|2011 IASB JOINT ANNUAL CONFERENCE|
Exemption Sought From Prevailing Wage Law
The Illinois Association of School Boards has resolved to support legislation to exempt school districts from the scope of the Prevailing Wage Act if lawmakers will not repeal the applicable provisions of the act, as school board representatives have long requested.
IASB has sought since 1982 to repeal the state law that regulates the wages of laborers, mechanics and other workers employed by school districts. Supporters of the new resolution said the prevailing wage law is an obstacle to school board members who take an oath to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer funds.
They argued that the law gets in their way by inhibiting competition and artificially setting wages that would otherwise adjust to market forces to reduce the cost of public school construction.
Representatives from 342 Illinois school districts considered seven resolutions on various public school issues at the Association’s annual Delegate Assembly. The assembly was held in conjunction with the 2011 Joint Annual Conference, Nov. 18-20, in Chicago.
Delegates adopted four new positions, amended three and reaffirmed six existing IASB positions, and rejected eight other proposals.
Sponsors of the proposal seeking to amend the prevailing wage act said school leaders have been forced to pay wages that independent research indicates are 20 to 40 percent higher than market-set wages.
Hinsdale Township High School District 86 submitted the resolution, arguing that 18 states already have no prevailing wage law, while Ohio has exempted public school construction from their law.
Supporter Jeff Mays, board member of Quincy District 172, said the exemption would allow a greater number of necessary Illinois school construction projects to be carried out.
“If you are like our district, you probably have a lot of construction projects delayed already. If you have to pay prevailing wages, you are going to have fewer project proceed,” Mays stated.
The measure was passed overwhelmingly by the school board delegates.
Representatives approved another budget-related position amendment that would require the state to pay interest on late general state aid payments. The legislation sought would set interest payments at the current legal rate that applies whenever the state is late in paying vendors for goods and services, which currently is 5 percent per year.
The resolution, submitted by Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200, is intended to send a message to lawmakers that schools are being unfairly treated compared to other entities that are owed money by the state.
The rationale behind the resolution noted that when state payments are late, school districts are forced to borrow money, deplete reserves or pay late fees and interest charges.
Barbara Intihar, board president of CUSD 200, argued that “while this may increase the tax burden of the state of Illinois, taxes will increase no matter what if we are forced to borrow money.” Other supporters said the proposal would bring heightened awareness to education funding problems and stress the difficult financial times schools face.
A total of 21 resolutions were submitted for consideration this year. Local member districts have the opportunity to draft and submit proposals in the spring. After a committee reviews them and offers its recommendations, the Delegate Assembly votes on the resolutions. Those approved are used by IASB and other school management supporters to establish an agenda for their lobbying efforts. See IASB Position Statements.
“The theme this year, because of the austerity of the last two state budgets for schools, is that the state budget process needs to be repaired,” said Ben Schwarm, IASB associate executive director for governmental relations. “Schools need to know how much funding they are getting and to know earlier and get the funds earlier.”
Three new positions were adopted that also related to school funding issues. These positions support legislation that would:
- Require any reductions in line item funds for categorical payments subject to reimbursement by the state be prospective only, i.e., affecting future and not current fiscal years. This resolution was submitted by West Aurora SD 129.
- Modify the Debt Service Extension Base formula established by the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (tax caps) to apply the formula to those districts that do not currently have it. This resolution was introduced by CHSD 17, Lake Villa.
- Require timely notification between county assessors of substantial adjustments to assessed values for taxing districts that have assessed property in multiple counties. This resolution was submitted by Consolidated SD 158, Huntley.
The rationale for that resolution noted that currently there is no official notification required between county assessors. As a result, large assessment changes by one county can cause a large shift of the school tax burden from one county’s taxpayers to another.
The other new position that was approved was submitted by the IASB board of directors. It called for greater legislator pay transparency – essentially requiring that all lawmakers have their salaries and benefits posted on the web. This would include stipends, bonuses, per diems and other compensation for serving in the General Assembly.
Delegates also amended the Association’s position on the federal No Child Left Behind Act, calling for an end to all federal sanctions to school districts under NCLB. The resolution was brought forward by Woodland CUSD 5, Streator.
Among the eight resolutions that were not recommended or approved was an amendment to IASB’s position on school district consolidation and reorganization. “Delegates said they did not want to change the school consolidation process at a time when a statewide consolidation commission, led by Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, has just begun its work,” Schwarm said.
The list of all 21 resolutions and a description of the Delegate Assembly process and procedures are available in the 2011 Report to Membership.
As part of the Delegate Assembly, representatives also heard reports from Executive Director Emeritus Michael D. Johnson and outgoing Association President Joseph Alesandrini. Carolyne Brooks was elected as the new president and Karen Fisher as vice president. Both will serve one-year terms.
Brooks is a board member in West Richland CUSD 2, Noble. Fisher is a board member in Ottawa THSD 140.
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