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Fee cut unlikely in Mokena SD 159, officials say

John Troy

John Troy

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Updated: February 21, 2013 6:42AM



Mokena School District 159 parents may not get a break on fees this school year after all.

The school board had considered using part of its $20,000 contingency fund to return a portion of transportation, registration and extracurricular fees, but after a midyear look at finances, business manager John Troy said he would not recommend doing so because unbudgeted and unanticipated expenses will deplete a projected $114,000 surplus.

“There’s going to be some pressure on that surplus,” Troy said.

The district owes Lincoln-Way Area Special Education District 843 about $100,000 that was not budgeted for instructional fees, and $15,485 for a bond, Troy said. He said the instructional fees weren’t budgeted because the district had no students requiring those services when the budget was made.

Kathy Moore, a member of both the District 159 and District 843 boards, questioned whether money was budgeted for such services the year before. Supt. Steve Stein said it was.

“We didn’t want to estimate from last year to this year? Why wouldn’t we have put some kind of number in there?” Moore said.

“I don’t have an answer for that,” Stein said.

Troy said the district also was unaware of the bond charge because District 159’s budget was completed before District 843’s.

Troy said other unbudgeted expenses are $17,000 for added security measures at the district’s three schools, a $15,000 transportation adjustment on a 2009 audit, and about $15,000 for a part-time transportation director.

The district also will pay a search firm from $12,000 to $17,000 to help conduct a search for a new superintendent. Stein is leaving in June.

“Because each of these things are going to put pressure on the budget — we have a tight budget — I would not recommend a reduction in fees this year,” Troy said.

Troy said adjustments in other budget areas could “alleviate the situation” but would require “pushing things off to next year.”

Stein said there may be more financial challenges ahead. Gov. Pat Quinn is projecting $400 million less in state funding for education next year, and Stein said a low inflation reading will limit the amount by which taxing bodies are allowed to raise their levies.

Jeff Regan, who was appointed last year to replace Troy as a board member, said concerns about fees motivated him to apply for the board vacancy, and he asked Troy whether the district had found ways to reduce transportation fees.

Troy said research on the matter would be a future consideration.

“There’s a lot more we could do with transportation,” Regan said.

Troy said work on next year’s budget will begin after the board makes a decision at the Feb. 20 meeting about the use of the contingency fund.



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