Coal City Community Unit School District 1 Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg said that hiring an investigator to help counter residency fraud issues could save the district money it needs to support students.
“Our board of education feels like they have a responsibility to make sure and protect our taxpayers that are funding our school district,” he said. “They just want make sure students who are in our district are legally here.”
At a recent meeting of the Coal City Community Unit School District 1 Board of Education, officials hired the Channahon-based private investigator company, National Investigations Incorporated, to address residency fraud issues.
Bugg said officials have noted an uptick in cases where information is received from neighbors in the other communities that suggest students do not live in the district.
Students and their families are required by state of Illinois law to provide proof of residency to their school district.
“There are some situations that we have concerns about that we are going to be having the investigative company look into,” Bugg said.
National Investigations Incorporated services a number of school districts.
Hiring an investigator to examine residence fraud issues is a first for Coal City District 1.
The contract, as approved by the Board of Education, stipulates that National Investigations Incorporated will earn $65 an hour for its services to the district.
There is a process the district would use should it find cases of potential residency fraud are legitimate, which Bugg said involves, among other things, notifying the family and providing opportunities for hearings.
In the past, the district’s administrators investigated residency fraud issues.
“The board felt that was not a wise use of our administrative time,” Bugg said.
Bugg said a cost savings could be realized by addressing residency fraud issues.
The district spends about $13,000 a student, officials said.
“If you have a family with two kids that are here that shouldn’t be, that’s $26,000 our taxpayers are funding that they shouldn’t be,” Bugg said. “This is a matter of our board trying to be fiscally responsible and protect our taxpayers.”
The district tends to identify two to three questionable residency cases a year to follow up on, officials said.
“Now, that number is increasing,” Bugg said. “There are probably seven or eight situations that we’re concerned about. When you start thinking about the number of kids that involves, those are significant taxpayer dollars.”
The district intends to pay for the services of the investigator using budgeted funds in the general fund.
“If they find one student who’s here that shouldn’t be, that’s $13,000 per student,” he said. “The investment will more than pay for itself.”