In recent weeks top officials of the Lyons Township Trustees of Schools Treasurers office, known as the TTO, have been visiting local school boards trying to convince school boards of the value of the obscure office, which handles cash management and bill payment, including payroll, for local school districts.
TTO officials told the local school boards that the office gives local school districts significantly higher investment returns than the districts could achieve on their own, because the TTO takes advantage of economies of scale and pools all the districts’ money to get better returns.
“We are able to invest longer, we are able to invest in higher-quality instruments with greater diversification,” said Lyons TTO Treasurer Susan Birkenmaier.
The Township Treasurer of Schools system in Illinois dates to 1819 and now only exists is suburban Cook County, having been eliminated in the rest of the state.
A few townships in Cook County, Oak Park Township being one, have abolished their school treasurer’s office.
Four elementary districts that feed into Lyons Township High School, including LaGrange-Brookfield Elementary District 102, have passed resolutions saying that they would like to withdraw from the TTO if it becomes legally permissible to do so.
Lyons Township High District 204 has long sought to withdraw from the TTO, but a bill allowing it to do has long been stalled in Illinois State Senate.
The Lyons TTO has sued District 204, saying that the district owes it $4.7 million (see accompanying story).
The only way districts can withdraw from the TTO is by an act of the state legislature or if all the elementary school districts in a township vote to do so.
Lyons-Brookfield Elementary District 103, most of whose students attend Morton High School District 201, and other districts that do not feed into LTHS do not seem to have a great interest in withdrawing from the TTO.
“I think the school board is currently pleased with the work that the township treasurer is currently doing on behalf of the school district,” said District 103 Superintendent Carol Baker. “I don’t think our school board is interested in separating from the [TTO] at this time.”
However, District 102 school board members expressed skepticism when TTO officials made the case that their work was worth the cost to District 102, which was $188,000 last year, a cost that was higher than normal because the TTO recently purchased a new financial software package. In 2014, District 102 paid $110,000 to the TTO.
“We don’t think we’re getting value for the fees we pay,” said District 102 school board President Matthew Scotty.
Earlier District 102, tired of waiting for the TTO to upgrade its antiquated software, purchased its own financial software which is not compatible with the TTO’s new software, creating more work for both the school district and the TTO.
District 102 officials say that they believe they could handle their own bill paying and investing.
School board member Brian Anderson said that he didn’t think the district needed the services of the TTO.
“I think it’s redundant,” Anderson said of the TTO.