Updated July 24, 3:30 p.m.

Proviso Township High School District 209 found extra money in their budget at the end of the fiscal year – more than $3.5 million, to be exact, said Finance Director Romanier Polley at the School Board meeting July 17.

When the fiscal year closed June 30, the final surplus was projected to be around $160,000, but Polley said the final numbers were much higher.

A balance sheet provided to the board showed a year-end surplus of $4,140,228.74. Polley said a few outstanding expenses still had to be tallied, but that she estimated the total surplus would be “between $3.5 and $3.7 million.” According to the balance sheet, the district had an extra 9.51 percent of revenue over the amount budgeted for 2011-2012. The district spent 4.46 percent over budget. The difference was the surplus, Polley said.

Revisiting an argument he had given for dissolving D209’s state-appointed financial oversight panel, Board President Emanuel “Chris” Welch said the surplus should keep the district in the “top financial category” of all Illinois schools.

“This should help the [financial oversight panel],” said board member Kevin McDermott.

Local revenue was up by 3.5 percent and state revenue was up by 8.02 percent, according to budget documents. Federal aid to the district was down by almost 25 percent.

Financial oversight panel chair Jim Popernik said his group will be reviewing the numbers this week.

In-house lawyers discussed

Addressing criticism from the financial oversight panel that outsourced legal bills were too high, Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart gave the board a proposal to hire an in-house attorney and secretary. The proposal suggested hiring an in-house lawyer for $120,000 with $20,000 in benefits, as well as a secretary for $40,000 per year with $20,000 benefits. The district paid $305,518.50 for legal work in 2011 to Del Galdo Law Group, according to www.openthebooks.com.

Collins-Hart also suggested to the board that residency hearings be done in-house by administration. The financial panel had balked at the cost of two independent hearing officers who were contracted for $3,500 per month each. Part of a hearing officer’s duties include residency hearings.

But Board President Welch said he works as an in-house attorney and that D209 might end up “cutting off its nose to spite its face” by springing for an in-house attorney and then still paying for outside legal work that might be over the head of a $120,000-a-year lawyer, who was likely to be young and inexperienced.

New teachers have little experience

Youth and inexperience were a criticism of new teachers approved by the board to begin next fall.

Board member Theresa Kelly pointed out that several of the new teachers hired for next year had little or no teaching experience. Five English teachers hired by the district had three years or less experience and two science teachers had no previous teaching experience. She said she worried the new teachers were not capable of handling the problems of the district.

“We had a Golden Apple winner here who was a teacher of English and she was released for some reason,” Kelly said.

Colllins-Hart acknowledged that.

“We have some turnover of people who go to other districts in terms of working conditions here,” she said. “We’ve got some new people we need to work with who are new to the profession and new to the district.”

Welch said sometimes new teachers are more enthusiastic. He pointed out that teachers who were leaving the district had been there “three years, seven years… They leave for other districts that pay substantially more.”

The newly-minted teachers’ starting salaries began at $41,704.

New members for financial oversight panel

The District 209 board announced the appointment of two new members of the state-appointed finance oversight panel at its school board meeting July 17.

New powers given the financial panel include expanding the group from three to five, with two members being from the district’s community. Welch has complained the finance panel, made up of three white retired finance officers from other school districts, has a cultural disconnect with Proviso.

New members of the panel are Proviso residents Frank Montgomery and Kenneth Walls.

Montgomery is a former assistant principal and athletic director at Proviso West who ran unsuccessfully for school board in the past. He is the cousin of Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore. Moore was the district’s insurance broker, until the finance oversight panel asked that bids be taken for district insurance work. The district saved more than $150,000 on new, cheaper insurance.

Kenneth Walls is Director of Security Operations for IFPC Worldwide, Inc. in Chicago, a private security firm. He lives in Broadview and has been a resident in the district for 17 years.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...