Evanston/Skokie School District 65 loses about $350,000 in uncollected fees every year, but now those delinquent accounts are likely to be turned over to a collection agency.
The board’s Finance Committee at its regular monthly meeting this week not only endorsed the action, but asked the administration if more draconian steps should be taken, such as withholding diplomas or reporting the delinquencies to credit reporting agencies.
“We’ve opted not to do that,” warned Superintendent Hardy Murphy, who said that some people think that all phases of a public education should be free because it is tax-supported.
Comptroller Kathy Zalewski said “even though we take payments now by credit card, check, cash, online, in person…we have flexible payments, we have payment plans…we still have parents that just don’t pay.”
The administration proposes to contract with Transworld Systems to collect these fees after all other means of collection have failed.
Zalewski said that Transworld has been widely used by more than 60 Illinois school districts, municipalities, and universities, including Northwestern University and the City of Evanston. She projects that the collection rate of past due fees may see a 60 percent improvement as a result.
Board members Kim Weaver and Richard Rykhus urged that additional measures be taken if outstanding fees remain high, despite the superintendent’s caution that “it is something that can create a great deal of stress in managing it” that could cause anguish for the board.
In making the administration’s proposal for hiring the collection agency, Zalewski said the collection rate of the current student and activity fees is about 87 percent and the collection rate of child care fees is 82 percent, amounting to about $350,000 a year in uncollectibles and climbing.
“Transworld Systems will only be used in the cases when a family is ignoring or denying the charges,” she said.
“Families who apply for waivers or participate in payment plans will be excluded from the collection under the program,” she added.