By Jean Lotus
The Proviso Township High School District 209 school board gave the nod to Finance Director Todd Drafall to explore ways to sever ties with the township taxing body that cuts checks and handles certain financial details for the district.
The Proviso Township Treasurer's Office (PTTO) handles tax dollars for 14 different Proviso school districts but has been criticized for being technologically behind, unresponsive and lacking transparency. Drafall has complained that the PTTO does not allow the district to look at their investment account in real-time. The PTTO waits until the end of the month to provide account balances, causing the district to scramble to create accurate financial reports. The office provides documents that must be picked up in person, not sent as a PDF. Drafall has also complained that the PTTO lacks the ability to direct-deposit checks instead of mailing them, potentially saving thousands of dollars.
After the district's new auditor found a $1.18 million error in the district's books over two years, problems with the PTTO came to the forefront.
In February, Drafall told the board the PTTO finally agreed to credit the money, but it was credited to a revenue account instead of the account to which it was deposited, causing confusion in the district's books.
"It was an irregular way of doing things," Drafall said.
The district's auditor, Mathieson, Moyski, Celer & Co. complained that PTTO pools funds from all 14 schools in a single ledger. School districts must take the treasurer's word for how much money they have in each fund. The township treasurer refused to run a separate account ledger for the problematic account, the D209 auditor said.
Withdrawing from a township treasurer's office has happened before. In 2007, districts 97 and 200 in Oak Park withdrew from the Cicero Township Treasurer's Office. Berwyn and Cicero school districts then dissolved the office. The action required a voter referendum and help from Oak Park's state Senator Don Harmon.
Former D209 board president Emmanuel "Chris" Welch, now 7th District state rep., introduced House Bill 4292 in the General Assembly to allow a school board to disconnect from the Trustees of Schools.
Welch said he introduced the legislation because he wanted "[school] boards to take responsibility of the district's finances, giving them decision-making power to hire a treasurer, maintain up-to-date records, and ensure transparency."