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U-46 Board primed to vote on wage resolution

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 will vote on a resolution setting prevailing wages at its upcoming meeting on Monday, June 19. That resolution as well as four others, a board policy change and nearly $14 million in contract renewals and bids, were proposed on Monday, June 6.
  The prevailing wage resolution is annual and received a 4-2 vote last year, Cody Holt and Jeanette Ward voting no. Traci Ellis, Sue Kerr, Veronica Noland and Donna Smith voted yes and Phil Costello was not at the meeting.
  Under current state law, school districts and other government bodies in Illinois are required to pay a prevailing wage to contractors and collect payroll data to verify that wage was paid. Those wages are driven by union wages instead of by market forces which generally means the taxpayers are left with a bigger bill to pay.
  Last year Holt voted no and asked that the district hold a public hearing to be able to set its own prevailing wage rather than relying on Illinois Department of Labor numbers in order to save taxpayers.
  Before the June 6 meeting, Holt asked the district if they could do their own prevailing wage survey and he said the administration’s response was “we could not and the board is not empowered to.”
  However, Holt said a memo sent to the board by the administration last July contradicted that claim. He said that memo states “the district is authorized to investigate and ascertain the prevailing wage rates within the boundaries for the work that is being performed in the month of June of each calendar year and include those rates within the prevailing wage resolution.”
  Holt asked the administration to again check into it and provide a process and timeline if it is allowed. U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said he would follow up before the June 19 meeting.
  The other resolutions that will receive a vote include one confirming hazardous transportation areas, one for a transfer of interest from the working cash fund to the transportation fund, one allowing the treasurer to make bond and interest payments in Fiscal Year 2017 and one allowing the administration to go through the application and acceptance process for grants without bringing each application to the board.
  Also to be voted on is a change to Board Policy 7.190 regarding student discipline. Sanders said the review was necessary due to Public Act 456, which will take effect in September, but “we are ahead of the curve compared to other similar districts.” Ellis, Holt and Kerr held a board committee meeting in May to help draft the policy changes.
  Luis Rodriguez, staff attorney, said the change “effectively limits the number and duration of expulsions and out of school suspensions to the greatest extent practicable.”
  “The primary focus of the policy is to not be punitive, instead to focus on the conduct of students,” Rodriguez added.
  Kerr asked why the consequences of a non-firearm weapons violation could be the same regardless of the intent to use. Whether there is intent to use the weapon or not, the offense can range from a level one to a level six.
  Rodriguez said that if there was no intent to use the weapon but it was used and “the end result to the victim is pretty egregious,” that could rise to a level six offense. He said the range allows the district some discretion.
  A one-year contract renewal with APEX Learning for $199,100, which would come out of the education fund, as well as a one-year renewal with Mesirow Financial Insurance Services costing $612,186, out of the tort fund, for property and worker compensation excess insurance and broker fees will also be voted on.
  Beth Berg, coordinator of benefits, said 2009 was the last time the district reviewed brokers for the insurance contract, and Costello suggested the district set a timeframe to review every three to five years to make sure the district gets a competitive price.
  The board will vote on six bid proposals costing $13 million including four relating to food services, all of which would be paid out of the food and nutrition fund. Those include $193,445 with Douglas Equipment for equipment, $8.2 million split between Gordon Food Service and Rich Chicks for grocery products, $365,726 with Gordon Food Services for supplies and chemicals and $4.1 million with Preferred Meal Systems for vended meal services.
  Claudie Phillips, director of food and nutrition services, said if the vended meal services bid is approved, that would reduce the grocery products bid by $3.1 million and the supplies and chemicals bid by $170,267.
  Costello noted the lack of competition in the grocery products bid, Gordon Food Services the only bidder on 13 of the 14 items and Rich Chicks the only other bidder on any item. Sanders said the district would put a call out to make sure other vendors are aware of the bids.
  The other two bids include $54,750 with Quantum Learning, to be paid by the nation’s taxpayers through Title I and II grant money, as well as $98,433 with Trans Chicago Truck Group, which would come out of the education fund.



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