Back last summer, the village of Riverside and Riverside School District 96 appeared to have finally agreed on how the two government agencies would pay crossing guards.
The village stood firm on its position that the school district ought to pay half of the salaries for the guards, who cross children at dangerous intersections every morning and afternoon. The school board followed by voting 4 to 2 to fund “50 percent of the total cost,” per the board’s minutes for the July 15, 2014 meeting.
But it turns out that both sides never signed the same intergovernmental agreement, so there’s no official resolution to the issue.
On Jan. 15, members of the Riverside Village Board were miffed when told by Village Manager Jessica Frances that, despite believing there was a signed deal in place, the school board never actually signed the original deal sent to them last year. Instead, the school board held a second vote last November to approve a slightly different crossing guard contract.
The contract, amended by the school board’s attorney, capped the amount D96 would pay at $25,500. That was slightly less than the roughly $32,000 the school board agreed to pay when they voted on the matter back in July 2014.
“What do they expect when $50,000 is spent, no crossing guards?” asked Trustee Doug Pollock.
District 96 board President Mary Rose Mangia said she’s not sure why the $25,500 cap was put in place, but said it was her understanding that the school board, indeed, had agreed to paying 50 percent for the cost of crossing guard salaries during the 2014-15 school year.
“That cap isn’t appropriate; I’m not sure why the cap got put on,” Mangia said.
Mangia said that a turnover in staff in both the district administration and inside village hall was likely party to blame for the miscommunication.
D96’s director of finance announced he was resigning just two weeks after the board’s July vote on the crossing guard issue and his replacement wasn’t announced until a month later, in August.
At that very moment, former Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera announced his resignation and two members of the school board also suddenly resigned. The school district has also changed law firms from the time Riverside pitched its initial agreement way back in December 2013 and the July 2014 vote.
“[The crossing guard agreement] suffered through the lapse of time and change in people,” Mangia said.
While there’s no officially signed agreement in place, Mangia said there was still “an agreement in principle.”
According to Frances, the district has been duly paying any invoices for crossing guards that the village has sent. Between August and December 2014, the village has billed the school district for $10,898. The district has paid that full amount, Frances said.
Frances added that the village estimates it will bill the school district another $14,385 for the remainder of the school year, for a total bill of $25,283.
That’s still less than the $25,500 cap the district had proposed, but Frances and village trustees weren’t comfortable with a hard cap, because not only did it not allow for any unexpected circumstances, it meant that the contract would have to be renegotiated every year.
In the meantime, both Frances and Mangia expressed an interest in working out an agreement both sides can sign for the 2015-16 school year. Frances said she hopes to have a draft intergovernmental agreement ready to present “in the next month or two.”
Neither side appears to favor spending any more time working out a final deal for 2014-15. Instead, they’ll focus on next school year. Mangia said she and the district’s superintendent would be happy to sit down with Frances soon to hammer out details.
“I’d like to meet with the appropriate parties and tie it up now while it’s on everybody’s mind,” Mangia said. “I’d advise that we get together and finalize it.”
Members of the Riverside Village Board, however, indicated they’d like to update the agreement to include language regarding the district’s early release schedule and about the district sharing in the cost of overtime and the cost of having police officers or the community service officer serve as crossing guards when the guards call in sick.
The village of Riverside, in addition to paying for salaries for crossing guards, pays to train and equip crossing guards and to administer the program.