Down river in quaint, historically significant Riverside, the village and the schools may come to blows before someone breaks down and agrees to pay for school crossing guards this fall. Just across Madison Street in toney River Forest, there’s a nasty he said-she said fracas over whether the village even told the schools it was pulling the plug on paying fo crossing guards.
In this moment of extreme fiscal pain for towns and schools, the forever assumption that towns and villages pay to get the kids safely across busy streets while the schools pay to teach them something has gone haywire. Stretched municipalities see school districts with much greater pull on property tax dollars and are saying, “They’re your kids. Get them into your buildings.” School districts, watching as all sorts of funding from the morally and fiscally bankrupt state disappear, say, “You’ve always paid for crossing guards. Therefore, it must be your job.”
Here, though, in Forest Park, the same issue, the same fiscal tensions have resulted in a delicious outbreak of common sense and something akin to a lovefest. Starting this fall, the village and the elementary school district are going to split the $70,000 annual cost of crossing guards: 50-50.
“We worked together and that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. “Working together is what Forest Park is all about,” said Superintendent Lou Cavallo. Especially in hard times, we’d add.
The plan calls for the village to continue to employ and supervise the crossing guards. That will happen under the auspices of the police department, where it logically ought to remain. The village will invoice the schools monthly for the service it receives.
In a burst of candor that we appreciate, the school’s Cavallo said, “We can afford it and it’s a service our students can benefit from.” That comment, and the actions of both the village and the schools also represent a fundamental understanding and respect for local taxpayers, who, one way or the other, are footing the bill for this essential service.
In this instance, other towns could take a lesson from Forest Park and its leaders.