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D159 Board Talks Fee Reductions, Increased Security

The board discussed whether the district could afford to lower student fees at a meeting on Wednesday.

The Mokena School District 159 Board of Education discussed the possibility of reducing district fees for students at a meeting on Jan. 16.

Fees for Mokena students tend to be higher than those in surrounding districts, particularly with regard to activity fees, which are significantly more costly in Mokena than in any other nearby district, according to documents provided by D159. Mokena schools charge more than $200 for each student who participates in basketball or volleyball.

The “pay to play” activity fee system was introduced in September of 2011 after the district voted to cut extracurriculars in February of the same year.

District 159 also has the lowest tax rate of the school districts in the immediate area, at 2.4 percent. The tax rate for every school district surrounding Mokena is 3.3 percent or greater.

“I can’t make the recommendation to reduce those fees this year,” said District Director of Business Operations John Troy, who led to discussion.

Troy says that the district has encountered too many unforeseen expenses to legitimize a fee reduction for the 2012-2013 school year.

The budget originally approved for the present school year calculated a $114,000 surplus.

However, the district has since come across several expenses that were not factored into the initial budget. These include $100,000 in unexpected special education costs, $15,000 to hire a part-time transportation director, $17,000 in security enhancements and $16,000 in state reimbursements that were the result of a transportation audit adjustment.

“It will be a miracle if we’re in the black this year,” said Board Member Kathy Moore.

The board also addressed the possibility of lowering fees next year, but the district is already facing one major budgeting challenge for the 2013-2014 school year.

The district learned Wednesday that the Consumer Price Index that will be used in 2013 to calculate the amount of the 2012 district tax levy is 1.7 percent. This means that the maximum amount that the district can receive from the 2012 tax levy is 1.7 percent more than the previous year’s levy amount.

The 10-year CPI average is 2.4 percent. Troy said he had expected the CPI used for the 2012 levy calculations to be closer to 3 percent and that district revenue in 2014 will be less than it is currently, because of the CPI.

“Certainly the levy is a consideration in setting those fees for next year,” said Troy.

The board will vote on whether to reduce fees during their meeting on Feb. 20.

During the principal reports at Wednesday’s meeting, administrators discussed increased security measures that were recently implemented in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings.

Visitors at Mokena Elementary School are now required to wear ID at all times. Supervisory personnel now oversee kindergarten drop off and all the school’s exterior doors are locked until 7:30 a.m.

At Mokena Intermediate School, the doors on the east side of the building are now permanently locked and the office is opening an hour later each day, at 7:30 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m.

Students at Mokena Junior High School recently participated in a lockdown drill. The entire building transitioned to lockdown mode in less than two minutes. The school is working with the Mokena Police Department to develop and execute lunchtime and passing period lockdown drills as well.

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R.W.Voter January 17, 2013 at 01:57 PM
There is a God, let us taxpayers thank him for giving us a little relief in the form of the CPI. I don't see how to reduce fees at this point. I do have a suggestion though, as they have not found anyone to lease space at MES, we could close MIS and reduce the faculty and staff, that would save money, lets face it, we have three buildings and with the student population, we only need two. Thank you
Against Delusion January 18, 2013 at 05:40 PM
RW, you really have a hard on against MIS, don't cha? Even if closing the school happened, are we going to all of a sudden have no 4th and 5th grade students? The staff reductions would be minimal at best because ya still need teachers to teach. Or are we putting 60 in a room with a chalkboard like "the good ol' days"?
Cathy H. January 18, 2013 at 07:16 PM
Hey if it was good enough for RWVoter in the 50’s, it must be good enough for kids these days… <sarcasm-I do not want anyone thinking I actually agree with anything RWVoter says>
cannon fodder January 18, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Wait, we're supposed to thank God that the CPI is lower than expected? Psst: RWvoter: Your social security income is tied to the CPI as well. The less the index increases goes up, the less $$ you get in your check. its also the benchmark of a healthy economy, but I don't expect you to care much about that...

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