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Kaneland joins state program to collect delinquent school fees

MAPLE PARK – Parents with children in the Kaneland School District who choose not to pay their school fees could find their state income tax returns, lottery winnings or other payments from Springfield a little lighter.

Kaneland School District 302 soon will sign on to the state of Illinois’ Local Debt Recovery Program.

Operated by the Illinois State Comptroller’s office, the program allows the state government to collect delinquent fees and fines owed to local taxing bodies, such as cities and school districts, by essentially garnishing state payments that otherwise would be made to those who have yet to pay up.

Some cities use the program to collect unpaid water and sewer bills or parking tickets. And school districts also have signed on to collect fees that have gone unpaid.

In Kaneland, Julie Ann Fuchs, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, said the amount owed to the district in unpaid school fees can vary year to year.

But for the 2011-12 school year, the amount totaled about $35,000.

“It is not an insubstantial amount,” Fuchs said.

She noted school fees per household can vary depending on the number of students within a household and the number and kinds of activities in which students are involved.

But she said fees per household range from $30 to as much as $500, with an average fee total of about $150 a household.

Fuchs said the Local Debt Recovery Program would replace the district’s past use of collection agencies, which she said were less cost effective because they claimed a portion of the outstanding fees as payment.

The comptroller’s office will tack a $15 fee onto any amount it collects.

She said the district still is writing its policies on how delinquent fees will now be collected. But Fuchs said the work soon will be completed, laying out the process by which parents owing fees will be notified of their debt.

Fuchs said the district likely will initiate collections at the end of a school year. But she said Kaneland officials intend to submit their first claim early next year for the delinquent fees from the 2011-2012 school year.

Fuchs said collection activities would likely not target the district’s students from the lowest income households because the district waives fees for students whose households qualify for free lunch and charges 50 percent fees for students whose households qualify for reduced lunch.

She said about 10.8 percent of the Kaneland district’s students qualified for free lunch in 2011-2012.

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