D200 approves contract with OP-RF Community Foundation

Charitable trust to jumpstart private fundraising for capital projects

April 9th, 2019 12:14 PM

By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park and River Forest High School Board of Education recently approved a contract with the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation to establish a fund at the 60-year-old charitable trust.

The board unanimously approved the contract at a regular meeting on March 21. The fund, which is formally called the Imagine Fund, will house private donations that the district hopes to raise in order to offset the second round of construction projects arising from the Imagine OPRF long-term master facilities planning process.

The total estimated cost for that second round of projects — which will include replacement of the district's two 90-year-old pools, locker room renovations and the installation of an ADA-compliant elevator on the high school's south end — is $65.4 million.

The district is working to create a funding plan for future capital needs by May 2020. The board has directed administration officials to "align spending with revenue and that at least 50 percent of the estimated total project cost will be covered by private donations of at least $10 million, annual levy increases equal to the Consumer Price Index and $20 million from capital funds," said D200 Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams.

As reported previously by Wednesday Journal, the board in December jumpstarted the first round of Imagined-related construction projects by issuing a request for qualifications for design services. Those first-phase projects, estimated to cost around $32.6 million, will include classroom renovations and facilities improvements designed to help OPRF's disabled and special needs students, among other construction projects.

During the March 21 meeting, Antonio Martinez Jr., the Community Foundation's president and CEO, said his organization will be an "extra set of eyes, so to speak, to ensure that the donor's intent is met."

Martinez explained that the foundation will make sure the district has proper record-keeping and a basic infrastructure in place to track private donations.

Although the board approved the contract with the foundation unanimously, some members were concerned about the foundation's administrative fees, which are higher than larger foundations, such as the Chicago Community Trust.

The foundation will charge 1 percent per year to administer the first $1 million of fund balance, 0.75% per year for a balance between $1 million and $2 million, 0.60% per year for a balance between $2 and $3 million, 0.50% per year for a balance between $3 million and $4 million, and 0.30% per year for a balance that's over $4 million.

In comparison, the Chicago Community Trust charges 0.6% per year on the first $1 million in net assets, according to a terms and conditions document available on the organization's website.

"If we have $40 million or $50 million in this [Community Foundation] fund, is this the right answer in the long-term in comparison to a larger vehicle that is more efficiently administrated?" said District 200 school board member Craig Iseli. 

Fellow board member Fred Arkin pointed out that the Community Foundation will be investing the donations in a variety of investment vehicles, such as equities, so the returns will likely offset the fees.

Martinez added that the fees the Community Foundation earns are invested back into the Oak Park and River Forest communities.

"Yeah, the [Chicago Community Trust] has cheaper fees, but those dollars are going to pay staff and support organizations in Chicago," Martinez said. "Here, these fees will support nonprofit organizations and our staff, and allow us to provide additional resources to [local] nonprofits."

Pruitt-Adams said a group of citizens concerned about the Community Foundation's fees is interested in establishing a separate nonprofit foundation that could possibly displace the Community Foundation as the district's sole vehicle for raising private funds to cover the cost of its capital projects.