Brownstown and St. Elmo school boards took the first step this week toward a possible consolidation.

The two districts are preparing to form a special committee after school board members decided it was time to explore the benefits of merging.

The decision was unanimous in St. Elmo but not in Brownstown, where two board members voted against it and five in favor. A special committee made up of board members from both districts will weigh incentives available from the state before moving forward, including $1.75 million over the next four years if the two districts consolidated.

In order to get the question of consolidation on the November ballot, the districts will need to file a petition with the Regional Office of Education. According to guidelines set by the Illinois State Board of Education, a public hearing would then need to be held between June 10 and 16.

St. Elmo Superintendent Deb Philpot said the deadline for moving forward is tight and some consideration was given to waiting six months to place the measure on the April 2015 ballot. However, she said low voter turnout for a midterm election in April was one of the deciding factors for the push to put the consolidation measure on the November ballot.

"At this point, we're really close to the deadline," she said.

Brownstown Superintendent Adam Bussard said the special committee would meet soon to discuss the incentives and decide whether to recommend pursuing consolidation or not in the next few weeks.

"It's kind of all in their hands now," he said. "We'll wait and see."

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