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Families who fraudulently attend Flossmoor schools now may get a bill

If parents send a child to Flossmoor School District 161 using a fraudulent address, the district may now seek reimbursement for the resources used for the child during that time.

At its meeting on Monday, March 27, the school board voted to allow the practice of collection against people who have been found to commit residency fraud. Trustee Misha Blackmon was absent from the meeting.

In an email, Superintendent Dana Smith said residency fraud impacts the district in many ways, especially with teacher staffing, school supplies and programs.  

“We owe it to our community to ensure that their tax dollars are being used to serve the children who reside within the District 161 attendance boundaries,” Smith said.   

If the district finds reason to suspect a student does not reside at the address listed on their enrollment form, it opens an investigation. 

The district employs Chicagoland Investigative Services to look into these cases, Smith said. He called the investigations “aggressive,” and said they may last six to eight weeks, to ensure the district has proper documentation to support its claim. 

When it opens an investigation, the district informs the student’s parent or guardian through a mailed letter. The parent has an opportunity at that time to un-enroll the student without penalty. 

If the student remains enrolled and the investigation confirms the residency fraud, the district will un-enroll the student. With the new provision, the district now will also legally pursue financial recovery of the cost of that nonresident student’s attendance at the district school. 

The Illinois State Board of Education calculates a per capita tuition charge for every public school district in the state, reflecting what it costs for one student to attend the district for one year. District 161’s rate is currently $13,873.

The district’s penalty for residency fraud would divide that annual rate by the number of school days in the academic year, then multiply that daily rate by the number of days the out-of-district student attended the Flossmoor school.

“I think this is fantastic,” said board member Christina Popolla-Vlietstra. “Unfortunate, but necessary at this juncture.”

Board member Cameron Nelson said the district should also use what power it has to seek out landlords who assist people with committing residency fraud by forging lease agreements, and also those who house multiple families while fraudulently claiming a homeowner’s exemption to pay less in property taxes.

“We shouldn’t leave any stone uncovered for people who are taking advantage of our taxpayers,” Nelson said.

A spokesperson for Homewood School District 153 said it also pursues financial reimbursement from people who have committed residency fraud to attend its schools.

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