The Lyons Township School Treasurer’s Office board met in November to take on the village of Bridgeview as a member/client of the agency. Seated around the board table are (from left) Director of Operations Brigid Murphy, Attorney Katie Ngo, Trustee Shakana Kirksey-Miller, board President Michael Thiessen, Trustee Jessica Doherty and TTO Treasurer Kenneth Getty. | BOB SKOLNIK/Contributor

The village of Bridgeview has agreed to invest up to $10 million of village money with the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s office, known as the TTO, in an attempt to mitigate the impact of the withdrawal of Lyons Township High School District 204 from the agency in 2021. 

This will apparently be a first time the TTO has invested money for a municipality. TTOs, which now exist only in Cook County, were formed in the 19th century to invest the reserve funds of school districts. 

District 204 withdrew from the Lyons TTO in 2021 after the verdict in a protracted lawsuit between the two entities. LTHS is by far the largest school district in Lyons Township, so when it withdrew, LTHS took nearly $46 million, about 23 to 25 percent of the money the TTO managed for school districts, with it. 

LTHS and the TTO are still in court. In a new lawsuit, LTHS alleges the TTO still owes it at least $1.2 million. A ruling in that case is expected in February.

The village of Bridgeview will pay the Lyons TTO an annual management fee of 25 basis points, 0.25 percent, of the money it invests with the TTO. That fee will help the TTO replace some of the fees it lost when LTHS left. 

The TTO has no money of its own. Its expenses are borne by the school districts the agency serves. The more money the TTO manages, the better it is for the remaining school districts because the TTO’s expenses are spread over more assets. 

“We’re doing this to mitigate the obligations to the other school districts,” Mike Thiessen, the president of the board of trustees of the Lyons TTO, said of the agreement to invest Bridgeview’s money. “And we don’t think Bridgeview will be the last. It’s just simply the first.”

Retiring state Sen. Steve Landek (D-Bridgeview) is also the longtime village president of Bridgeview who has long been the primary defender and protector of the Lyons TTO in Springfield. 

Landek says investing the village’s funds with the TTO instead of the Illinois Funds, a state-run local government investment pool that Bridgeview has previously invested in, makes sense for Bridgeview. As of Dec. 27, the Illinois Funds was paying its investors a 4.091% interest rate.

“We have it in the Illinois State Treasurer’s Fund, but the schools treasurer can give us a bigger rate of return,” Landek said. “It’s a quick and convenient way to manage your money without having to go to a downtown bank. We find this to be the most logical way to quickly invest our money and it’s liquid enough for us. Within 48 hours we could have the money back if we need it.” 

The three-person TTO board approved the intergovernmental agreement with Bridgeview at its Nov. 15 meeting by a vote of 2-0. Thiessen abstained from the vote because he has had extensive private business dealings in and with the village of Bridgeview. 

“Ten-plus years doing work at Seat Geek Stadium and then on Menard’s development, some other economic development projects within the village,” Thiessen said. “The Pilot development, the Pete’s Fresh Market, a bunch of stuff. I’ve worked with the village probably longer than I’ve been on the TTO board.”

Thiessen and Landek were once business partners in the Southwest Community News Group, a chain of local community newspapers. Landek, in his capacity as the liquor commissioner in Bridgeview, also has granted at least two liquor licenses to Blackhawk Restaurant Group, a company that Thiessen has an ownership stake in. Blackhawk owns and operates video gambling parlors.

TTO treasurer handed two-year contract extension

Kenneth Getty, the township schools treasurer for Lyons Township, has received a two-year contract extension that goes into effect on July 1, 2023. 

At a special meeting on Nov. 30, the board of the Township Trustees of Schools, known at the TTO, voted 2-0 to give Getty the extension. Trustee Shakana Kirksey-Miller did not attend the special meeting. Trustee Jessica Doherty and TTO board President Mike Thiessen voted to approve the contract extension. Thiessen and Doherty met in closed session for four minutes before voting. State law limits contracts for TTO treasurers to no more than two years.

For the 2023-24 fiscal year, Getty will be paid a salary of $185,000. On July 1, 2024 Getty’s salary will increase to $188,000. When Getty was hired as the TTO treasurer in 2018, his salary was $140,000.

The new contract gives Getty, who was appointed treasurer in 2018, paid vacation amounting to 35 days each year. In addition to the seven weeks of paid time off, Getty will get 11 holidays off with pay.

Thiessen said that he thought Getty’s paid time off might be increasing by a couple of days in the new contract.

“I think we’re at 30 plus, 32 for our regular employees,” Thiessen said. 

The TTO, which invests money for school districts in Lyons Township other than Lyons Township High School District 204, has six employees. As treasurer, Getty is responsible for investing approximately $200 million in school districts’ money.

The contract requires the TTO to also pay Getty’s contributions to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. The TTO will also make a one-time contribution of $2,500 to Getty’s 401(a) account and annually contribute an amount equal to 5% of Getty’s base salary to his 401(a) account. 

The TTO will also pay for Getty’s health insurance and dental and vision coverage as well as provide him with the equivalent of a $500,000 term life insurance policy.

— Bob Skolnik