Reporting Form for School Districts and Frequently Asked Questions About Employee Compensation Reporting Laws
On August 26, 2009, we provided an alert with a summary of Public Acts 096-0434 and 096-0266, which create new employee compensation reporting requirements for public school districts. Since then, we have reviewed the legislative history for each law and elicited available information from relevant outside sources. We also have fielded numerous questions from school district clients regarding the new laws, as well as requests for an easy-to-use form for complying with the upcoming October 1 reporting deadline. In an effort to provide up-to-date insights on these new laws, we offer this eBulletin, which includes an Excel spreadsheet for ease of reporting in compliance with Public Act 096-0434 and frequently asked questions and answers.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
As of September 4, 2009
- Must school districts list employee names, numbers, or titles?
We recommend providing both names and job titles. Neither Public Act requires that any specific identifying information be reported. However, Public Act 096-0434 refers to posting a report “for every employee,” suggesting that the individual, and not the position, is the focus. Furthermore, the legislative histories make clear that the goal is to create a “culture of transparency and openness” (Sen. D. Cronin). For those school districts that decide not to include individual names, we recommend using sufficiently clear job titles so that the report information may be easily associated with the appropriate individual by anyone who may be interested in doing so.
- Should school districts report data from the prior or current school year?
We interpret the statutes to require reporting of current school year data. Neither Public Act indicates explicitly whether prior or current year information is sought, and thus it is left to the school board’s discretion to determine what information to include. However, Public Act 096-0434 requires posting information for employees “holding” administrative certificates and “working” in that capacity, and Public Act 096-0266 requires reporting for employees “employed” by the school district. The use of the present tense suggests that current information is sought. The legislative histories also reflect that both bills were passed because of citizen concern with what is occurring in their communities, indicating a need for current data. We recognize that other law firms have advised to include information from the prior year, or information from both the prior and current year. Although these are reasonable interpretations, we do not believe the law requires reporting prior year information. School districts should be careful, however, when a benefit exists on October 1, but is not yet paid (e.g., sick and vacation days). In those cases, we suggest school districts include both a description of the benefit that is offered, such as the number of sick days, and the actual amount paid, if any. If no benefit has been paid at the time of posting, but may be paid later in the current year, we suggest school districts indicate “not yet paid” in that category.
- Should school districts report data on employees who will retire at the end of the school year?
The statutes do not require reporting data for employees who have retired before posting the report. Both laws require reporting only for employees “working” or “employed” in the school district. Retirees would be neither “working” for nor “employed” by the school district. If a retiree returns to the school district to work in a new administrative capacity, the school district should provide information for the current position.
- What constitutes “other compensation” that must be reported?
We advise school districts to err on the side of reporting any payment or reimbursement that directly benefits the employee, as well as any goods given to the employee as a benefit of his or her employment. Public Act 096-0434 requires reporting of “any other form of compensation or income paid on behalf of the employees.” Public Act 096-0266 requires reporting of any “benefits,” and provides a non-exhaustive list. The legislative histories of both statutes suggest that the laws are concerned with casting light on all benefits paid to a covered employee. Non-enumerated benefits specifically referenced in the legislative history include a business vehicle, travel allowance and cell phone reimbursement. However, benefits that do not directly benefit an employee, such as Medicare contributions, are likely not covered.
- Are there any alternatives to posting a chart, form, or other summary on the School District’s Web site under Public Act 096-0434?
Yes. We believe that the statute allows a school district to make an employee’s full contract and related documents available on the school district’s Web site as a method of complying with the statute, so long as those documents together specifically reference all compensation that is to be reported. Public Act 096-0434 requires posting an “itemized salary compensation report” for each covered employee. There is no indication in the law or legislative history that posting a link to the employee’s contract and any related materials (e.g., an employee handbook) would not fulfill the requirements of the law, so long as those materials include itemized references to each specific benefit provided to the employee. As a practical matter, doing so would also eliminate additional Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) steps if a citizen wished to view the underlying contract documents upon which a summary chart was based. However, the legislative history expresses some concern with prior practices of posting “confusing” contracts that included nothing more than the employee’s base salary, which, by failing to reference other benefits, gave a false impression of the employee’s total pay. A school district must take care that all benefits are included in the posted contract documents if it uses this alternative approach.
- What information regarding collective bargaining agreements must be posted on school district Web sites?
A school district must post on its Web site the contract that its school board enters into with an exclusive bargaining representative, and it must make the terms of that contract available online. If the contract document clearly sets forth all of its terms, posting the entire contract will likely satisfy this requirement of Public Act 096-0434.
Public Act 096-0434 requires that the salary compensation report be presented at a regular school board meeting. When must this meeting be held?We advise that the meeting be held no later than October of the school year for which the report is made. Despite an October 1 deadline for posting the itemized salary compensation report on the school district’s Web site, the statute does not specify a deadline for the presentation of the report to the school board. According to the plain language of the statute, a school district could present the report to the board at any time. However, because the statute and legislative history are so concerned with transparency to the public, we advise that the report be presented no later than the end of October. A school district also has the discretion to present the report before it is due to be posted on the Web site.
- Must the school board approve the report required under Public Act 096-0434?
No. Public Act 096-0434 states that the report must be “presented” at a regular school board meeting, “subject to applicable notice requirements.” No approval or action by the school board is required by the new law, nor do the notice requirements of the Open Meetings Act, to which the statute likely refers, require board approval.
- Public Act 096-0434 requires reporting by October 1 of each year, but Public Act 096-0266 requires reporting by July 1. May a school district comply with Public Act 096-0434 at the July 1 deadline as well?
Presently, we advise that school districts focus on meeting the October 1 deadline. We expect ISBE to issue guidance on the new laws, which may shed light on whether compliance under Public Act 096-0434 may be met as early as July 1.
- Must a school district update the information if changes occur between reporting deadlines each year?
No. The statutes clearly provide only one deadline for reporting. There is no indication in the statutes or legislative histories that updating information is required.
- Are there any differences in reporting requirements for Chicago Public Schools?
The only difference in the statutes for Chicago Public Schools is found in Public Act 096-0434. Instead of submitting the completed itemized salary compensation report to the regional superintendent of schools, Chicago Public Schools must make copies of the completed report available to any individual requesting them.
- Must special education or vocational education cooperatives comply with the laws?
No. The laws refer only to school districts (and other charter and higher educational entities) and do not specifically apply the requirements to cooperative arrangements. However, if a school board is the administrative district for a cooperative, the employees of the cooperative could be considered employees of the board for purposes of compensation reporting. A conservative approach in that situation would be for the administrative district to post the information for covered cooperative employees, including a clear indication of the distinction between general district employees and cooperative employees.
Should a school district keep copies of the reports?
Yes. The statutes do not include specific record retention requirements. However, as the reports are presented/posted each year, we suggest maintaining an archived file or hard copies of the previous reports to demonstrate the school district’s compliance at the time, should it ever come into question. Additionally, the reports are likely “public records” which should not be destroyed without following the requirements of the Illinois Local Records Act.
A Sample Salary Compensation Report is available here.