Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

December 3, 2012

City handing over crossing guard program

EFFINGHAM —     “We don’t have the staff to administer it effectively,” said city Administrator Jim Arndt.

    Since 1977, the city has levied taxes for the program and administered it for Unit 40 and St. Anthony schools. However, Arndt said the city is no longer able to use staff resources for the program and officially notified the school systems earlier this month.

    Arndt said the decision to hand the program over to the schools had to do with the city’s need to use its own employees to fill in as crossing guards when needed.

    “Staff has had to fill in quite a bit, we have such a limited staff the way it is,” he said.

    Arndt said throughout the years, the city has had to resort to using staff mainly because crossing guard positions are difficult to fill.

    “You’re trying to hire a person who has to work a couple of hours in the morning and afternoon. It makes it hard to work anywhere else,” he said.

    Positions typically have been filled by retirees or parents who must commit for the entire school year. The city has four crossing guards and two substitutes.

    “It’s hard to find individuals, and when you have to utilize staff at city hall to do those positions, it takes away what we are effectively able to do at the city,” he said.

    Arndt said a statewide survey found about an even number of municipalities and school districts administering such programs.

    “In the larger cities, they typically don’t,” he said.

    Unit 40 Superintendent Mark Doan said in his experience with other districts, the municipality has maintained the program. He said the district, having recently been notified, will have to gather more information and discuss the situation further.

    One of the decisions the two school systems will have to make is how to fund the program.

    Because under a state statute school districts cannot levy taxes for the program, Arndt said the city would still be able to levy taxes for the 2013-14 school year when it will relinquish control of the program.

    Arndt said if the schools continue to have the city levy for the program, an intergovernmental agreement would have to be approved by both entities.

    Rhonda Haythorne has been a crossing guard for six years. She was concerned when she was notified by the city at the beginning of the school year that the change may be a possibility.

    “I depend on it. It’s a job even if it’s only for a few hours a day,” she said. “When you do a job this long, it’s a disappointment to get that kind of notice.”

    Haythorne also has another part-time job, and as a parent, she said the hours are convenient. Plus, there’s another added bonus.

    “I get to know the kids and see them grow up,” she said.

    Uncertain of the future, Haythorne hopes to continue the work next year.

    “I enjoy doing it very much,” she said.

    Cathy Thoele can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 126 or cathy.thoele@effinghamdailynews.com.

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