Month: October 2013

Neighboring Libraries Welcome Maywood Patrons, E.D. Huntington Hopeful for Spring Re-Opening

The Forest Park Review is Now Partnering with The Village Free Press

By Jean Lotus, Forest Park Review Editor

The Maywood Public Library closed its doors Saturday due to a lack of operating funds, said Stan Huntington, the library’s director. But Huntington said the closure is temporary, and he believes the long-term prognosis for the library is good.

Meanwhile, neighboring libraries, such as those in Broadview and Forest Park, have agreed to take up services on a limited basis for Maywood’s patrons.

“We’ve heard from our libraries in border communities, and they all are dedicated to assisting our patrons,” Huntington said.

Huntington said the library team is working “around the clock” to try to open again, possibly with a bridge loan from a local bank.

The worst-case scenario, Huntington said, is that the library will remain closed until the spring tax property disbursement, sometime in mid-March.

About one third of the Maywood patrons already use the Broadview library, and vice versa, Huntington said. He expects that number will increase.

Meanwhile, Forest Park Public Library Director Rodger Brayden said Maywood patrons are welcome at the Forest Park library.

“[We] always welcome our neighbors and will continue to honor the Maywood Library card while the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) works out more specific arrangements for Maywood patrons,” Brayden said. “This includes checking out materials as well as using computers.

“Libraries are an integral part of communities,” Brayden added. “This is a truly sad occurrence for Maywood.”

Huntington said 3,500 patrons use the library’s computer center per month as well as the adjacent job center.

“Many computer center patrons cannot afford to have Internet in their homes,” he said. “Students use the library as a safe place to study after school. Is that a problem? Yes.”

Huntington said the library is still in use by seniors for hot lunch and bingo games.

“They’re in here right now, on the second floor,” he said.

The Community Nutrition Network is still using the kitchen at the Maywood Library to prepare meals-on-wheels for homebound and seniors in Proviso Township, Huntington said.

Huntington said neighboring library computer centers have an understanding that, while the library is closed, Maywood patrons may have to pay a small fee, such as $2, and priority would be given to local patrons. He said the Maywood patrons might have to call in a computer reservation or come in at a specific time.

Huntington said the library was almost done paying down $8 million in debt for a 1999 remodeling project and had retired the majority of its renovation bonds from Mellon Bank in New York on Dec. 1, 2012.

By 2016 the library will be debt free, Huntington said.

“We’re on the home stretch. We own the corner. There’s no lien on the land or on our building,” he said. “We just need operating funds to get us open.”

The library assesses its own levy on the tax bills of Maywood residents. One is for operational costs and the other for debt service. Huntington said the operational costs average about $80,000 per month, but the library has been on austerity measures for years, including no staff raises since 2007.

The library was caught with less property tax money coming in when the equalized assessed value (EAV) of Maywood properties fell by almost 25 percent, from $340 million to $270 million, due to the housing crisis. Maywood has among the highest foreclosure rates in the state of Illinois. Vacant and foreclosed properties, whose owners are no longer paying their tax bills, are contributing to the property tax revenue shortfall for the village and the library.

The library also asked one of its bond lenders, Seaway Bank, to temporarily postpone half of the debt service payment of roughly $480,000, but Seaway declined to do that, Huntington said.

The good news, he said, is an expiring TIF district in Maywood in 2016 will pour an extra balloon payment of $400,000 into the library’s coffers.

“We may even have a surplus at that point,” Huntington said.

Representatives from RAILS said neighboring libraries were all interested in helping any Maywood patrons. The library participates in a resource-sharing network called SWAN that shares books and materials among around 75 regional libraries.

“We’ve heard from numerous libraries they want to do what they can to assist the Maywood patrons,” said SWAN Executive Director Aaron Sgog.

“There’s a lot of good will,” added SWAN Member Services Manager Kate Boyle.

The library is collecting donations at www.maywoodlibrary.org. VFP

How Maywood Schools Fared in 2013 Sun-Times Rankings/ISBE Report Card

ADVERTISEMENT-THINK COMMUNITY SUMMIT

By Michael Romain

THURSDAY–The Chicago Sun-Times released its annual “School Report Card” today. Each year, the Sun-Times’ ranks elementary schools and high schools in the state of Illinois based on the Illinois State  Board of Education’s (ISBE) annual “School Report Card.” This year, Walter Payton College Prep took the number one spot in the rankings from perennial academic powerhouse Northside College Prep, which had held the top spot for the previous twelve years. Hinsdale Central High School is the highest ranked school in the suburbs and the fourth-ranked school statewide.

The Sun-Times broke down its ranking methodology as follows:

“For a more than a decade, the Chicago Sun-Times has based its exclusive rankings of schools on average scores on state achievement tests, not on the percentage who meet state standards – a measure that has come under criticism.

“Only 2013 reading and math results from the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests and the Prairie State Achievement Exams taken last March and April were analyzed.

“Elementary school rankings are based on schools that tested at least two grades, third to fifth. Middle-school rankings reflect at least two tested grades, sixth through eighth. High school rankings are based on 11th-grade results. A K-8 school could be ranked among both elementary and middle schools.

“The rankings use a statistical method called standardizing to analyze the ‘scale score of every reading and math test statewide.

“The method compares each test score with the state average and creates a school average that’s compared with other schools’ averages. Standardizing levels the playing field in years when one test might be harder to pass than others.

“The rankings include percentiles, reflecting the percentage of Illinois students who scored the same as or worse than the average student at each ranked school.”

According to the data, Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) scores fell statewide from 82.5 percent of students meeting or exceeded state standards to 58.8 percent doing so. The Sun-Times reported that state officials noted that the decline is “due to the fact that the minimum scores needed to pass the test were raised, ‘to align with the more rigorous Common Core Learning Standards and give a better indication of college and career readiness.'”

The average ranking for District 89 elementary schools located in Maywood was about 28 percent–meaning that, on average, Maywood elementary schools ranked higher than or as high as about 28 percent of elementary schools in the state that were ranked by the Sun-Times. Jane Addams, Stevenson and Melrose Park, all located in Melrose Park, ranked 693, 1640 and 1896, respectively. This means that Jane Addams ranks higher than about 56 percent, Stevenson ranks higher than about 35 percent and Melrose Park ranks higher than about 28 percent of elementary schools in the state that were ranked. Roosevelt Elementary, the only District 89 school in Broadview, ranked 1613, higher than about 36 percent of ranked elementary schools in the state.

Elementary School Rankings (Maywood Schools)
Elementary School Rankings (Maywood Schools) (Chicago Sun-Times)

Proviso East ranked 621 among high schools in the state, which ranks it higher than about 21 percent of high schools in Illinois that were ranked by the Sun-Times. The Proviso Math and Science Academy ranked 124 among ranked high schools in the state, ranking it higher than about 59 percent of ranked high schools in Illinois. Proviso West High School, located in Hillside, is 593 in the rankings, which is higher than about 26 percent of ranked high schools in Illinois.

Proviso East 2013 Ranking
Proviso East 2013 ranking (Chicago Sun-Times)

District 89 and 209 ISBE Performance

According to this year’s ISBE School Report Card assessments, District 89’s overall performance on all state tests dropped precipitously, as did the entire state of Illinois. The drop, as mentioned above, may reflect the fact that minimum passing scores were raised. In 2011-2012, 69.7 percent of District 89 students either met or exceeded the Illinois Learning Standards. This was compared with 78 percent of students statewide who met or exceeded the standards that same year.

By contrast, in 2012-2013, District 89 students who met or exceeded standards was at 39.3 percent, a more than 30 percentage point drop. Statewide, 58.2 percent of students met or exceeded state standards that year, a drop of 20 percentage points.

Overall Performance-All State Tests
Overall Performance-All State Tests (ISBE).

There was a similar District and statewide decline in student performance on the ISAT exams. In 2011-2012, 70 percent of District 89 students met or exceeded ISAT standards, compared with only about 39 percent in 2012-2013. In Illinois, acceptable student performance dropped from about 83 percent to about 59 percent.

Overall ISAT Performance
Overall ISAT Performance (ISBE).

Proviso Township District 209 actually experienced an increase in its overall performance on all state tests. In 2011-2012, only about 29 percent of District 209 students met or exceeded Illinois Learning Standards. In 2012-2013, about 35 percent of students met or exceeded state standards. For students throughout the state, however, there was a large drop in performance. While 78 percent of Illinois students met or exceeded standards in 2011-2012, only about 58 percent did so in 2012-2013.

Overall Performance-District 209
Overall Performance for District 209 (ISBE).

To read the 2013 ISBE School Report Card for District 89, click here. To read the report for District 209, click here. To read individual assessments of District 89 schools, click here. To read individual assessments of Proviso East High School, click here. VFP

A Few Spooktacular Halloween Events in Your Neck of the Woods

Bellwood Public Library

Fall Spooktacular | Come to the library (600 Bohland Ave., Bellwood, IL) if you dare! Join us Wednesday, October 30, from 6:30pm-8:00pm, ages 5-12. We’ve got spooky (but not too scary) stories to tell! Stick around for dancing and a snack. Children are encouraged, but not required, to come in a costume. Limited space available. Register now! Contact youth services department (708) 547-7397, or visit bellwoodlibrary.org, for more info.

Maywood Park District

Experience our Free Halloween Fright Fest, October 31, from 5:30pm to 7pm at 921 S. 9th Ave., Maywood, IL. Call (708) 344-4740 for more info.

Oak Park Public Library

Pic or Treat! Stop by the Children’s Dep. all week to show off your Halloween costume and take your picture with a variety of oversized props! No registration. Wednesday, October 30 and Thursday, October 31. First floor of Children’ s Study Room A. Contact childrens@oppl.org, call (708) 452-3420 or visit www.oppl.org for more info. VFP

To include an event, send information to thevillagefreepress@gmail.com.

 

Stop by the Children’s Department all week to show off your Halloween costume and take your picture with a variety of oversized props! No registration. – See more at: http://oppl.org/events/pic-or-treat-3?ajax=1#sthash.7563Qdvu.dpuf
Stop by the Children’s Department all week to show off your Halloween costume and take your picture with a variety of oversized props! No registration. – See more at: http://oppl.org/events/pic-or-treat-3?ajax=1#sthash.7563Qdvu.dpuf
Stop by the Children’s Department all week to show off your Halloween costume and take your picture with a variety of oversized props! No registration. – See more at: http://oppl.org/events/pic-or-treat-3?ajax=1#sthash.7563Qdvu.dpuf

Walther Christian Academy Raises Record Amount to Fight Hunger Via Proviso Area CROP Walk

Story obtained from walther.com:

After raising over $4000 in 2012, students at Walther Christian Academy took on an even more ambitious goal of $5000 for this year’s September 29th event.  The motivation for the increase was the desire to provide five fresh water wells for five villages overseas.  These wells will decrease the need for mostly women and children to walk an average of four hours per day to retrieve this precious resource for their families.  This extra time and energy would then be available for such poverty-fighting tasks as attending school and beginning small businesses.

The 2013 Proviso Area CROP walk started from the 1st Congregational Church of Maywood on the last Sunday in September.  Students were blessed with beautiful weather and a walking route of 10 kilometers through the villages of Maywood and Melrose Park.  Prior to the walk 50 students and 3 teachers solicited pledges totaling more than $5000.  In the three weeks since that event, coupled with  chapel offerings  for August and September, the group brought in a record $6718.57!

Mr. Korntheuer explained to the students in chapel this week that in addition to this sum, an anonymous donor, impressed with Bronco dedication and enthusiasm to end hunger around the world, contributed an additional $10,000.  Thanks be to God for blessing our efforts so magnificently this year! VFP

From the Review: D209 Resolves Cash Dispute With Township Treasurer

The Forest Park Review is Now Partnering with The Village Free Press

By Jean Lotus, Forest Park Review Editor

Todd Drafall, the new finance director of Proviso Township High School District 209, had good news for the school board at its October meeting: the Township Treasurer’s Office, a separate government unit which oversees finances for multiple school districts, had finally agreed there was $1.18 million in the Proviso school registration fees bank account – instead of $400,000.The school district’s new auditors, Mathieson, Moyski, Celer & Co., LLP, found the discrepancy at the turn of the year, and reported it with their audit. The district’s bank account showed a June 2012 balance of $509,498.52 in the registration fee account. But the Township Treasurer’s Office audit displayed a negative balance of -$121,850.

MMC flagged the discrepancy as a “significant deficiency” in a report dated Dec. 12, 2012. According to the report deposits were not recorded and the amount of cash was “understated” by the district by $800,000.

“The problem we found is basically the township treasurer’s office thought the district was doing the bank reconciliation and the district thought the township was doing it,” said auditor Brett Mathieson. “It was happening for at least two years, that we found.”

“The (Proviso) district deposits funds, but it doesn’t control the account,” said Drafall. When the school district’s auditor asked the township to reflect the correct balance in the account, the township refused, Drafall said.

At its second audit, the end of fiscal year 2013, MMC noted the problem had still not been resolved and the account was now off by $1.18 million.

“At our initial meeting with the TTO staff, they refused to assist the district and they would not acknowledge the issue with their audit having an inaccurate number,” Drafall said.

The account in question, held at Bank of America, is used to deposit registration and other fees from students, such as gym uniform payments, facility rental and other payments made by families, Drafall said. It was also a catch-all account used to deposit insurance withholding payments made to the district – which should not even have been put into that account, Mathieson said.

“Those insurance payments weren’t recorded at all, either on Proviso’s books or the township’s,” he said.

Mathieson said the township office does not run separate accounts for the 14 school districts it oversees, but pools all the money on a general ledger. The district could not have access to that ledger to balance their account, he said.

George Chirempes, chief finance officer at the township treasurer’s office said the township was aware of the unreconciled account and had brought it to the district’s attention.

“We knew there was a difference and we kept asking them why is this thing not in balance?’ Chirempes said. “We saw the gap was large and we brought it to their attention,” he added. “We told them you’ve got money in the bank because it’s there. They are responsible to balance and journalize those accounts.”

“Their auditor had to work with them to find it.” Chirempes said. “We weren’t going to put his number on the books without some verification, but we knew the money was in the account.”

Turnover in the Proviso district finance offices may have contributed to the confusion. The district abruptly fired Business Manager Nikita Johnson in 2011. Her replacement, Romanier Polley resigned in Oct. 2012 and was replaced by a temporary manager Diane McCluskey who resigned in March. Drafall started in July.

With the help of MMC, Drafall has tried to comb through the tangled finances of D209 and he told the board systems were put in place to reconcile the books for that account from now on, he said.

Township offices out of date?

The dispute is just one way that dealing with the township’s office has frustrated Drafall, who wants to streamline business practices to save money. Drafall formerly worked in the Minooka High School District near Joliet.

Drafall is still getting used to the fact that the township treasurer provides monthly finance reports that must be picked up by a driver instead of sent via pdf. He also said the township waits until the last day of the month to release the reports, which means the school district has to scramble to prepare the board finance report every month, and it’s guaranteed not to be completely up to date.

Mathieson said he wishes the township treasurer could do away with the general ledger and make a separate account just for the high school transactions. The high school account sees much more activity than similar elementary accounts – which the township does reconcile.

Additionally, Drafall would like to go to “automatic clearinghouse” (ACH) payments to vendors, which he said could potentially save the district between $5,000-$10,000 a year on the cost of check printing, envelopes and stamps.

“There is some difficulty doing that with software,” Chirempes acknowledged.

“None of these requests are new, untried processes,” Drafall said. “In fact, they are quite common for both schools and businesses. We are simply asking to operate in a more effective and efficient manner being mindful of the resources the community has for educating its children.” VFP

Cook County Sheriff’s Office Claims Trustee Audrey Jaycox Misused Public Funds (Tribune Report)

Trustee Audrey Jaycox

October 30, 2013 || Matthew Walberg, Chicago Tribune

The Cook County sheriff’s office criticized a Maywood trustee for spending thousands of dollars in public money for more than 20 business trips over four years and for donating public funds to a political fundraiser.

The sheriff’s department alleged in a report that Audrey Jaycox violated a village ordinance prohibiting elected officials from taking more than two work-related trips per year using public money.

Jaycox also “violated the state elections statute” earlier this year when she used $200 in village funds to buy two tickets to a political event for state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, according to the sheriff’s report.

This is the first report issued by the sheriff’s office in its newly adopted role as an independent investigator for suburban governments.

The document alleges that Jaycox far outspent her annual discretionary fund in two of the four fiscal years in question — from 2010 to 2013 — with the bulk of the money going for travel to leadership conferences in such cities as Tampa, New Orleans and Washington.

Sheriff’s officials said that none of the expenditures appear to have been for personal gain, but questioned how the trips served Maywood residents.

The sheriff’s office forwarded the report to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office for review. The state’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Jaycox, a trustee since 2005, declined comment, saying she had not seen the report. According to the report, Jaycox said that village rules regarding discretionary funds and travel were discussed when she was elected, but were not reviewed often and no one questioned her about the trips.

Jaycox said the luncheon for Lightford was not political, but a fundraiser for “girls and women,” the report said.

Sheriff Tom Dart’s office was brought in by the village in July, after he offered to serve as independent inspector general to every suburban municipality at no cost.

Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins said that Jaycox should have known better.

“She knew the rules,” Perkins said. “She’s been a trustee since 2005, and she was chair of the finance committee.”

Trustee Ronald Rivers said he believes Jaycox’s trips are part of her efforts to boost the suburb, and called the allegations politically motivated.

“If people knew how much time she puts in,” he said. “I think this is a witch hunt.”

The report said documents suggest that other officials violated village rules on the use of public funds, and the sheriff’s office said there may be other investigations.

The sheriff’s office suggested the village beef up internal controls over how funds are spent and consider eliminating discretionary spending for trustees. VFP