert Brands.

“It’s being investigated and our crime scene detective will be investigating the bullet holes that were found in the residence this morning,” Brands said Friday, later adding, “We responded to it and confirmed that there were shots that did hit the residence and we’ll investigate it as an aggravated discharge of a firearm offense.”

Brands said it’s too early in the investigation to determine whether the house was intentionally shot or if it was inadvertent. The incident has not been connected to any earlier cases at this point, Brands said.

“It’s not being connected yet,” Brands said. “We’ll look into any possibility but it’s too early in the investigation to be able to determine that.”

Anyone with information pertaining to any crime within Mount Vernon/Jefferson County is encouraged to contact the MVPD at (618) 242-2131, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division at (618) 244-8004, or Jefferson County Crimestoppers at (618) 242-8477.

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MVTHS approves new courses

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Township High School Board of Education recently approved new courses for the 2023-2024 school year.

Per Superintendent Melanie Andrews, the new courses include advanced placement government and politics, biopsychology, an entry level aviation course in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department, a technical writing class, advanced placement pre-calculus, contemporary college mathematics (dual credit with Rend Lake College) and Russian II.

“Since we offered Russian I this year and have a number of students signed up in that class, we wanted to be able to offer that second year of Russian,” Andrews said.

Andrews explained that the intro to aviation course was made possible through working with Mount Vernon Outland Airport.

“When we started talking about an aviation course, Kara Andrews (director) of the CTE Department, David Kassner (MVTHS board member) and myself we have had conversations with Airport Manager Chris Collins along with a couple other gentlemen affiliated with the airport,” Andrews said. “So their support of this course is one of the reasons why we are starting it.”

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1155 President Steve Willis said that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) developed an aviation curriculum for high schools and the EAA 1155 and Mount Vernon Airport Authority thought it would be a good program to bring to MVTHS.

“Right now is a great time to be getting into aviation if you have any interest in it, because they are short of pilots, mechanics, flight instructors, pretty much everything,” Willis said. “Plus the airport and the EAA Chapter 1155, we are standing by to support that class in any way that we can and any way the high school wants us to.”

Willis said that EAA 1155 and the airport are prepared to provide whatever is needed to make the course a success.

“What we hope to do, for those who are interested in it, (is to) constitute or make an aviation club. Then they could come out to the airport, we have the simulator out there, maybe we can get some rides,” Willis said. “We are working on a Pietenpol, they could help with that, build RC models, do some other things and get them introduced to the aviation. Go visit places like the St. Louis tower and so forth. ... I am very happy to see they have got it on the curriculum and I hope people take advantage of it.”

Andrews said this is another way for MVTHS to connect with the business community.

“There is certainly a shortage of pilots in the nation. We realize that after taking this class a student isn’t going to become a licensed pilot, but it will allow them to explore a potential career in aviation at the high school level and hopefully foster some interest in that field and maybe the students will decide to pursue that as a career opportunity after high school,” Andrews said. “There are so many things that would go into that class.”

Andrews gave her thoughts on the new course offerings.

“Any time we can expand our course offerings at the advanced placement dual credit level, I think that is certainly an advantage for our students. But then we are also recognizing that we are also preparing them for work outside of high school,” Andrews said. “That technical writing class is going to focus on things that we do here in the business world, instruction manuals, contracts, press releases, things that as a superintendent I deal with. ... I just think it is a really wide range of classes that we are expanding for our students.”