The annual recognition event for Riverside Elementary School District 96 employees won’t be a dinner this year. Instead, a committee working to plan to event has decided to merely serve hors d’oeuvres to hold down costs. As before, the event will have a cash bar.

In September, some school board members objected to the $9,200 cost of last year’s dinner at the Riverside Golf Club. The school board formed a committee to look at ways to change the event and save money.

Michael O’Brien, the school board member of the committee, said at the Dec. 17 school board meeting that the cost of the event in 2014 will be from $18 to $35 per person depending on what kind of hors d’oeuvres the committee decides to serve. Last year’s dinner cost $65 per person, O’Brien said. 

“I anticipate the budget will be less than last year,” O’Brien said. 

The event will start at 5 p.m., earlier than previous events, in an attempt to attract more district employees to it. Last year, 136 of the district’s roughly 236 employees attended the event. In the past some employees did not want to go home after work and then drive back for the dinner in the evening.

The event will again be held at the Riverside Golf Club, because holding it at the golf club is cheaper than holding it at the Brookfield Zoo, the only other suitable location within the district, O’Brien said.

District 96 holds the event annually to recognize employees who are retiring or hitting various employment milestones.  Retiring employees speak at the event. O’Brien said he hopes that the event will be held on May 9, but no deposit has yet been paid.

In September, the school board approved by a 4 to 3 vote an $18,000 annual budget for food for employees.

One member of the school board said he was uncomfortable with the event and wanted more information about the cost. 

“I’m uncomfortable with this event proceeding in light of the budget that we did pass and known expenses that we’ve incurred to this point,” said school board member Randy Brockway, who added that he wanted at least 25 to 30 percent savings from last year’s cost.

O’Brien said he wasn’t able to commit to specific amount of cost savings at this point in the planning.

“I think the intent is to try and cut money from what we spent last year,” O’Brien said. “I feel confident we can do that, but I’m not going to commit to 30 percent right off the bat, because I don’t have figures yet.”

Flat tax levy officially adopted by D96 board

At its Dec. 17 meeting the Riverside Elementary School District Board of Education officially approved an essentially flat property tax levy for next year. In a vote that was mostly a formality the board approved a property tax levy of $23,313,070. 

Last year the district’s tax levy was $23,310,528, so this year’s tax levy is less than $3,000 more than last years. 

Of the total amount levied, roughly $16.9 million will go into the district’s educational fund. Another $2.4 million was levied for the operations and maintenance fund, $1.9 million for the special education fund and $1 million for the transportation fund. 

Another $475,000 was levied for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund to cover pension contributions for employees, such as secretaries, who are not covered by the Teacher Retirement System. And $355,000 was levied to cover Social Security contributions for non-certified employees, while $245,000 was levied for the working cash fund.

Six of the seven board members of the school board voted to approve the levy. David Kodama abstained. 

When asked to explain his vote Kodama said that he was abstaining for reasons that he set out at the Dec. 4 board meeting, when the board voted 4 to 3 to have a flat tax levy this year. 

At that meeting Kodama had supported a 1.7-percent increase in the levy and said that a flat levy would eventually force the district to cut programs and expenses.

—Bob Skolnik