School fees are going up by 5 percent next year in Riverside Elementary School District 96. On Nov. 16 the school district’s Board of Education voted 4 to 2 to raise the fees, with school board members Stephanie Gunn and Shari Klyber voting against the increase.  

The district has been raising school fees by roughly the rate on inflation every year since 2019. Prior to raising school fees for the 2018-19, District 96 had not raised school fees for 12 years. 

In 2022, the rate of inflation has been running at around 7 percent, but the administration and school board finance committee chairman David Barsotti recommended a 5-percent fee increase.

Both Gunn and Klyber said they didn’t have a clear understanding of what the fees paid for and why the fees are different for every grade. Gunn also voted against raising school fees last year.

“I think what we’re currently asking for is sufficient to cover instructional supplies to a place where I’m comfortable,” Gunn said before casting her vote. 

In 2021-22, school fees covered approximately 30 percent of instructional supplies. Families on free and reduced lunch do not pay school fees.

Next year school fees will be $80 for pre-kindergarten and $85 for kindergarten, but with a 40-percent discount for those who register for kindergarten by April 30.

The fees for individual grades ramp up from $95 for first grade to $100 for second and third grade, $115 for fourth and fifth grade, $180 for sixth grade, $185 for seventh grade and $210 for eighth grade.

For comparison, in Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary District 95, which operates Brook Park elementary school and S.E. Gross Middle School, there is a $175 annual fee for each student regardless of grade.

At L. J. Hauser Junior High School, the only building where students need to buy uniforms for physical education classes, shirts and shorts will cost $15 apiece. The fee for a seventh or eighth grader to be on a Hauser athletic team will be $40. 

District 96 board member Lynda Murphy voted for the 5-percent increase although she too would have liked to know more about what exactly the fees are paying for. In the end, however, she said, “These seem reasonable.”

Pre-kindergarten tuition for students without special needs will increase to $3,402.

D96 board approves 2022 tax levy

The school board also approved a 5-percent increase in its annual tax levy at the Nov. 16 meeting. That is the maximum allowed increase this year because state tax cap laws limit levy increases by non-home rule local units of government in Cook County to 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. 

With inflation at 7 percent last year, the maximum levy increase of 5 percent under the tax cap law kicks in. The district is asking for $28,733,615 in property tax revenue next year. That is an increase of $1,368,267 over last year.

The five percent levy increase is the largest percentage levy increase since the tax cap law was extended to Cook County in 1995. It is the first time that maximum levy increase of five percent has been levied. Last year the levy only increased by 1.4 percent.