By Terry Dean
They can pay $240 or $320.
Those are the choices for OPRF students who want to buy parking passes directly from the Village of Oak Park to park near the high school.
The higher price tag is for students who live in River Forest, an amount set by the village. Overall, non-residents of Oak Park pay higher rates to park around town, whether in a lot, parking garage or on the street. OPRF currently buys permits from the village in bulk and then sells individual passes to students at a single price.
But if OPRF ends up selling fewer parking passes than it initially purchased, the village does not reimburse the high school for the difference. That's been the case over the last two years as the school lost nearly $22,000 by under-selling parking permits. As a result, OPRF is considering buying fewer passes from the village for the upcoming school year.
Only juniors and seniors can buy parking permits from the school for spots along Scoville, South Boulevard, East Avenue and Lake Street. Since 2010, OPRF has charged one price to those students. The amount this school year was $240. In the previous year it was $160. In all, the school bought 225 permits in '10-'11 but sold 184 to students, resulting in roughly a $6,500 loss. This school year, OPRF purchased 185 permits but sold just 121, for a loss of about $15,300. The majority of passes this year, 54 percent, were purchased by River Forest students.
"The price went up significantly over the last two years, so what we have seen is our students are actually buying fewer passes," said Cheryl Witham, the high school's chief financial officer, who delivered the bad news to the District 200 school board on May 24.
Despite protests from OPRF parents and concerns expressed by school officials, the village has not budged on its separate pricing schedule for RF and OP students. Nor, according to school officials, is the village swayed by the argument that the high school serves kids from both Oak Park and River Forest and therefore those students should be charged the same amount.
OPRF is considering purchasing either 125 or 150 permits from the village for the upcoming year, and selling them to students on a first-come, first-served basis. For any remaining students who might want to buy a pass, they'd have to get them directly from the village. If any of those students live in River Forest, the school might reimburse them for having to pay the higher non-residential amount.
"I bet it would be a lot less that $15,000 to reimburse students who are being charged a higher rate for the difference," said D200 board member Valerie Fisher, who considers the different amounts charged to students to be unfair.
Several other board members agreed with her on the fairness issue. The board did not take action on May 22 concerning any new parking rates and will bring this matter back for further discussion.
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