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By Terry Dean
Oak Park and River Forest High School will buy 121 parking permits from the Village of Oak Park to sell to students this school year.
The school will pay the sticker price of $240 and charge that amount to students regardless of whether they live in River Forest or Oak Park. The village charges River Forest residents $320 to park in Oak Park. That amount is also applied to students from River Forest who attend OPRF, something school officials argue is unfair to those kids who live in the neighboring village while attending school in Oak Park.
As a result, the high school has lost money to the tune of about $22,000 the last two years on permit sales because fewer students have been buying them.
Last week, the OPRF school board voted to buy 121 permits, a smaller number than last year's purchase of 185 passes, and sell them on a first-come, first-served basis. The school will also reimburse any River Forest kids who opt to buy directly from the village.
OPRF board member John Phelan cast the lone "no" vote. Phelan agreed with pre-purchasing in bulk but suggested the school buy any additional permits from the village for students on an as-needed basis. Phelan suggested the school would break even or perhaps save money under this arrangement.
But Supt. Steven Isoye said the school would incur a cost for having to send staff over to the village to pick up additional permits.
Isoye and OPRF CFO Cheryl Witham also questioned when and how often officials would need to purchase and pickup those passes, though Phelan suggested doing it weekly. Witham, however, noted that there's a village ordinance specifying how and when the school can buy student parking permits. Board members expressed stunned disbelief and laughter after hearing that.
According to the village's parking rates ordinance, permits for all students "shall be [$240] per year if the school attended by the students purchases all student parking permits for students at that school for the full year prior to August 31 annually, and the school agrees to administer the distribution of all such permits subject to the review of the Parking Services Manager."
Student permits may also be issued monthly or quarterly "for an equivalent portion of the annual fee subject to the village's discretion," according to the ordinance.