Plainfield School District 202 is hoping to collect more than $1 million in unpaid school fees through a partnership with the Illinois Comptroller’s office.
The school board on Monday approved an intergovernmental agreement with the state comptroller’s debt recovery program that will allow the district to receive payment of families’ school fees from their income tax refunds.
As the district faces yearly budget deficits, this partnership would give the district a tool to collect money from families who have consistently refused to pay their fees, said Angie Smith, assistant superintendent for business and operations.
Under the Illinois State Local Debt Recovery Program, governmental bodies, including school districts, can collect outstanding debt through the comptroller, who oversees state tax refunds.
From 2006 to 2010, 750 students have not paid their school fees, Smith said. Among those, 392 students owe more than $500, she said.
Many of the fees get rolled over year after year, and some families accumulate thousands of dollars in debt to the district.
Prior to this agreement, which will begin in January 2013, one of the district’s only resources to collect unpaid fees was to withhold certain privileges such as attending prom or participating in 8th-grade or high school graduation ceremonies, Smith said.
But some of the families who still owe the district money have moved, leaving their bills behind.
In January, the district will begin the legal proceedings to claim the money. First, families will be notified and given 14 days to contact the district, contest the claim or work out a payment schedule with the district, Smith said.
The district plans to review each claim on a case-by-case basis, adding that officials understand many families have been hit hard by the current recession, Smith said.
The district does offer ways to help families who have been unable to pay their fees, including offering payment plans, fees on a sliding scale based on income or waiving fees altogether.
“We recognize that the recession has hit our families hard,” she said. “We’ve done a lot to create ways to help.
Smith said, though, that many of the families have simply refused to pay and have not contacted the district regarding using type of payment plan. They have ignored their financial responsibilities to the district, she said.
“… Some families simply refuse to pay no matter what help we offer,” she said. “Those families are essentially getting school services for free. That’s not fair to the district, and it’s not fair to all the other families who do their best to pay their fair share.”
What do you think of the Local Debt Recovery Program? Do you think it's a good way for the district to recoup unpaid fees?