Riverside revisits sharing crossing guard expenses

Proposed agreement would split costs roughly in half

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By Bob Uphues


After being unceremoniously rebuffed three years ago, the village of Riverside again has proposed a cost-sharing arrangement for crossing guards with both Riverside School District 96 and Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208.

While Riverside officials back the plan and are optimistic that the school districts might be more amenable to such an arrangement this time around, the D96 school board isn't exactly jumping at the opportunity.

The proposal comes in the wake of meetings between the president of the village board, Ben Sells, and the president of the D96 board, Mary Rose Mangia. The purpose of the meeting, apart from a way for the two elected leaders to get better acquainted, was to see if there were any opportunities for collaboration between the two governmental bodies.

"We all work for the same community," said Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera, who added that he had met with D96 Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis. "If we're able to improve services on all ends, we want to be open to that."

D96 and the village of Riverside have had a cost-sharing arrangement for three specific crossing guards for a number of years. The school district pays 100 percent of the cost of the crossing guard at Ames School, 50 percent of the crossing guard at First and Forest avenues and 10 percent of the cost at the railroad crossing in downtown Riverside.

Last year, the total cost to D96 for those crossing guards was $18,107, while the village picked up the remaining $49,795. The village also pays for the cost of managing crossing guards, training them and providing them with uniforms and equipment.

The latest proposal asks D96 to split the cost 50-50 with the village for five of the six crossing guards located throughout Riverside. The cost of the sixth crossing guard, at First Avenue, would be split three ways between the village, D96 and D208.

Such an arrangement would mean that for the 2014-15 school year (and allowing for a 2 percent raise for crossing guards), D96 and the village would each pay $32,668 while Riverside-Brookfield High School would chip in $3,809. The net increase for D96 would come to about $14,500.

"It's a great way for multiple taxing bodies to come together and do what's best for the community as a whole," said Riverside Trustee Joseph Ballerine at a meeting of the village board on Dec. 19, where trustees voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing the village to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the two school districts to share the cost of crossing guards..

But at least three of the seven school board members voiced opposition to the plan at their meeting on Dec. 17, and another said he wants more information on what the arrangements are for crossing guard expenses in other communities before deciding.

The D96 school board is scheduled to meet again on Jan. 21. The Riverside-Brookfield High School board's next meeting is Jan. 14.

"Ultimately, I'm not in support of this because the village needs to be responsible for public safety," said D96 school board member Art Perry. "The other thing that's totally not even addressed here is, have you been approached by the village of Brookfield? Because they provide two crossing guards."

D96 schools board member Michael O'Brien said he wouldn't vote to fund crossing guards any more than the district already does.

"I agree with everything you said, Art," said O'Brien. "I don't think we should pay for it."

Meanwhile, Rachel Marrello asked if St. Mary School had been approached about the cost-sharing arrangement.

"What about St. Mary's?" Marrello asked. "They use the crossing guards, too. I see it every morning, so I'm not inclined to proceed on this."

Scalera indicated he was aware of the Dec. 17 school board discussion and said that even if the two agencies can't come to an agreement on crossing guards, he wants to continue the discussions.

"My hope is that we can reach an agreement," said Scalera. "Regardless of the outcome, we're not going to change the way we intend to work with the district or how we provide services to them."

Email: buphues@wjinc.com Twitter: @RBLandmark

Reader Comments

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Tim Leimberer from Riverside, Illinois  

Posted: January 8th, 2014 1:13 PM

Don't forget Brookfield, North Riverside, and Lyons also provide crossing guards to District 96 students. They're going to want the same deal with District 96 that Riverside gets.

Greg Nessinger from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 7th, 2014 1:28 PM

Where is the extra $14,500 going to come from? No new tax revenue is coming in; (http://www.rblandmark.com/News/Articles/12-4-2013/D96-passes-flat-tax-levy/ ) and they "would have to amend this year's budget to compensate for the $400,000 in lost revenue." Public safety belongs to the village, not the school district. This was covered 2 years ago, why should it change now?

Randy Brockway from Riverside, Illinois  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 5:17 PM

I support the cost-share plan for crossing guards. We have all witnessed careless drivers at area crosswalks and intersections that have put students in danger. The 1st Ave. and Forest Ave. intersection in particular continues to concern me...I will seek an independent review of this intersection to assure that we are providing at least what is minimally recommended by safety professionals. I urge residents of Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield to share their views about the safety of students walking and biking between home and school and to support this cost-share proposal to fund crossing guards.

John Mathews  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 4:04 PM

My children are not assisted across the street by a compensated crossing guard at any point during their walk to and from school, so your comment about the location and benefits accruing thereof makes me think that perhaps I (and the rest of the parents at Blythe) are not getting our money's worth either. Still, I remain content to subsidize both the saved and unsaved, and am happy to spend my tax dollars so a parochial school doesn't have to spend their funds. In seriousness, though, it seems to me that what the village is asking here is perfectly reasonable, and that D-96 should step up and shoulder a bit more of the burden.

H Richard Collins from Riverside, Illinois  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 2:44 PM

John (may I call you John?) - You are right about that there are many heaven-bound children who attend St. Mary that do not reside within the boundaries of D96. But I feel that most if not all of the St. Mary children using the services of the crossing guards do live within the boundaries of D96 and hence live with parents or guardians who pay property taxes(whether through rent or directly to the taxman) that windup in the coffers of D96.The location of the crossing guards do not benefit the walkers who come from the area east of Nuttall among other areas. I now believe we are back to the concept being absurd.

John Mathews  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 2:27 PM

Rick, your comment would have more reasonance if all St. Mary students were from within D-96 boundaries. However, I don't believe that is the case. You and I have paid property taxes that (in very small part) fund these crossing guards, but the parent of a St. Mary student from Berwyn or parts of Lyons and Brookfield has not. I'm not saying that St. Mary school should contribute to the crossing guard fund (particularly if they do, as you say, already provide crossing guard services for their students), but I don't think the concept is as absurd as you suggest.

H Richard Collins from Riverside, Illinois  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 1:01 PM

Rachel Marrello comment about asking St. Mary (note: Not St. Mary's - we don't say "Central's do we?) to pay for the crossing guards is absurd. As parent of a former St. Mary student my child used the crossing guards to cross at the confluence of Nuttall and Longcommon and I am grateful for the service provided. My former St. Mary student did not take advantage of the services provided by D96 including the laptop provided to all D96 students in what I have since learned was a poorly conceived program but I have noticed that I have paid significant amount of money to D96 through my property taxes during the 9 years my son attended St. Mary. Unless Rachel Marrello tells me otherwise I think I am not the only parent of a St. Mary student who pays property taxes to D96. I ask that Rachel Marrello consider that St. Mary parents have paid their fair share of the crossing guards costs. Also - St. Mary provides crossing guards at points not covered by Riverside.

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