District 87's superintendent said the new higher limit on school board member expenses is not directly connected with last year's pricey trip to a conference in Chicago.
District 87's school board passed the new board member expense resolution Wednesday. It's a standard, annual resolution required by law each year. But this year’s expenses cap increased by $5,000. Superintendent Barry Reilly said recent years have allotted $15,000. This year, board members have a $20,000 aggregate cap.
Last year the District 87 board and accompanying administrators and spouses ran up a bill of over $18,000 at an Illinois Association of School Boards conference in Chicago. After it became public, Reilly took the blame for the price tag, including an $1,800 dinner at an expensive restaurant.
At Wednesday’s school board meeting Reilly stressed that the near $20,000 cost included more than just board member expenses, but he could not recall the exact dollar amount from board members alone.
According to reports at the time, all seven board members attended, plus 6 school administrators.
Asked whether increasing this year’s member expense cap had any relation to last November's conference, Reilly said no.
“It really has more to do with getting it to a consistent amount over time,” Reilly said. “That amount that we had last year, and we talked about this last year, that our intent is to bring that well down from where it was."
Reilly said this $5,000 increase is not because the board intends to spend more money.
“That amount, I would like to stay consistent for a number of years,” Reilly said. “That, of course, I think allows us to do that. We have a limited number of expenses, meaning professional development, that we send board members to.”
He said increasing the allotted board member funds provides an opportunity for board members to attend a national conference, something the district has not done in “quite some time.”
Reilly also said the increase does not mean the board has to spend the full allotment. He said he anticipates funds will remain “well below the $15,000 mark for the foreseeable future.”
Regardless of the amount approved for annual member expenses, all bills go before the board for approval.
When the board exceeds their allotted expenses, an approval must be passed to expand funds. Reilly said having a high threshold allows the board to avoid having to approve increases.
This 2018 Illinois Association of School Boards' conference will be held Nov. 16-18 at various Chicago hotels.
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