Friday, October 06, 2006

Who really benefits when referenda pass? How does your school compare? $5,400 bonus for Dist. 158 officials

Recently District 158 passed a referendum. The claim was it was for the kids. Who benefits most from the passage of referenda? If your school district is running a referendum this year be sure to review salaries and contracts of school employees before supporting any referenda.

To review the salarires of your school's employees visit The

The following article appeared in the Daily Herald.

$5,400 bonus for Dist. 158 officials
By Jeffrey Gaunt
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Thursday, October 05, 2006

Several top Huntley District 158 administrators have been receiving cash payments for opting out of the district health insurance program — while still receiving health coverage.

Under a practice that board members say was started by former officials, administrators received $5,400 a year when passing on district insurance.

Three officials with spouses who worked in the district were able to receive coverage under their spouses’ plans while still collecting the $5,400 incentive.

Three more officials are on single-coverage plans but still receive the $5,400 benefit because they don’t get family

Only one of the seven officials who were receiving the $5,400 payouts doesn’t have any district insurance.

Providing the “cash in lieu” payments to employees who don’t get insurance, which is not unique to District 158, is
intended to save on the $12,000 to $14,000 the district otherwise would pay for health coverage.

But board members decided to phase out the practice this year, saying they don’t know when the district started offering the benefit.

“I couldn’t tell you honestly when it started,” school board President Mike Skala said of the payments. “There didn’t seem to be any policy in place that defined that benefit.”

Board members said that in a closed meeting earlier this year they agreed to pay six officials the extra $5,400 this year but phase out the practice over the next three years.

“The board of education felt that there needed to be some control on the expenditures we were having in regard to insurance,” Skala said.

But board member Larry Snow said there is another problem: a seventh official who is receiving the $5,400 without board approval.

Superintendent John Burkey raised the issue with the board at a committee meeting but never sought a board vote before extending the extra payment, Snow said.

District officials said that because of poor record keeping under the past administration, they didn’t know at the time of the school board vote that the employee was receiving the cash in lieu payments.

And Burkey said he didn’t know the lack of an official school board vote on the one employee was an issue, given the person had been receiving the payment for several years.

“We couldn’t not give it to him,” Burkey said, explaining that the administrator showed district officials documentation confirming he had been getting cash in lieu money in the past. “Whether the cash in lieu was right or not, we gave it to him like everyone else. I told the board about it right away. It wasn’t a sneaky thing.”

Burkey also pointed out that the cash in lieu payments — which haven’t been properly documented — are one reason he recommended a forensic audit of the district’s payroll department.

Board members last month sent out requests for a forensic auditor to look into both the payroll department and site and construction fund.

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