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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Through the years: Ricker’s tenure as D-113A superintendent

By Janice Hoppe,
Posted Oct 17, 2011 @ 05:26 PM
Last update Oct 17, 2011 @ 08:17 PM

July 1, 2006 - Tim Ricker is named District 113A’s new superintendent after a tenure at St. Louis-based Mehlville School District, where he was superintendent since 2003. His tenure there comes under scrutiny from a local paper, which alleges Ricker “proved his forte as an ‘educator’ is dividing boards and communities.”

June 2009 - It’s announced that there is a $2.8 million deficit in District 113A’s budget. According to a budget report, the district spent $1.5 million more than the $24 million in expenditures budgeted in
2008. Ricker blames the deficit on “increased expenditures for salaries, benefits, textbooks, programs, supplies and the cost of educating our children.”

August 2009 - Ricker announces he plans to forgo a 5 percent salary increase for the 2009-10 school year. “Being the highest paid employee in the district, I feel that any dollars used for my salary increase should go to students in the classroom and those who support the educational work in the buildings,” Ricker said at the time.

September 2009 - The district’s Finance Committee recommends cutting art, band and music classes to try to erase the district’s $2.8 million deficit. The cuts were expected to save the district about $600,000. Other plans include increasing class sizes and eliminating the gifted program and administrative staff positions. A referendum requesting a tax hike is also suggested.

October 2009 - Citing a need to cure “mistrust” between the school district and the community, the school district’s Parent-Teacher Association hosts a meeting “to bring the school community back together.” Anger stemming from the district’s budget deficit forces the school district to hire uniformed police officers to monitor school board meetings.

Oct. 8, 2009 - Board members Karen Siston and Janet Hughes allege the district’s 2010 budget posted on the Illinois State Board of Education website is not the same budget approved by the board a week prior. Matt Vanover, an ISBE spokesperson at the time, said the district’s budget was posted on the ISBE website but was taken down because of some recommendations by the ISBE. He said problems with the budget did not have to do with allegations made by Hughes and Siston. Ricker said no changes had been made to the budget that the board was not aware of. “Nothing was changed on the document that was approved by the board of education,” Ricker said at the time.

Nov. 6, 2009 - District 113A announces its has failed to meet adequate yearly progress in math for disabled students. Assistant Superintendent Mary Gricus said 70 percent of all students had to meet or exceed expectations in math and reading. The district had met AYP for the previous six years.

Nov. 13, 2009 - Linda Matkowski, senior vice president for PMA Securities Inc., acknowledges “bad budgeting practices” on the part of District 113A administrators. Matkowski says in 2006 money was spent out of the working cash fund to pay for a renovation at Central School. Ricker defends that the board had planned on using the working cash fund to pay for the renovation all along, but failed to pass a resolution stating so. “The (board) voted on the practice and set it in motion but to our analysis did not do a resolution to such,” he said. “After that point in time, the practices continued by the business office.” Matkowski also says “based upon (her) research, funds were being transferred without the board seeing loans or resolutions.”

Dec. 17, 2009 - The district is placed on the Illinois State Board of Education’s “financial difficulty” list, forcing it to create a formal deficit reduction plan.

Jan. 25, 2010 - Several program and service reductions are implemented. Also, summer classes are reduced and a hiring freeze for the fiscal year is planned. A salary freeze of the district’s 17 administrators will also save $50,000 a year, the district says.

Feb. 2, 2010 - Nearly 70 percent of Lemont voters reject a proposed 45-cent tax rate increase via a referendum that the district says would have erased its $2 million budget deficit.

Feb. 5, 2010 - The district eliminates 70 staff positions, saving it $3.17 million for the 2011 fiscal year. Position cuts include 42certified staff members, 12 secretaries, 12 buildings and grounds employees and four administrative positions.

March 2010 - ISBE approves the district’s deficit reduction plan, which aims to deduct $3.56 million from next year’s budget to combat growing deficits. The plan includes the reduction of 70 staff members, the termination of all extra-curricular programs and Through the years: Ricker’s tenure as D-113A superintendent - increasing class sizes. Ricker states that the district will continue to run, only with more accountability and inclusion from peoplelooking at its finances. “Our approach is to learn from our past, plan for the future, keep our community informed and let them ask the tough questions,” Ricker said. “It’s going to take time, but we’ll get through this.”

April 2010- Amid a $3 million budget shortfall, Ricker’s spending of district money comes into question. Criticism surrounds Ricker billing the school district for two pet cleaning bills totaling $100 while he was on two conference trips in Iowa and Springfield in April 2007 and September 2008. Other spending include $373 for district Christmas cards in 2006 and another $452 for report card posters. Ricker defends himself, stating that the expenditures were approved by the board.

April 2, 2010 - Business manager Bob Beckwith resign from his role as board treasurer, effective June 30, 2010.

May 2010 - The district abolishes its working cash fund to allow administrators to move money around to help decrease fund deficits, specifically in the Education Fund.

November 2, 2010 - A referendum seeking $8 million from District 113A taxpayers is defeated 55 percent to 45 percent. It’s the second time in eight months Lemont voters shoot down a school referendum.

December 2010 - Ricker is listed as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging financial mismanagement that the plaintiffs claim resulted in the loss of $12 million in taxpayer money. The lawsuit was filed against former and current school board members and other district administrators as well. It was later dismissed before being re-filed in court again in August 2011.

Jan. 10, 2011 - District 113A borrows $5.5 million in Tax Anticipation Warrants from Lemont High School. The money was to aid yhe district in issuing its payroll beginning Jan. 14.

Jan. 21, 2010 - The board of education decides to move forward with a third referendum request, this time asking taxpayers to issue$20 million in working cash bonds. Ricker tells taxpayers the referendum would create stability and a positive fund balance in theschool district while allowing the district to avoid borrowing money.

April 4, 2011 - The Lemont Reporter/Met learns that the Cook County State’s Attorney conducted an investigation into criminalallegations of financial mismanagement by district administrators. Documents obtained by the Reporter/Met show that Ricker and former Business Manager Bob Beckwith participated in the investigation.

April 5, 2011 - The $20 million referendum fails by more than 700 votes — it’s the third time in 13 months the district has been denied a tax increase.

May 2011 - District 113A decides to close Central School after the school year. The district says doing so would result in an annual savings of $356,747.

July 2011 - The district approves another round of borrowing — this time $5 million in TAWs borrowed from Lemont High School.

July 19, 2011 - Board members are asked to sign off on two fund transfers back-dated to June 29. Two board members express concern after they were presented with a resolution seeking approval for transactions made three weeks prior. If approved, the resolution would have made retroactive to June 29, the day interim business manager Jay Tovian said he moved $239,000 from the Operations and Maintenance Fund and Transportation Fund into the Education Fund. Ricker maintains there was no transfer of funds and there wouldn’t have been until the resolution was approved.

Aug. 10, 2011 - Tovian said he withheld various checks because of insufficient funds in the district’s Education Fund. The statement contradicts what Ricker told The Reporter/Met in July.

August 2011 - District 113A changes its accounting method from a cash basis to a modified accrual system. The modified accrual system changed the district’s expenditures from June into payables, which are amounts of money that the district must put aside to pay for ongoing debts. The payables reduce the fund balance when the payment is accrued as opposed to deducting straight from the cash balance, according to officials.

Aug. 30, 2011 - The district learns ISBE is considering placing a state-appointed financial oversight panel in the school district to oversee all financial actions of the district. The board of education and administrators vow to keep local control.

September 2011 - State Sen. Christine Radogno (R-41st District) and State Rep. Jim Durkin (R- 82nd District) convince ISBE Superintendent Chris Koch that it would be “premature” to strip District 113A of local control of its finances.

Oct. 14, 2011 - An audit of District 113A’s finances is sent to the Illinois Regional Superintendent’s office and the Intermediate Service Center in Cook County. ISBE was to request a copy of the audit, which will factor into future consideration of placing a financial oversight panel in the school district.

Oct. 14, 2011 - The Lemont Reporter/Met is told from a source within the school district that Ricker plans to ask the District 113A Board of Education for an early retirement deal, subsequently ending his tenure with the school district.

Oct. 17, 2011 - The District 113A Board of Education is expected to approve an early retirement plan for Ricker, whose contract was
set to expire in June 2012.

Copyright 2011 Lemont Reporter. Some rights reserved


  1. Oh my gosh! Let it go. You didn't like Ricker. He was a great teacher and principal. You think he failed at the central office level. We get that. Move the heck on! Geez.

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