Meeting recap: School district 205 officials approve final fiscal year 2023 budget
Federal grants have increased, bolstering the district's finances this fiscal year. However, the district is capturing less dollars from tax levies than in prior years.
September 14, 2022
President Nina Graham: Present
Vice President Annette Whittington: Absent
Secretary Almetta Vasser-Moody: Present
Member Ray Banks: Present
Member Albert Butler: Absent
Member Stanley H. Brown: Present
Member Bernadette Lawrence: Present
The big picture
Thornton Township High School District 205 board members approved the final budget for the 2023 fiscal year.
Decreased real estate taxes: The district has budgeted $67 million in local real estate taxes, a decline from the $70 million from the prior fiscal year. However, real estate taxes still account for 44% of the district’s total revenue, according to the district’s budget presentation.
Declining net tax collection: District 205 has collected most of the taxes from levies issued since 2005, however, that figure is declining. In 2005, the district boasted a 93% collection rate. As of 2020, that figure is 81%, according to the district’s budget presentation.
Increased federal aid: Federal grants ballooned between the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years. In 2022, the district received over $11 million in federal grants. That number increased to over $24 million in 2023, reflecting a 218% increase.
Roughly 92% of that funding is from Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Act III aid, included in the American Rescue Plan Act.
The law requires 20% of funds must be spent on learning loss via evidence-based practices, which the district is investing more funds into.
Review the district’s ESSER III spending plan here. All of that aid must be spent by September 2024, according to federal law.
Continued evidence-based funding from the state: Evidence-based funding directs more state aid toward cash-strapped school districts. Over the past 15 years, there’s largely been an upward trend in evidence-based aid.
However, from 2012 to 2015, the district’s evidence-based funding declined. During that time, Illinois legislators faced budget strains, cutting back on school funding for things like free meals and early childhood education.
Park Programs Work
Harvey Park District Executive Director Kisha McCaskill introduced a new initiative designed to promote social-emotional learning, cultural excursions, and workforce development. Park Programs Work is free to join for anyone ages 8 to 19 and also includes a stipend for those 16 to 19.
Find more information by contacting the HPD directly via phone at (708) 331-3857 or email at email@example.com.
Termination of tenured teacher
The board moved to stay the termination of Thornridge High School tenured teacher Liessa Pierson. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services report found Pierson abuse. Pierson, according to the board, filed an appeal of the decision. The stay allows Pierson to receive benefits pending an outcome of that appeal.
This item was likely discussed in the closed executive session that evening.
For context: In accordance with the state’s Open Meetings Act, closed executive sessions allow public bodies to discuss student discipline, hirings and firings, contract negotiations, and pending litigation without public viewing.
Entrance fees at sporting events
The Thornridge High School parent advocate complained that all students and community stakeholders were required to pay a $5 entrance fee at football games at a public school district. According to the parent, seniors weren’t afforded a senior discount. They also complained one gate was open.
For context: In prior years, games were free to students, who were only required to show their school identification. Visitors paid. Separate gates are available for home and visitors.
The parent of a Thornwood High School student complained of no-show busing issues in the mornings, resorting to ride-share services to get their child to school, which they didn’t deem safe, they said. “But, I’m forced to do it, so that she doesn’t miss school,” she said.
“It [the bus] goes past my house. It goes three or four blocks down to pick her up way on the other end, when they’re passing my block.” She has called the bus service in South Holland and school leadership, but the issue hasn’t been resolved.
Superintendent Nathaniel Cunningham, Jr. told the parent that William Garrett, Manager of Operations at District 205, would be in contact. Cunningham, Jr. did not indicate what that conversation would entail.
For context: The COVID-19 pandemic—coupled with retention and recruitment struggles—has strained school bus transportation operations nationwide as drivers call out sick. According to a report from HopSkipDrive, a school ride-share service, nearly 88% of schools reported bus driver shortages. Nearly half of respondents indicated student attendance has dropped since 2021, and 67% indicated transportation issues negatively impacted student attendance rates.
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