Why Elk Grove Twp. District 59 students might again pay fees for materials

  • Elk Grove Township District 59 could once again charge students fees for classroom materials, just two years after eliminating the cost as a way to reduce financial burdens on families.

      Elk Grove Township District 59 could once again charge students fees for classroom materials, just two years after eliminating the cost as a way to reduce financial burdens on families. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer, 2015

 
 
Updated 12/12/2017 4:57 PM

Elk Grove Township District 59 could once again charge fees for classroom materials, just two years after eliminating the cost in a move aimed at reducing the financial burden on families.

District administrators proposed a plan Monday to reinstate fees ranging from $35 to $65 per student, the same amounts charged during the 2015-16 school year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Although most school districts charge such fees, the District 59 school board bucked the norm when it eliminated them in January 2016 -- forgoing the extra revenue they provide.

But the district's district financial outlook is different now.

A school board policy requires to district to keep at least 60 percent of annual operating costs in reserve. Though the reserve fund is healthy, the costs of adding employees, constructing a $17.1 million administrative building and remodeling schools will draw down the reserve to 57 percent next budget year.

Now officials want to cut $10 million from its budget over the next two years and balance the budget by 2020.

The fees brought in about $220,000 annually before being removed, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Vickie Nissen said. The proposed annual fees are $35 for half-day kindergarten students, $55 for full-day kindergarten through fifth grades, and $65 for grades six through eight.

About 60 percent of students from low-income families could get a waiver from the fees under the district's current financial demographics, Nissen said. Those figures change each year.

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Meanwhile, the district also considered another proposal Monday that could save money, though officials say it's more about aligning benefits for all employees.

Under the proposal, employees in the administration and other staff members not covered by a collective bargaining agreement would no longer be entitled to 6 percent raises in their final three years before retirement.

If approved, those employees would need to notify the district of plans to retire by June to qualify for the salary increases through retirement in 2021.

Typically, raises for these employees are about 3 percent annually.

The benefit -- which requires the employee to have served at least 10 years in the district, among other requirements -- has been or will be removed from collective-bargaining agreements for teachers and support personnel. The collective bargaining agreement for custodial and maintenance staff members has not included that provision.

The proposals for fees and retirement benefits are expected to be considered during the school board meeting Jan. 8.

The district also is considering renegotiating its contract for bus transportation services with First Student Inc. to cut costs. Changing the contract would mean different start times for students but could save up to $1.5 million annually.

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