School districts look to offer tax break, refund school fees amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

School fees

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Because of these very different times, school districts in the Chicago area are making decisions on whether to refund school fees and to give property taxpayers a break during the ongoing pandemic.

At least three school districts have made such decisions this week. The second largest school district in the state, Elgin District U-46 decided this week to waive up to $2.5 million in fees paid for registration, equipment usage, sports, and other things for the 2021-22 school year, because students were not in schools for a few months.

"Last year at this time, we certainly didn’t know in February when we presented last year’s fees that we would be entering an unparalleled pandemic. Had we known at that point, we might have made different decisions, but by the time March hit, we were already doing registration and charging people fees," said Superintendent Tony Sanders.

“For this year, we are really looking at trying to help our families by waiving the instructional fees."

The waiver will be in effect starting in fall 2021 and will include the fees paid for half- and full-day kindergarten, first through sixth grade, and the Ignite Program for elementary schools.

Parents of middle and high schools students will not have to pay for instructional materials and Chromebook usage, the district said.

Additionally, the $80 athletic participation fee per sport for middle-schoolers will be waived, as will the $150 fee for each sport a high school student plays. The fee is capped at two sports per student or four sports per family, district officials said.

Elgin District U-46 is also giving a more than $9 million tax break to property owners.

Meanwhile, the Stevenson High School District 125 school board authorized a $1 million property tax abatement and agreed to refund all student fees for the current school year.

"In a typical year, these funds are collected for a variety of needs, but this year is far from typical," board Vice President Dave Weisberg said in an announcement of the decisions. "I am grateful to our school leadership for their ongoing thoughtfulness with respect to our resources, especially during what has been a challenging year for many of our families."

Savings from the tax abatement will appear on property owners' 2020 tax statements, when taxes are due in June and September 2021.

But, Indian Prairie School District 204 will not be refunding tax money. The district said its finances are far different from those in Naperville School District 203, which is refunding $10 million in tax money not spent during the pandemic.