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District 161 OKs home rule agreement with Homewood

Flossmoor School District 161 has signed on to a home rule intergovernmental agreement sought by the Village of Homewood with various local governmental boards.

The approval came in the passage of two resolutions concerning Homewood upcoming home rule referendum. The board voted during a special board meeting on Jan. 22.

The first measure was for the intergovernmental agreement itself which was approved by a 5-1 vote with Cameron Nelson dissenting and another board member, Merle Huckabee, absent from the meeting. The agreement specifies how various local taxing districts will share revenue generated by Homewood’s proposed local sales tax of 0.25 percent, if voters approve home rule. The village expects the increased sales tax will generate $1 million in new revenue for District 161, Homewood District 153, Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233, the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District and the Homewood Public Library.

District 161’s share of the sales tax revenue would be 7.5 percent, expected to be about $75,000.

Then the board voted on a resolution “explaining the impact of the Homewood Home Rule Referendum on Flossmoor District 161.”  Approval came on a 6-0 vote.  The resolution stated that “everyone is encouraged to become familiar with the factual information provided about home rule on the village’s website” and encouraged everyone to vote in the March 20 referendum.

District 161 board member John Simmons stated neither resolution “should be connoted as support, nor the lack thereof” for the home rule referendum.

Nelson has expressed concern about the issue during several board discussions in recent months.

In other matters, seven bids for life safety projects this summer have been received and were discussed. Kee Construction has submitted the lowest bid, some $300,000 lower than the next lowest bid from Chicago Heights Construction.

According to Frances LaBella, associate superintendent for business, the district’s architectural consultant, Green and Associates, has vetted the bids, met with the companies and performed background checks.

The district’s experience with Kee Construction is “not completing projects on time,” a representative of Green and Associates stated. He also said the board may want to consider hiring a part-time, experienced construction manager to oversee the project.

While there are alternate projects in the proposed contract, the estimated full cost of the work is $3.8 million.

Among the projects are upgrading existing air conditioning and adding air conditioning to 11 classrooms and the south gym at Parker Junior High and additional work at Heather Hill School.

The board also was presented with information about outstanding balances due the district for food service and possible practices to address the issue.

A total of nearly $17,000 is due for lunches that have not been paid. LaBella said by law the district must have a policy that “addresses the process for students to charge a school lunch when their account has insufficient funds.” There is currently no such policy.

The board will consider the following means to address the problem. First, the administration would increase the frequency of notifications regarding low fund balances before there are insufficient funds in the account. Also, limits would be placed on students receiving meals when their lunchroom accounts have been expended, depending on their age.  For those in grades K-5, up to three meals may be charged before the students receive an alternate meal. For students in grades 6 to 8, up to three meals may be charged before receiving up to three alternate meals, at which time the older students would no longer receive a meal.

LaBella said communication when the meal accounts have low balances and immediately after they are negative will provide parents “ample opportunities to add funds to the account.”

Board members heard two presentations by students from Heather Hill School.

Three students provide the talent and content for daily announcements at the school.  Principal Keith Davis lauded Najja King, Benjamin Peden and Matthis Tyrone for their efforts at communicating important announcements in an adult-like manner.

Also, several students presented their efforts as part of Heather Hill’s “Green Team” as they have embarked on making the school and community more environmentally friendly.  Participating students included Clarke Barnett, Kai Brown, Destini Burgs, Michael Franklin, Lillian Kessler, Benjamin Peden, Bryce Stewart, Grace Taylor, Isaiah Thompson and Matthis Tyrone.  Joining in the presentation were teachers Joan Mahler, Ryan Kirby and Beth Mikolajczyk.

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