Cafeteria workers at Homewood-Flossmoor High School asked board members to intercede on their behalf as their union bargains for higher wages.
“Local 1 members are coming together to urge Chartwells Food Service to do the right thing for the Homewood-Flossmoor community by offering food service workers the raises they need to support their families when negotiations resume on Feb. 27,” said LaToyia Comb, vice president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1. The current $1.6 million contract will expire July 31. H-F has used Chartwells since the 2005-2006 school year, said Mark Sheehan, interim business manager.
Comb was joined by about 15 workers at the Feb. 19 board meeting. The school board negotiates a contract with Chartwells for food service. It does not negotiate wages. But the workers argued that board members should be concerned about their salaries because they are as much a part of the school as teachers and administrators. Several spoke of the special attention they give to students with dietary restrictions.
The 2017 median salary for a Chartwells worker at H-F was $10.60, according to Nick Desideri, communications specialist with SEIU. “Chartwells is making a lot of money off the Homewood-Flossmoor contract and it’s frankly the board’s responsibility to do right by the food service workers,” he said.
The Illinois legislature agreed to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, but it is a step increase implementation. On Jan. 1, 2020 the wage will be $9.25. Desirderi said that will not have an immediate impact for Chartwells lowest paid workers at H-F.
Board members promised to study the issue.
In other business, the board unanimously agreed to abate about $2 million in property taxes in exchange for a $1.96 million grant from the Illinois State Board of Education.
The abatement will be spread across all properties in the district, so it is difficult to determine exactly how much each taxpayer will receive. The reduction in taxes will appear on tax bills due in August.
Board member Jody Scariano said the board would consider abating taxes annually if the state continues with the grant program.
Illinois has shifted its school funding formula to try and give funding equity between districts that have great property wealth and those that do not. The evidence-based formula is meant to help districts, including H-F District 233. It shifts Illinois payments to school districts from a general dollar amount per student to a formula that takes into account the tax burden.
Bob Grossi, the Bloom Township school treasurer who handles school funds for H-F, said the district is considered “property poor” because it doesn’t have a strong commercial and industrial base that would take some of the burden from homeowners.
“Our average tax rate in South Cook is almost twice the state average,” Grossi said.
The board thanked Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, and Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, for their work on the legislation.
The board also agreed to spend $83,421 on new textbooks and online materials for 19 courses, three of which are new to the curriculum.