The Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education has decisively rejected a proposed 50/50 split of school crossing guard costs with the village of Riverside.

At its Feb. 18 meeting the school board voted 6 to 1 against a proposed intergovernmental agreement that called for District 96 and the village to split the costs of employing school crossing guards located in Riverside.

That agreement was proposed after a meeting between Riverside Village President Ben Sells and District 96 school board President Mary Rose Mangia late last year.

Mangia did not even vote for the proposal that she brought before the school board. Randy Brockway cast the only vote in favor of accepting the 50/50 split of the crossing guard’s salaries.

After the village’s proposal was defeated, a proposal to increase D96’s current 27 percent share of crossing guard salaries to 33 percent was voted down by a 5 to 2 vote, with Mangia and Brockway favoring that option.

Finally, the school board voted 5 to 1, with Brockway abstaining, in favor of maintaining its current 27-percent contribution for crossing guards.

Art Perry cast the only vote against continuing the current contribution, saying that it was unfair for the school district to subsidize Riverside’s crossing guard costs while the villages of Brookfield and North Riverside pay 100 percent of the costs of school crossing guards that they provide.  

“Since I’m a Brookfield resident, I pay for property taxes to the village of Brookfield which in turn is funding crossing guards for my neighborhood, but I’m also paying taxes to District 96,” Perry said. “I feel like as a taxpayer I’m kind of double paying and I have an issue with that.”

Perry, like many board members, believes that crossing guards are a public safety issue and a village responsibility.

“I’ve heard a lot of the arguments and they’re quite relevant, but I still feel it ultimately falls on the shoulder of the village to carry this responsibility out,” Perry said.

Board Vice President Rachel Marrello echoed that view, but she reluctantly voted to continue the existing arrangement.

“I don’t want to suggest that we don’t think public safety is important, because I definitely think it’s important,” Marrello said. “However, sometimes you have to draw the line somewhere. We have the safety of the children inside our schools and the perimeters of our schools that we need to focus on and it’s cost us dearly, and that’s what our focus and priorities should be.”

Board member David Kodama said that he couldn’t vote to increase the school district’s share of crossing guard expenses because of budgetary reasons, especially in light of the flat tax levy approved by the school board in December.

“For me, it’s about budget,” Kodama said.

Brockway said that he was disappointed in the votes and opinions he heard from his fellow board members.

“I’m disappointed in what I’m hearing from the majority of the board on this issue,” Brockway said. “I would say this is probably the low point of my participation on the board.”

He called the village’s proposal “eminently fair.”

Mangia was disappointed that the board was not willing to increase its share of the costs.

“I was willing to begin to increase our share,” Mangia said. “I wasn’t quite prepared to go to the 50 percent, partially for the reasons that came up. … But at least we are acknowledging the current arrangement.”

The Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 school board has approved an agreement that calls on it to pay 33 percent of the cost of the crossing guard at First Avenue, with District 96 and the village also each paying 33 percent.

Last year District 96 paid $18,107 to the village for crossing guards. Under the village’s proposed 50/50 intergovernmental agreement, District 96’s costs for crossing guards would have increased by about $14,500 to $32,668. Under the proposed agreement the village would have continued to pay for all administrative costs of having crossing guards.

The Riverside Village Board will take up the issue again at its next village board meeting on March 6.

“Personally, I’m disappointed in their decision,” said Riverside Village President Sells. “As far as what happens next, we’re going talk about at the next village board meeting in March and the trustees will decide what they want to do next.”

Sells pointed out that state law allows municipalities or school districts to pay for crossing guards, and neither governmental unit has a legal obligation to provide crossing guards.