The village of Brookfield would like Riverside Elementary School District 96 to split the costs of the two crossing guards the village provides near Hollywood School, 3423 Hollywood Ave.
There is precedent for such a cost-sharing arrangement. In 2014, District 96 agreed to split the cost of crossing guards in Riverside with that village.
Now, facing financial pressures because of lower revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brookfield wants the same deal. The pandemic has resulted in a revenue shortfall of about $700,000 for the village in 2020, and Brookfield Village Manager Tim Wiberg said he only recently learned of District 96’s cost-sharing deal with Riverside.
“Times are tough, so I look for any place I can to reasonably try to save some money,” Wiberg told the Landmark. “They’re already splitting the cost with the village of Riverside. Seems to me to make sense that they should be splitting the cost with the village of Brookfield.”
Wiberg acknowledged that the question of who should pay for crossing guards can be a contentious issue, with municipalities believing schools should pay and school officials thinking municipalities should pay for what is a public safety measure.
“This is an issue that, quite honestly, drives village managers crazy,” Wiberg said. “Anybody can make a pretty valid argument that it’s the other party’s responsibility.”
He said that in Lincolnwood, where he worked for 15 years before becoming village manager in Brookfield, the cost of crossing guards is evenly split between the village and the local school district.
“To me, that’s the fairest approach,” Wiberg said.
In 2014, the District 96 school board initially balked at splitting the cost of crossing guards with Riverside, saying crossing guards were a public safety issue that the village should handle and not an educational expense. But after the village stood firm, the school board eventually caved and agreed to split the cost of crossing guards with the village.
When presented with the request from Brookfield at a recent school board meeting, District 96 board members seemed willing to split the cost of two Hollywood School crossing guards if Brookfield was also splitting the costs of 10 other crossing guards that serve students in the three other elementary school districts serving Brookfield.
“If everybody else is doing it, then I’m find with it,” said school board member Joel Marhoul said.
School board member David Barsotti wanted District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye to find out if Brookfield was getting payments from other school districts that use crossing guards provided by the village.
“I want to make sure we’re not being singled out,” Barsotti said.
Brookfield provides crossing guards for students at S.E. Gross School and Brook Park School in Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 and at Lincoln School in Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 but hasn’t yet asked either of those districts to share the costs of the crossing guards, each of whom is paid $7,200 a year.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” Wiberg said about asking District 96 first.
Wiberg said if a cost-sharing agreement is worked out with District 96, he intends to ask Districts 95 and 103 to also split the cost of the crossing guards that serve students in those districts.
“I will work collaboratively with the others in the hopes of getting a split deal,” Wiberg said.