According to a 2005 state ranking of administrative costs based on average daily attendance for high school and elementary school districts, Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 ranked in the upper tier of high school districts in Illinois while District 97 ranked near the bottom for elementary districts.

ISBE annually lists high school and elementary school districts in separate rankings each year. The rankings are used by the state in order to monitor and maintain low administrative costs for school districts.

According to the FY 2005 ranking (the most recent year available), OPRF ranked 19th out of 103 high school districts. For elementary school districts, Dist. 97 ranked 334th out of 379.

The rankings are based on administrative costs per pupil, which is calculated by dividing a school district’s administrative costs by its average daily attendance (ADA). The figures are taken from the most recent annual financial report and general state aid claim filed by districts to the state.

The state monitors districts to ensure that administrative costs don’t exceed a 5-percent increase from year to year. The rankings are made public according to state statute.

OPRF’s average daily attendance was 3,017.17 and its total administrative costs more than $1,850,000.

Dist. 97’s total administrative costs came in about $857,000 and its average daily attendance was 4,462.67.

Based on those figures, OPRF’s costs per ADA came out to $613.99 while Dist. 97’s cost per ADA was $192.06.

The high school district with the highest costs per ADA in the state was Cornell Consolidated School District 70 with $6,142.08. Its administrative costs totaled $11,240. The top elementary school district, Nelson School Dist. 8, had a cost per ADA of $2,530.49 and more than $76,000 in administrative costs.

Just looking at administrative costs only, 31 high school districts, including OPRF, had costs of more than a $1 million.

Northfield Township Dist. 225 topped high school districts with slightly more than $7 million in administrative costs.

Twenty-seven elementary districts had administrative costs of $1 million or more with Joliet Public School Dist. 86 first with more than $2.4 million.

The state identifies administrative costs as those school expenditures that go toward specific expenditure functions, such as for administrative services, federal title programs, department heads and deans.

Salaries, employee benefits-not including retirement-and supplies and materials also count as expenditures, according to ISBE.

Officials at Dist. 97 and 200, however, note that school districts can report a variety of other items as an administrative cost, which can affect rankings.

Dist. 200 Supt. Attila Weninger said the high school districts where he previously worked all reported differently.

“I worked at four districts. Three of the four were high schools, and they all reported different things under those categories,” he said.

Officials from both districts also note that the different school districts serve different student populations, which can affect the costs per ADA.

At Dist. 97, officials note that their low overall administrative costs are due to budget cuts made in the last five years.

Carolyn Newberry Schwartz, a current Dist. 97 school board member and former board president, said administration was the first area where the district made its cuts.

“They sustained cuts every year,” she said.

Don Robinson, District 97’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said the district’s entire central office, located at 970 Madison St., was listed as an administrative cost.

“Everything from supplies, materials and benefits are listed,” he said. “It’s more than just looking at salaries of individuals. It’s more like department costs.”

Wednesday Journal was unable to reach OPRF’s CFO, Cheryl Witham.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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