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Local Editorials

Our view: School districts need to be more frugal with taxpayer money

McHenry County school district staff and board members need to be more frugal when traveling and attending conferences on the public’s tab.

Six of McHenry County’s largest school districts sent more than 75 administrators, staff and board members to a conference in Chicago in November at a total cost to taxpayers of more than $73,000.

This is unacceptable – especially at a time when some districts are raising taxes and seeing declining enrollment.

Algonquin-based Community Unit School District 300 sent 17 people at a cost of $17,050, documents show. Hotel stays and parking made up about $8,125 of that cost, with food charges totaling $542.

Although the district is the sixth largest in Illinois, there is no need to spend the taxpayers’ money on hotel, parking and food costs.

District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid said the district sent new board members to the conference, and attendance to these events is “instrumental in our ability to stay apprised of chafes in policy.”

Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 sent 11 people, including all seven board members, at a cost of $12,393 – including a $411 group meal at Sweetwater Tavern and Grille on Michigan Avenue.

Community High School District 155, based in Crystal Lake, also sent 11 people at a total cost of $9,625. Expenses included $4,650 for registration, $4,461 in hotel stays and $514 in food and travel.

Full registration for a single attendee was $465.

As it stands, some districts seem unconcerned about whether they are spending wisely.

Why not send fewer people to the conference? Districts should cap their budgets for these conventions and stick to it.

Participants could have taken a Metra train to and from Chicago, as hundreds of people from the community do every day. They could have taken the train home at the end of each day, or even if they chose to stay in a downtown hotel, they could have saved on parking costs, which in some cases topped $1,000.

Although we understand that some training for district officials is beneficial, we don’t see why taxpayers should foot such a hefty bill.

Lake in the Hills officials also were criticized for racking up a $11,071.51 bill during a three-day Illinois Municipal League retreat in September.

The excessive spending needs to stop.

Districts 300, 47 and 155 recently requested property tax levy increases. It is this type of spending that makes property owners feel that they’re being unfairly soaked by school officials who see them as a clueless cash cow.

Schools need to be looking at ways to reduce expenses rather than how to take more from taxpayers, and we think taking a hard look at spending on items such as these conferences would be a great place to start.

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