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House Judiciary Committee gives OK for LT to split from treasurer's office, uphill battle ahead

Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 5:21 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:34 a.m. CST
Caption
(Shaw Media file photo)
Lyons Township High School's North Campus in La Grange.

LA GRANGE – The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill that would allow Lyons Township High School District 204 to remove itself from the jurisdiction and authority of the Lyons Township Trustees of Schools and the township's treasurer's office.

The bill – sponsored by state Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs – focuses on local control, Durkin stated in a news release Thursday.

"Lyons Township High School can capably handle their accounting and payroll," Durkin said in the release. "The township treasurer is an outdated branch of government and Lyons Township High School should be allowed to perform these services in house."

At the moment, the law requires Cook County schools to use the township treasurer, which was originally created to help school districts with financial issues.

Schools within the county have the option of appointing or electing school treasures, however five members of each school board in the district must approve. Once approved; a resolution must pass to remove the jurisdiction, the question must be presented to voters in a referendum, and a majority of the voters must agree to remove the township treasurer.

"It will be an uphill battle to get this bill through the House and Senate, but I am going to keep pushing because I trust the Lyons Township High School parents and school officials to know what is best for them and the decision whether or not to break away from the Township Treasurer should be theirs alone," Durkin said in the release.   

The Lyons Township School Treasurer’s Office, located in La Grange Park, manages more than $280 million in public funds for districts in the western suburbs, including La Grange, Western Springs, La Grange Park, Lyons, La Grange Highlands and Burr Ridge. The office also manages payroll, billing and bookkeeping functions.

One main fact to keep in mind is that this is one very small step in the process, according to Mike Thiessen, board president of the Lyons Township Trustees of Schools.

"The most important thing is that it's just gotten through the committee," Thiessen said. "From a day-to-day issue, it doesn't affect us in any way."

Thiessen said the organization can work more efficiently and cheaper than the high school can on its own.

The Lyons Township School Treasurer's office and the Lyons Township Trustees of Schools should not be confused with Lyons Township High School District 204 or the District 204 Board of Education.

Superintendent Tim Kilrea said he believes separating is absolutely the right way to go.

"If you look at the big picture, we don't use [the treasurer's office]," Kilrea said. "All the day to day operations we do in house. We don't really use them and haven't for many years." 

The decision is one that was given a lot of thought and one that makes sense for Lyons Township High School."

Background:

In August, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez announced that former Lyons Township School Treasurer Robert Healy was charged with stealing more than $1.5 million over a 20-year period through his position as schools' treasurer.

Lyons Township High School District 204 refused to pay a $2 million bill for services from the Lyons Township School Treasurer's Office because of an agreement the district said it made with the treasurer’s office in 1999.

Superintendent Tim Kilrea said in August that although there was no official intergovernmental agreement made between the district and treasurer’s office, both sides determined that the district would pay its own staff to perform bookkeeping duties and in turn not pay the township school treasurer.

In October, the Lyons Township Trustees of Schools Office filed a $4.4 million lawsuit against Lyons Township High School District 204. The suit alleged the district owed the office for unpaid services dating to the early 1990s, auditing fees the office paid to accounting firm Baker Tilly, as well as over-allocated money the district received. 

Read more: BGA: 'Plenty of blame to go around' in oversight of Lyons Township School Treasurer's Office

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