Rockford School District playing hooky on truancy funding?

Rockford City Council Codes and Regulations Committee members shifted focus to Rockford Public School District 205 student attendance issues during their July 24 meeting. Committee members approved the truancy ordinance introduced at the committee’s last meeting.

But an ordinance, which would create a truancy hearing department, was laid over. City Attorney John Gilberti said establishing the department’s total initial and ongoing cost would be $46,000.

That cost includes paying an attorney, with at least three years experience, $3,420 to preside over 19 hearings between September and June. It would also include paying a clerk $2,700 to work five hours in September and 10 hours per month from October through June.

According to Gilberti, it would also include $35,000 to adjudicate both daytime curfew and truancy cases.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen said the truancy issue hasn’t gone unnoticed by county officials: “We’ve been talking about (truancy) for some time.”

Christiansen said the county is more than willing to look at passing a countywide truancy ordinance, since students could congregate in places like CherryVale and Machesney Park malls. According to Christiansen, providing an additional code hearing office is “something (the county) is looking at seriously.”

Depending on the case load, Christiansen said it could cost the county in excess of $50,000 a year.

City of Rockford Director of Education and Lifelong Learning Adam Smith said dealing with the truancy problem will cost, at least, more than $100,000. Smith said he was unable to offer a more exact figure.

That amount, he said, would finance an administrative hearing officer, attorney and clerk. According to Smith, it also includes Rockford Police officer manhours. District 205, Boone/Winnebago Regional Office of Education, Winnebago County and the United Way are partnering to help pay for the truancy adjudication.

Gilberti concurred with Smith’s estimate. He said enforcing the truancy ordinance could cost between $50,000 and $111,000. According to Gilberti, the police department said it would cost $35,000 to enforce the ordinance. He noted it cost the department $31,000 to enforce the daytime curfew ordinance.

Rockford Public Schools District 205 Social Work Director Ed Hayden said the district hasn’t committed to helping finance court costs of truancy cases, though Hayden said doing that wasn’t ruled out. But he noted District 205 Superintendent Dennis Thompson hasn’t identified how that would be funded.

From the Aug. 2-8, 2006, issue

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