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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