The day that officials at Lyons Township High School have dreamed about for more than two decades is just about here.
On July 1, LTHS District 204 will no longer be part of the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s Office, after township treasurer’s’ trustees decided not to appeal the ruling of its lawsuit against the high school, a major win for LTHS.
When the 30-day period to file an appeal expired last week, the District 204 Board of Education called a special meeting June 24 to approve a resolution to withdraw from jurisdiction and the authority of the township treasurer’s office, also known as the TTO.
Copies of that resolution were hand delivered to the TTO’s office in downtown LaGrange the next day by LTHS Business Manager Brian Stachacz, who has been named the high school’s treasurer.
District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea said high school officials were happy the TTO did not appeal Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jerry Esrig’s ruling in the long-running lawsuit that was filed by the TTO in 2013.
“We appreciate that this is moving forward,” Kilrea said.
While Esrig ruled that the TTO could debit $764,789.33 from LTHS’ account for underpayment of its assessments from the TTO since 2014, he rejected the TTO’s major claim that LTHS owed it approximately $6 million for underpayments from 2000 through 2012.
The TTO invests money and handles basic financial matters for all school districts in Lyons Township.
Under legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly a few years ago, LTHS was permitted to withdraw from the TTO after the lawsuit was resolved. Other school districts in Lyons Township must still use the TTO to invest its money and perform business functions, such as paying bills and cutting checks.
At a special meeting of the TTO board on June 28, TTO board President Mike Thiessen said he expected the LTHS withdrawal to go smoothly.
“It will be nice to put this chapter behind us,” said Thiessen, who was the driving force behind the lawsuit, which reportedly cost the TTO more than $4 million in legal fees.
TTO Treasurer Kenneth T. Getty said the TTO would liquidate part of its portfolio of short-term financial instruments to send LTHS its money and said the high school should get the bulk of the money it is due very soon.
“I don’t foresee any problems,” Getty said.
But it will take some time to come to a complete reckoning of interest allocation and other details, since the TTO pools funds from school districts to invest.
“I think [incoming LTHS Superintendent] Brian [Waterman] and I will have no problem working out the direction of these funds,” said Getty, who added that the TTO would do a special interest allocation sometime in July or August.
Getty acknowledged that the exact amount of money LTHS is due will take some time to figure out as old bills are paid and the separation process is completed.
“There are always lingering issues,” Getty said.
Starting July 1, LTHS will be responsible for paying its bills directly and can begin investing its own money. Kilrea said that the district is prepared to do that with existing staff.
“We’ve been equipped to handle our operations for decades,” Kilrea said.
Kilrea said LTHS would likely hire outside portfolio managers to invest its reserve funds, which are typically invested in safe, short-term financial instruments.
“It’s good for LT and we’re just happy that we can continue to move forward,” said Kilrea, who retires as LTHS superintendent June 30. “We hope that we can work with the TTO to have an orderly separation that is not contentious.”
As a show of good faith, and to comply with the spirit of the judge’s ruling, at its June 24 special meeting the LTHS school board also authorized full payment of its 2020 bill from the TTO in the amount of $363,896.77.
In May the board had voted to only make a partial payment of $193,630, but that action was rescinded to comply with the judge’s decision. LTHS had been withholding a portion of its assessment since 2013, because it did not feel it should pay for the TTO’s legal fees in the lawsuit filed against District 204.
TTO board member resigns
LTHS officials did express concern about the sudden resignation of TTO board member Nicholas Kantas on June 22, shortly after the last day to file an appeal. High school officials plan to carefully monitor the separation process to make sure that they get every dollar to which they are entitled.
“We are procuring the services of a forensic accountant on our end to assist us with this separation,” Kilrea said.
Kantas, who works as an assistant Cook County State’s Attorney, told the Landmark in a brief phone interview that he resigned for personal relations unrelated to the lawsuit or its aftermath.
The remaining two members of the TTO board, Thiessen and newly elected Shakana Kirksey-Miller, will appoint someone to fill the vacancy at a special board meeting on July 15.
Those interested in being considered for the position should send a resume and letter of interest to Michael Thiessen at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 4:30 p.m. on July 12.
Because no two TTO trustees can live in the same school district, applicants cannot live in either Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 or Willow Springs School Elementary District 108. Applicants must live in Lyons Township.