Public Watchdog.org

D-64 Fees Simplified

12.18.14

The Discovery Channel has “Shark Week,” so we’ve decided to make this “D-64 Week.”

And you thought sharks were scary.

Now that D-64 has once again jacked up its tax levy by a vote of 6-1 (Board member Dathan Paterno dissenting), we thought we would take a look at a very simple financial issue that, nevertheless, has remained unresolved by the D-64 brain trust for over a year since we last wrote about it in our post “Herd Mentality Does Not Justify D-64’s Bovine Thinking On Student Fees”: school fees.

We got a couple of over-the-transom inquiries about this topic, apparently because it became a sidebar discussion in connection with a tax levy post last week (December 10) on the Park Ridge Citizens Online Facebook page. According to comments on that blog, D-64’s continuing lackadaisical efforts to collect unpaid fees has left over $100,000 due and owing.

One complaint that those who don’t pay at all (we like to call them “freeloaders”) share with a smaller group of critics who claim to be paying under protest, is that D-64 has failed and refused to provide itemized statements of what the fees cover. One might have expected that by now, more than a year after folks like Kathy Ranalli and George Korovilas began railing about it, D-64’s administrators – hello, overpaid (over $215,000/year) Business Manager Rebecca Allard– might have actually done that.

But no-oooooooooo!

The transparency-challenged D-64 administration can’t quite seem to fess up and tell the parents of D-64 students for what exactly it is that they’re paying $84, or $227, or $315 of annual fees – even though parents reportedly are being charged only around 55% of the total cost of those unidentified/un-itemized materials and services for which the fees are assessed. And our alleged “representatives” on the School Board seem totally disinterested in forcing the reluctant administrators to disclose this information.  Or maybe it’s yet another case of the Board being totally intimidated by the “education professionals.”

That’s just plain stupid and irresponsible. Unfortunately, stupid and irresponsible seems to be D-64’s default setting – as demonstrated by its decision to switch from a parent-paid monitoring program for students who stay at school for lunch, which will now cost the District (a/k/a, the taxpayers) another-$400,000.

But let’s not kid ourselves about one main fact.

Even if D-64’s Board and administration actually did the right thing and provided parents with a list of fees itemized down to the penny, the freeloader contingent would still rail about how charging ANY fees violates the Illinois constitution’s requirement that students be provided a “free” education. That’s because those shameless freeloaders have no problem insisting that their kids are entitled to “free” $14,000/student/year educations because they pay taxes: $3-4-5-6,000 to D-64 on a total property tax bill of $9-12-15-18,000, respectively.

And from our experience, it’s the ones running two or three of their kids through the schools – at at total cost of $28,000-42,000 a year worth of education for that same $3-4-5-6,000 of property taxes – who beef the loudest about paying a few hundred dollars in fees. They’re also the ones who occasionally threaten legal action against the District if it takes any collection action against their freeloading.

As if these freeloaders would actually dig into their own pockets to pay several thousand dollars of legal fees when then won’t even pay $84 of school fees!

But in the hope of taking at least one more bogus argument off the table regarding this fee issue – that fees are “illegal” – we direct your attention to the case of Beck v. Board of Education of Harlem Consolidated School District No. 122, an Illinois Supreme Court decision from 1976 that appears to still be the law of this state.

The father of some students sued the school board for charging him fees for school supplies and materials furnished his children, arguing that such charges were illegal. Our Supreme Court said he was wrong, relying on its prior decisions that traced the concept of “free schools” from Illinois’ achieving statehood in 1818 in order to ascertain the intent of the Illinois constitution and statutes relevant to state-provided education.

Rather than our paraphrasing the Court’s reasoning, here is exactly how then-Justice Goldenhersh explained it:

[P]arents of pupils financially able to do so have been required to provide their children with textbooks, writing materials and other supplies prescribed by the school board and required for the personal use of the students. ( 47 Ill.2d 480, 486—90, 265 N.E.2d 616.) Sections 10—20.5 and 10—20.8 of the School Code (Ill.Rev.Stat.1973,*16 ch. 122, pars. 10—20.5 and 10—20.8) respectively authorize the board to adopt and enforce all necessary rules for the management and government of the school, and to direct what branches of study shall be taught and what apparatus shall be used. Under these sections defendant was authorized to require parents financially able to do so to provide their children with educational materials and supplies for use by them or on their behalf. We are of the opinion that defendant was authorized to accomplish the same result by purchasing the necessary materials and supplies, apportioning the cost among the pupils, and charging those parents who were financially able to pay, and we so hold. We also hold that because some of the materials were used by more than one pupil or by a teacher or administrator, or that they might be retained as school property and used for more than one school year did not serve to convert the fee charged into a tuition charge. Tuition is defined as ‘the price of or payment for instruction’ (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961)), and, clearly, the fee charged plaintiff’s children was not part of the price of, or payment for, instruction.

That surely won’t please the freeloader contingent, but nothing less than “free” (compliments of their fellow taxpayers) ever does.

So unless somebody has some more convincing legal authority than the Beck decision, it’s time that D-64 told the scofflaw parents to pay up or be subject to the full panoply of lawful collection efforts – except for those precious few parents who can actually demonstrate that they are not “financially able to pay.”

Or if D-64 wants to spare the taxpayers the costs of such additional collection efforts, it should simply publish the names and addresses of all these “fee freeloaders” so that their friends and neighbors might know them.

That way, the friends and neighbors who are covering those costs can thank them personally for their freeloader-ship.

To read or post comments, click on title.

18 comments so far

Excellent treatment of this matter! It makes me wonder what back-room reason is there for not having resolved it well before now.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’d be happy just to get a front-room reason from D-64. But D-64’s opacity apparently doesn’t permit it.

I read how much Rebecca Allard made in the Advocate today. The entire payroll needs to be evaluated.

This is what has been causing some of the talk I think, a few other states have since followed. https://www.aclusocal.org/cases/doe-v-california/school-fees/

EDITOR’S NOTE: And California law applies in Illinois how, exactly?

Must be a new freeloader strategy: apply other states’ laws to enable freeloading.

Has D-64 given any explanation for why they stopped charging the parents of lunch program kids for supervision? That makes no sense, but then again neither does not giving people itemized bills for the fees and making sure they pay.

EDITOR’S NOTE: None that we’ve heard.

They stopped charging lunch fees when they went to a closed campus 2 years ago. Maybe because staying at school is not an option anymore they can’t charge a fee?

EDITOR’S NOTE: And what was the driver of that decision? Parents who didn’t want to pay the “hefty lunch supervision fee” – a fee which, SURPRISE!, “appalled” then-Board president John Heyde when he first had to pay it.
http://www.triblocal.com/park-ridge/2012/03/13/d64-floats-closed-campuses-for-elementary-schools/index.html

But at least he’s consistent: he’s ALWAYS going to gouge the taxpayer for his own personal benefit and the personal benefit of his fellow freeloaders.

That TribLocal article is an eye-opener, and Heyde’s personal interest as being a driver of the decision to “close” the various D-64 “campuses” sickens me.

From what I have read here and elsewhere, at least 6 D-64 Board members (Borrelli, Collins, Lee, Paterno, Schneider and Zimmerman)currently have kids in those schools, and Heyde either does or recently did have. In view of the disproportionate benefit homeowners of kids in D-64 schools get from the free education versus whatever tax increase they may have to pay, these Board members have no incentive whatsoever to keep a lid on school costs and expenditures.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Any “disproportionate benefit” would appear to mean something more than just spending money, such as improved education. Over the past several years as the expenditure per pupil has increased by several thousand dollars, we haven’t seen that. Have you?

GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

I think you are giving me too much credit for the student fee issue. I do not want to take away from the others who have gone and spoken out about the transparency issue to the board and papers about this. That said, I am surprised at your attack on the parents who are taking a stand against this. As you noted in your case law (and forgive my ignorance since I am not a lawyer), that the court decided that public schools have to provide instruction but could charge for materials. So, if I may ask, WHAT are we paying for in our district with the student fees? Is it instruction, is it materials, is it field trips, is it toilet paper, is it for teacher aids, is it for copy paper, etc..,? There is no break down.

When I first called and asked the district last year about these fees, I was told that it went into a general fund and then the district used it where it saw fit. Then they said that they use it for books, materials, etc.., but when asked “what books, what materials, how can a 1st grader and a 5th grader be the same fees if they use different material?” The response was that it would be too time consuming and too tedious to break it down for the parents. Really? This is how a business is run? Where is the outrage in that?

I commend the parents that have the courage to take a stand and NOT pay the fees. I, unfortunately paid my fees because I did not have the courage which now I regret. You call yourself the “public watchdog”, yet instead of torching the district about this, you instead attack the parents because they are taking a stand. You tell the district to take a George Orwell approach and RAT on your neighbor and bully them into paying. Instead of telling the district to SIMPLY lay out where the fees go. You had NO problem siding with the CITY when they did not pay their fees to the district and they actually had a contract telling them they had to pay. If the district truly feels that they have a legal right to these fees, then I agree, they should SUE the parents. But something tells me that it is not so clear cut and that is why they along with others are trying to bully the parents into paying rather then taking it up legally.

Where is your outrage that apartment complex after apartment complex that goes way beyond density requirements are allowed to be built in the city? Thus allowing for MORE children to go to schools, which will then require additional hiring of teachers and ammenties used? You know that the property tax dollars from apartment complexes compared to homes that house the same amount of families are WAY to low to cover those fees. Yet, we should just attack the parents about being free loaders instead of attacking and to continue to attack the lack of transparency of where our money is going and lack of following the zoning laws regarding density which is there for a reason.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Neither coy nor dumb become you, Mr. Korovilas.

If you and your fellow outraged parents really wanted an explanation of those fees, you should have shown up at School Board meetings to demand that the School Board members – the folks YOU elect to REPRESENT YOU – explain what those fees are for, instead of whining here and on the Park Ridge Citizens Online blog

And since D-64 apparently is doing nothing to collect those fees – which makes your complaint that D-64 is “trying to bully the parents into paying” either a bad joke or a sad delusion – refusing to pay them takes about as much “courage” as kicking a dead dog.

As for “torching the district” for not itemizing the fees, we’ve done that in every post we’ve written about this subject – such as our 11.18.13 and 01.24.14 posts.

Finally, we’ve been very critical of the City for not amending its Zoning Code to reduce density and the opportunities for variances. But, once again, we don’t recall you showing up at a Council meeting demanding any Code amendments or reduced density.

Some school districts have the teachers spend 2 -10 min. shifts per week for cafeteria duty. That expense would be gone. Besides are the people monitoring our children trained to prevent bullying and allergic reactions?

D64 should charge the users 100% cost of every legal supply or item. We need parents skin in the game. Taxpayers are getting ripped off with increases year after year while the schools are far from elite.

For example: Is bus service free? Besides for special education children, parents should pay 100% of the cost and administration of it.

So if word gets out that D64 doesn’t do anything to collect unpaid fees, why would anyone pay them?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’d like to think that maybe some form of guilt would kick in, but the truly shameless apparently have developed guilt antibodies.

PubDog, Park RIdge Citizens Online has someobdy named Dennis Sladky saying that your perspective is “highly toxic.” I agree with him.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We consider “highly toxic” a compliment when it’s applied to our criticism of folks who want to maximize their personal benefits unfairly on the backs of their fellow taxpayers.

Sladky lives up in the 2nd Ward among those folks who knowingly bought homes in a flood-plagued area (at a discount because of the flooding?) and now want their property values increased by the installation of 100-year flood remediation paid for by all the City’s taxpayers. And for all we know he may also be angling for fee-free D-64 materials.

We suspect we could say the same about you.

When people “making” millions and billions without lifting a finger thanks to behind-the-scenes lobbying are nationally honored, encouraged and lauded, not shamed and punished, why in hell would a beleaguered suburbanite feel any obligation to pay more than he could weasel out of? The high-profile role models in business on whom government depends have shown that only a stupid wuss pays what he “should” pay.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So because inept and/or corrupt national politicians like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, et al. sell their souls – and our country – to the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup so guys like Blankfein, Dimon and O’Neill can make billions, you think local residents who pay what they “should” pay are “stupid wuss[es]”? That’s beyond stupid.

But if that’s the way you think, you don’t need to look at national politicians and Wall Street. You just need to look at the Park Ridge mayors and aldermen in office from 2001 through 2007 who gave away the Uptown TIF “store” to their buddies at PRC Partners LLC. But thinking that kind of ineptitude and/or corruption would excuse folks from paying their kids’ D-64 fees would also be beyond stupid.

How many of these residents will end up moving out of Park Ridge once their kids are through with the schools? I’m already hearing more than the occasional “As soon as my kids are out of the school system we’re moving out of Park Ridge because the taxes are too high.”

The last one out the door please turn out tht lights.

EDITOR’S NOTES: And when those people move out who will move in? If you said “People from Chicago and other lower-class areas who are looking to avoid having their kids compete for the top Chicago magnet schools but don’t want to pay parochial/private school tuition,” you would be right.

Amusing that you don’t get I’m being bitterly sarcastic; of course it’s not OK. But let’s start at the top, shall we? No? Um…
Also amusing you didn’t start your litany with Reagan, who trickled down so disastrously on all and sundry and set this whole 1% vs 99% mess in motion. But shame on you for even implying that former elected officials from 2001 through 2007 had any ulterior motive or received any ill-gotten gain from the change from three ratty pine trees and a ’50s-era plastic sign to a beautiful, award-winning and, pace Baldaccino et al, successful mixed-use complex. If anybody was involved in such shenanigans, it was not the supermajority of elected officials who were just trying to give their fellow homeowners someplace to shop in those innocent pre-recession days. Believe or don’t. You can’t know their hearts or their motives. You don’t dare name names for fear of libel so you tar all of them with the same ratty brush? Lazy. You can express your oft-expressed view that Uptown redevelopment was a bad idea, but you don’t have to repeat the canard that elected officials were bad actors. If anything did go awry it was because the City’s “professional” staff were not remotely a match for the fancy dancers at the development company. So now please apply the same excuses — er, rationale — to let those elected officials off the hook as you do Schmidt and his crew when they trust our well-paid “professional” staff and get us all screwed. It happens. Even to people you like.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’ve got to be one of those 3 mayors and 26 (by our count) alderdopes who gave away the store to PRC on the Uptown TIF project.

But first things first: We didn’t start with Reagan because Wall Street bought Washington from “Slick Willie” Clinton, on who’s watch Graham-Leach-Bliley was passed and what was left of Glass-Steagall repealed, all under the supervision of Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin – who came to Washington from Goldman Sachs and left to become Sandy Weill’s coffee boy at Citigroup – and whom Clinton actually called “the greatest secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton.”

As for the Uptown TIF and those elected officials who stole multi-millions of dollars from the taxpayers so that PRC Partners could get its sweetheart deal, we said it was “ineptitude and/or corruption” – so take your pick. But while then-city mgr. Tim Schuenke was choreographing that TIF song and dance, those mayors and most of those alderdopes had their fingerprints all over it as well: pro-retail wingnuts like then-alds. Rex Parker and Mary Wynn Ryan (6th Ward) were chasing PRC like starving mutts after a t-bone, and would have given PRC anything it asked for; then-ald. Mark Anderson (5th Ward), a real-estate leasing attorney, helped Schuenke cut the one-sided deal with PRC; and all the alderdopes but one (then-2nd Ward ald. Jeannie Markech) couldn’t wait to give PRC’s lenders whatever guarantees they asked for.

And, yes, those alderdopes WERE “bad actors” – even if they were just idiots – because nobody in local government over the past 30 years has done anything that turned out so spectacularly and expensively wrong. And, worse yet, it was wrong from the very start, as evidenced by D-64’s TIF attorney advising that board that it could challenge the TIF in court and likely win, which led to the City’s decision to pay D-64, D-207 and the Park District bribes (special TIF payments) to avoid such a challenge.

So Anon 937, so maybe I missed but where have “Schmidt and his crew” (and what exactly does that even mean?) gotten us all screwed?

Apart from that this is one of the more spectacularly stupid comments submitted here. And thanks for that!

EDITOR’S NOTE: “One of the more spectacularly stupid comments submitted here” is quite a claim. But we’re not going to go back and come up with any Top 10 just to prove you right, or wrong.

Anon- 640am
Since you think people only use Park Ridge for the schools, should a rebate be given to those who don’t use the schools?

For example, everyone gets a % rebate at the end of the year if they did not use District 64? It’s not a voucher, it’s a rebate.

I think it’s pretty despicable for people to brag on websites or Facebook pages about leaving right after their little brat is done with our schools. Do they know they look like garbage and all of their incessant comments are then nullified by their obvious using of the communities resources?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We never said “people only use Park Ridge for the schools.” And, no, we don’t think that rebates are appropriate. Schools whose objectively-measurable student achievement is commensurate with the taxes assessed provide VALUE that should translate into higher property values for all taxpayers. Of course, if achievement is less-than-commensurate with cost, that very well could adversely impact property values.

Whaaaat? You don’t consider all the Park Ridge elected officials after, say, 1970 who sat on their hands as our circa 1946 infrastructure (you know, sewers?) went down the crapper and now will cost, what, $130 million or so to repair and rebuild? Not even including Witcheca’s $600K “investment” in the anti-O’Hare group. Seems like spectacularly and expensively wrong moves are not the province of the Anderson 9. You just like to think they are.

But Merry Christmas anyway. Here’s to a more cost-effective new year!

EDITOR’S NOTE: The “Anderson 9” did more than enough damage on their own (including fueling Frimark’s cut-the-council referendum) before they strolled out of City Hall after only 1 term (Anderson, Cox, Crampton didn’t even stand for re-election, Parker ran and got smoked by Tom Carey); or, for some of them (Markech, Jones, Redermacher and Wynn Ryan), only 1/2 term. But they also had the help of 3 bumbling and/or schemer(?) mayors and a number of other bumbling and/or schemer(?) alderdopes who in a span of about 2 years – not 40+ years – made two abysmal decisions (to create the TIF and to give away the store to PRC) that saddled the taxpayers with what the City’s current TIF consultants are projecting at an over-$20 million loss, not the over-$20 million profit the elected perps promised while they were selling out the taxpayers for the benefit of developer PRC.

That works out to a $400 MILLION-plus loss over 40 years!

So when you wish a “more cost-effective new year” we worry that you’re talking about local gov’t decisions that produce “only” a $380 million loss for the taxpayers over 40 years.



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