ALTAMONT — It’s not always the case that a school district can raise more money and lower its property tax rate. But — thanks to rising property values — that’s exactly what is happening in Altamont Unit 10 schools, according to levy figures released Monday.

The Unit 10 Board of Education passed a levy Monday for the 2008-09 school year that will enable the district to receive $1,979,164.39 — a 4.763 increase over the 2007-08 levy. But the district’s tax rate is decreasing from $3.98 to $3.90 per $100 equalized assessed valuation.

That’s because total property values in the district are projected to rise from $48,751,155 to $50,701,201 — continuing a trend that has remained constant since at least 1991, when district property values were about $23.4 million. They have increased every year since.

Board President Dale Laue said the lower tax rate is a reflection of sound fiscal management in the school district, as well as continued development that has led to increased property values.

“We’re pleased that our EAV continues to increase,” Laue said. “We’ve also been mindful of our budget and we continue to take steps to maintain the financial stability of our district.”

The levy passed Monday was the last one prepared by departing Superintendent Jim Littleford, who is taking a similar position in the Charleston school district this summer. Laue said the board will hold a special meeting Thursday to begin the search for a successor.

And the same man who helped Unit 10 officials find Littleford will lead the search for his replacement.

“We’re going to have Dave Love come down from the Illinois School Board Association,” Laue said. “He helped us when Mr. Littleford came on board.”

Laue said the ISBA knows how to find prospective superintendents.

“They do this for districts throughout the state,” he said. “They deal with superintendents on a regular basis. It’s a tremendous resource.”

Laue said the next Unit 10 superintendent will not necessarily have experience as a superintendent.

“Our doors would be open to a superintendent with the right personality and drive,” he said, noting that Littleford had never been a superintendent before taking the Altamont job in 2001.

“At this point, we have no preconceived notions,” Laue added.

Laue said the board hopes to have a new superintendent in place by late March.

In action taken at Monday’s meeting, the board voted to expel two Altamont High School students for unspecified offenses for the remainder of this school year. However, Littleford said the expulsion of one student will be held in abeyance pending the student’s successful completion of the Aspire alternative program at Effingham.

The board also accepted the resignation of Leigh Ann Stuckemeyer as junior class sponsor at the high school and approved the appointment of Rocky Lewis as her replacement.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 131 or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.

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