Sharing the pain

Opinion: Editorials

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Earlier this month we thanked the Oak Park Teachers Association for accepting a one-year pay freeze in an effort to help District 97 solve its budget crisis. We extend the same thanks to two other unions who also agreed to freeze wages for a year.

Last week's decision by the Oak Park Teacher Assistants Association and the Oak Park Educational Support Professionals Association was good news for the cash-strapped district. Both unions will accept a one-year freeze, joining the teachers union and district administration next year. These are good-faith gestures of support for sound fiscal management. It's also a noteworthy sacrifice, though a fair one, since property owners are being asked to make one themselves come April 5, when the district seeks approval from voters for an increase in property taxes to climb out of its budget deficit.

A tax hike is a hard pill to swallow. These are not flush times. Having one's pay cut, or frozen, is also tough to swallow. It will be up to voters whether the district's referendum passes. But their decision should be based on the knowledge that the district's collective bargaining units are sharing the pain.

Reader Comments

105 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

J.Q. Public from OP  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 9:29 PM

I researched the tax rates for a number of suburbs (found on school report cards). In OP for schools we currently pay a rate of 6.05. RF pays 5.83. Evanston: 5.15. Winnetka: 4.27. Glen Ellyn: 4.56. LaGrange: 4.6. Riverside: 5.14. Berwyn N: 5.25. Berwyn s: 4.62. Elmhurst: 3.53. Barrington: 3.39. I could not find a town where taxpayers pay a higher rate for schools. Several of our schools are not meeting AYP as it is. Why are we even considering paying more?

kelly@pollock.net  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 3:47 PM

I applaud the unions for taking pay freezes! Thank you for working with D97. Vote YES on April 5 to keep our schools and community strong!

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 10:29 AM

Sounds like Joe is venting - punched in the face? Talk about being uncivil.

op parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 5:06 AM

As for this being a great way to have your message heard? I am not so sure about that. It's way to vent, for sure.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 5:04 AM

I'll be at the neutral Buzz Forum. I'll speak there as I do here given the opportunity. And I'm not afraid of getting punched in the face...and there are many posters here in this string and others who have stated or implied that those opposed to the referendum are anti teacher, anti children, anti education...

op parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 5:04 AM

No one has to "speak up" at the forums--you submit anonymous questions on index cards.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:21 PM

@Voting NO - while your schedule might not allow it, there are a number of forums on "neutral" ground. The next one is at the Buzz cafe on March 10th at 7PM. Also, while it is very possible I just missed it, I have yet to see anyone on these comments call those opposed to more taxes "anti-children." And it certainly didn't happen at the public forum that has already happened. At least half of the questions where some of the very ones asked in these comments and none where treated with ridicule.

Joe Battaglia  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:03 PM

This is productive? No, it's a way for you to hide and speak uncivilly to people. If you all spoke directly to people in that manner you'd get punched in the face and perhaps that's why you can't go because you're not adults and can't engage in civil conversation. But this is Oak Park, whiners are abound. By the way I will be voting no so go ahead and trash me. I won't see it as I'll go to the forums like an adult.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:27 PM

Sorry Joe, this is a productive way of doing things. There are lots of reasons people may not be able to attend a forum - like work schedules and family responsibilities. Also, given the attitude that anyone who is against more taxes must be anti-children, etc, who would want to speak up at a forum? From what I hear even the school fun fairs are being turned into pro-referendum events. Electronic media is a great way for people to have their voices heard.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:02 PM

@Joe Battaglia: Yes, if only the forums were actual discussions on neutral ground rather than marketing pep rallies on school grounds and stacked with panelists who support the referendum. Let's just all shout "It's for the children" (I'll try to do it without flinching and without irony) and yell at each other here...

OverTaxed from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 7:52 PM

@Mark Lingen: It's fun (but not productive) to have you say "anti-referendum folks, YOU provide solutions", and then we do, and then you say "those are hard/we tried them" and "where have you been for the last 5 years?" I'm tired of this game, so I'll just vote NO and then maybe the referendum wpn't pass and THEN maybe you'll listen (and where I've been is avoiding this typical D97 run around...admit that you don't want our input, you just want our money). You, sir, are the problem.

Francine  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 3:39 PM

1) D200 has $95M in cashreserves and is primarily responsible for your sky-high taxes. 2) D200 Board is run by River Foresters who could care less about OP. 3)The D200 Board has one goal - maintaining the honors program. 4) D200 is teaching your kids about apartheid by practicing it every day by segregating the races academically. 5) The D200 Board is responsible for the underfunding of D97, not the teachers. Oh, and D200 is now 67th on the Trib list of top High Schools. 67th!

Joe Battaglia  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 1:39 PM

Perhaps it's just time for everyone to attend the sponsored forums or attempt additional live disscussions because it's not terribly productive doing it this way and it can lead to confusion and unintentional interpretation.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 12:18 PM

Thank you very much for responding to my question, chet. I appreciate the honesty and the affirmation of your commitment in the event of a failed referendum.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 12:14 PM

E. Jackson, you are correct. However, I feel it incumbent to be part of the solution IF the ref fails. I indeed care about D97 (and have frequently praised the ed that my kids recently obtained) and OP. It is the many truly stressed neighbors/friends/businesses that I'm speaking for AND who also wish to be a part of a solid OP. I still believe that a portion of the solution must come thru OPRFHS. They are not an island and with the TIFs in RF and OP about to cascade to them-possibilities exist.

Enough  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 12:13 PM

Can we give trashing Chet a rest and get back to the issues please?

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 12:07 PM

Chet21 - you have stated a few times that if the referendum fails, you will come forward and work with the district to implement change/reform. Just wondering - won't the same issues you are citing now as the reasons for staying anonymous still exist after the referendum fails?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 12:02 PM

If Chet21 is talking about the board member I think he is, this board member was also the President of the OPTA for many years. From the board meetings I've attending he has been more than willing to speak "for the teachers". When will the board members remember that they were elected by and are supposed to represent the citizens??

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 12:00 PM

Question - In the agreement the district has with the OPTA, the actual school improvement team and curriculum implementation leader positions are not guaranteed. Instead, it says that teachers who serve in these positions will be compensated in the form of a stipend for as long as the positions exist. The district has decided to eliminate these positions in their current form, which means the stipends associated with them are eliminated as well.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:55 AM

Skeptical and Mark - are you done with the tag-team assault? One of you criticizes me for NOT having previously stepped forward (run for the Bd, presented ideas, etc) and the other one criticizes me for thinking that I can ever make a difference by, well, "running for the board, presenting ideas, etc"!?! What am I supposed to do? You wonder why I remain a anon poster? Peace.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:52 AM

Chet, my last post on a circular discussion, which explains why I am "late" to web posts but not the actual issue. Far to many "IFs" in your position. That is NOT a commitment to being part of the solution. I do not agree with your assertion of the need for protection against a vindictive source. A difference of opinion does not put your family in mortal danger. I believe that most OP parents want the same thing for the kids: a great education. How we get there is the question. Take care.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:47 AM

Pt. 2. Mark, in the meantime, are YOU aware that one of the D97 Bd members is a recently retired teacher who was the chief negotiator for the D97 teachers' union? Do you think that he's 100% "objective" and you have 100% faith that he's all "about the children?" More? Would it make even you pause if I said that he has at least one family member who is a D97 teacher? No potential conflicts here? No longer has sympathies/friends with the union?

Skeptical from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:45 AM

Chet21 - so you have ignored D97 for years but now that they are asking for a referendum, if we all just vote NO, you will step up and magically solve all the financial problems? Forgive me if I am less than convinced in your abilities or your sincerity. "regardless of the sheer volume of info that the NO side presents - YOU dispute every word" Because sheer volume doesn't have anything to do with accuracy. Saying it over and over again doesn't make it so.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:41 AM

Mark, for the 10th time, I HAVE said that I'd step forward IF the ref was defeated AND the D97 Board was interested. AND for the 100th time, noted by myself and others, I will remain anon BECAUSE I have kids still in the ed system - and must protect them. Yes, you're late to this issue, and so realize that you're just thrashing thru old news. (end of Pt 1).

TellingItLikeItIs  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:25 AM

To correct those who still maintain that 20% salary bumps were mandated by the state, here's a guidance doc for district negotiators outlining the recent reforms. The doc suggests that the *local* union might propose anything from the 6% cap to the old 20% level and the *local* district might propose anything from the 6% cap to zero benefits. http://www.pasboerc.org/erc/NewSFUploads/20460515TRSRetirementUnder615.P1.pdf

Question  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:25 AM

Chris J - The contract lists a number of leadership positions and the stipends that will be paid for them "for the duration of this agreement". So have the positions been eliminated or has the contract been changed?

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:20 AM

Somehow we are able to divert monies to TIF projects though. Again, I don't accept that it can't be done. And I find it absolutely astonishing that Oak Parkers, who overhwelmingly supported President Obama in 2008 have apparently forgotten yes we can. Not to mention Arne Duncan's push for education reform.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:20 AM

Chet. So, if the ref fails, you will be the first to step up to the plate, Yes? For the public record, please tell us who you are and use this opportunity to initiate your campaign for D97 school board. Please provide in detail (not your citing a D97 PDF) how YOU will resolve the long term budget crisis that confronts us. Ball is in your court, please pick it up. If you have viable solutions that don't harm education, not just complaints without solutions, I will be the first to support you.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:13 AM

First of all - voters have a right to their opinion regardless of how many hours they have put into any of our public institutions. Second - I have indeed contributed many hours to various committee at D97. Were my contributions appreciated? Sometimes by some people. But frequently any comment that was other than "we are the best" was NOT welcomed. And yes, my children have experienced retaliation, which is why I don't use my real name.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:13 AM

Mary Ellen Eads - "Perhaps one thing we can do, before raising taxes, is to divert a higher proportion of the overall property tax receipts to the schools. Yes, I know, it's hard. But not impossible," To clarify, this cant be done. With PTELL (tax caps) each individual taxing body is limited independently. Even if another taxing body (say D200) reduced their tax extensions, it wouldn't in any way change the revenue that goes to D97 unless you want to repeal PTELL for Cook County.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:13 AM

@ AL: "None of our $ actually directly supported our kids or their education" because it went to teacher salaries??? How exactly would you propose that our students learn..by osmosis? To suggest that teacher salaries are not a direct component of our kids education is analogous to saying that paying the salaries of police do not directly support public safety.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:11 AM

Mark, to simplify your POV, you don't wish to pay more in taxes, BUT since you have kids in D97 AND you place 100% trust in EVERYTHING that they do AND, regardless of the sheer volume of info that the NO side has presented - YOU dispute every word that we write/say. We have ACKNOWLEDGED that we're "late" to the situation. Please forgive us. We are, though, trying to do something about it. Vote NO and then watch what can get done. Remember, D97 has $20M surplus and thus let's do this right.

AL from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:04 AM

Here is some food for thought: Our property taxes (for 2010) gave D97 $40,028,972 which makes up 66% of the revenue. The salaries of D97 equal $45,349,672 which makes up 68% of expenditures. Our taxes don't even pay the salaries. So if you want to over simplify things- NONE of our $ actually directly supported our kids or their education. This makes me SICK and is the reason I am voting NO in April.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 11:01 AM

Just want to clarify something that was mentioned in an earlier post. Starting with the 2011-2012 school year, the stipends for school improvement teams and curriculum implementation leaders are being eliminated regardless of the outcome of the referendum. You can access additional information about the reductions by visiting http://www.op97.org/referendum/Reductions-Information.pdf.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:50 AM

To those who maintain that they have all the solutions to the problems that have eluded our elected officials and volunteers: How many have run/served on the D97 school board or volunteered your time/expertise to the advisory boards/panels? If you have viable solutions that will allow our schools to stay strong AND not raise our taxes, I am sure that EVERYONE in OP will welcome your expertise and efforts. Anonymously saying NO is never a solution. Please, lead, follow or get out of the way.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:36 AM

Marcia - the state did not require local districts to participate in the retirement bumps. And, if the big bumps did such a great job of lower costs by getting older teachers to retire and replacing them with younger, less expensive teachers, then why does the district still want more money from us?? There is enough money. It just needs to be managed better.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:24 AM

@KP -you misunderstand the early retirement monies. D97 does not control those awards - the State sets those amounts (see Illinois Teacher Retirement System). However, early retirement can be beneficial as the district then hires a new teacher at a lower salary. @op parent - you are so right!

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:16 AM

Also, again scratching the surface, I have found, and parents who have moved have volunteered, that they miss a lot of what op offers--accessibility to the city (many people who live far out, where biz pics up the tab), community spirit, arts in the schools. And that tends to come with its price. Inner-ring suburbs like ours have their challenges that others don't. And really, people, everyone's taxes are going up. Look around.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:13 AM

I don't think anyone is saying the sky is going to fall. I've had the same experience with friends moving to other communities and finding out bingobango the schools are good or better. IME, scratching the surface I find that there are reasons for that: more business in the community (and pls don't start on how op isn't business-friendly. in many cases, it comes down to sheer space--op doesn't have space for big-box retail that brings in $$ so residents make up the diff.)

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:13 AM

And the data comes from where? D97. It's all over. Go to D97. Educate yourself at D97. I cannot reconcile the fact D97 who awarded staff - and yes many teachers with 40% retirement bumps -ending last year are the same stewards who have cut where they could. Was there another clause that aged out in 2010? 200 employees received 5-10% raises last year. 200? Another 140 - including our retirees received 10%-25%. That is a sytemic cause for more tax dollars.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:07 AM

I am tired of the assumption that the sky will fall if we don't spend more money on schools. I have friends who finally moved to other nearby communities due to taxes. They expected the schools to be not as good but they just couldn't afford the $$ any more. Guess what they found out - the schools are actually better! More money does not necessarily equal more education. Its time for our board to do their job and work on behalf of the community - not the OPTA

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:02 AM

Good grief, I pay roughly $300 in taxes for Triton, and I haven't heard anyone complain about that... Bottom line is, the library, high school, park district got their referenda, and d97 waited until it was desperately needed before asking. I guess the only sin was being patient.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:51 AM

@another op parent, true, but I am seeing much more in the way of data and information than I am from the No side.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:48 AM

@Tom of RIVER FOREST, just assuming that at one time you did live in Oak Park and perhaps had children in the schools - there were people who supported the schools then. We have the same responsibility now. @Mary Ellen - interesting suggestion. What do you think the response would be when you approach the Library, Park District, Cook County, Village, etc. to donate a percentage of their income from taxes to D97 schools and take away from their strained budgets?

Another OP Parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:48 AM

@op parent ......and "YES" is easy too, it doesn't make it the right anwser.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:47 AM

With all due respect Tom, your position is more of the problem. Most OP tax payers do, did or had children in the school system at one time or another during their residency. All public school systems, including our state colleges/universities, are paid for by all citizens regardless of whether they currently have children attending an educational institution at any given time. You don't get to chose from the ala carte menu when it comes to public education at any level.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:46 AM

Tom, I understand that for non-stakeholders, it's not as high a priority. Personally, I see the issue less narrowly, but am constrained by the 500 characters. I was addressing issues brought up earlier, that it somehow costs $25k for d97 to educate each child (or $12k per, I can't remember) and which was never backed up. However, I see your question as compelling. What would make the support of public education worthwhile in a diverse community?

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:40 AM

OP Parent: While $3500 per year may be a bargain for you to educate your children, it is not so much of a bargain for those OP taxpayers with no kids in school, especially for those OP taxpayers on a fixed income. With all due respect, your somewhat narrowly focused attitude is sort of the problem.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:36 AM

"While it is easy to say NO, that is not a solution. "--thank you, Mark. Very true.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:35 AM

Mary Ellen, I am not placing blame on anyone. MANY posts ago, I said I do not wish to pay more taxes. I am certain nobody does. I do however, want the schools to remain sufficiently funded. I do not claim to have the answers and I never did. However, I do know that many people have been working on this issue for years. You may agree with them and you may not. However, at least they are trying. My comments are an attempt to discuss potential solutions that work for all. Just NO isnt a solution.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:35 AM

Just because a solution requires some cooperation doesn't mean its impossible. Many of the non-tax increase solutions are extremely possible. OP has some of the smallest class sizes in the state. Last year when surprised by an increase in students, many classes were larger - and had a teaching asst. due to that number. Most of these teacher asst. positions were filled by teachers riffed by other school districts - at asst. pay. Parents I spoke to were very happy with this set up.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:02 AM

Claiming that it's somebody else's fault--nothing we can do--is another common tactic. This is a democracy. There is always something we can do. Perhaps one thing we can do, before raising taxes, is to divert a higher proportion of the overall property tax receipts to the schools. Yes, I know, it's hard. But not impossible, if decision-makers can be influenced to pay attention. We shouldn't be paying for easy.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:53 AM

Asking for your solutions is not bullying. It is an attempt to identify solutions. While it is easy to say NO, that is not a solution. It is far more difficult to come up with solutions that can actually implemented. For example, while OverTaxed has made suggestions (thank you), the stark reality is that many of those (#s 2,3,4,5,7) are not D97's sole decision, realistic, or would harm education. If you have achievable solutions to all of our problems, where have you been for the last 5 years?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:49 AM

The OPTA contract can be found on-line at http://www.op97.org/hr/OPTA_Contract_2008.pdf Looks to me like single coverage is paid 100% by the District and family coverage is paid 60% by the district. FYI - district also pays teachers $1,000/yr for serving on the School Improvement Teams. Extra money for lots of othere things as well - and only union members can be teacher leaders.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:42 AM

From what I am reading here, it seems like people believe the entire tax bill goes to support education in Oak Park, and from what I see, that isn't even close to the case. Looking at my tax bill, I owe roughly $12k a year (and yeah, ow.) Of that, $3,500 goes to district 97. couldn't get much of an education for my kids for $3,500 a year, glad D97 is able to. It's a bargain even with the ref.

Not Right from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:19 AM

@Another No Vote: It's simply not true that D97 employees receive fully paid health insurance. I believe single HMO coverage may be fully covered; for anything else the employee pays a significant share.

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:10 AM

@Carolina - renegotiate the healthcare benefits - employees do not contribute anything to their hc- single coverage costs $7,700 per employee, family 13,000 - I have asked multiple times in these post how many D97 opt out of this coverage - never get an answer but I'm guessing not many.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:07 AM

(cont'd). I'd also take a look at using online resources for language training. Spanish is nice but there are other important 21st century languages. Oak Park property taxes are too high for a middle class community. If they weren't, we might not be having this discussion. But since we are, I doubt that a failed referendum will mean instant disaster or even instant closure of the programs purportedly scheduled for elimination. Right now, we are just playing chicken.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 7:58 AM

Pro-referendum posters keep asking those opposed to come up with their own list of cuts. This is a common tactic for those seeking ever more money from taxpayers, a bit of rhetorical bullying, so to speak. If Dist. 97 wants to pay me at the same rate as its very well compensated administrators to come up with a plan, I will. But what are we paying them for. Generally speaking I'm for reducing administrative costs (still way to high) and extracurricular before classroom costs. (cont'd)

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 7:03 AM

How to live within our budget - let's start with renegotiating the OPTA contract. A 1 yr freeze won't really help but the large annual increases written into the contract sure do hurt. Also we need to take a look at other spending and decide what is educationaly necessary. I've been to board meetings. Every proposed expenditure gets presented as absolutely essential to the very existance of the schools. It's time for the board to stop rubber stamping expenditures.

OverTaxed from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 5:30 AM

@Carolina: (1) renegotiate the union contracts to reduce costs, (2) combine D97 and D200 to reduce admin costs and to share the overfunding in D200 that OP taxpayers already fund, (3) renegotiate the TIF, (4) work with the village to expand the OP tax base beyond overstressed homeowners -- yes, demand that OP become business-friendly, (5) since the issue seems to be regulation, hire attorneys to challenge and change the laws, (6) crack down on border jumping, (7) close schools, incr class size

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 4:36 AM

@Carolina Song: Believe it or not, even in Oak Park the world doesn't revolve around District 97. I appreciate your issues, but every taxing body in America can make a similar argument...that's why EVERYONE will see higher taxes/prices for EVERYTHING over the next several years. The system is broken. One solution for me is to move to Berwyn and send my kids to private school. Others will feel similarly and eventually OP's tax base will further erode. Then you'll have another problem.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 11:23 PM

If you oppose the referendum, please provide your long-term systemic solution that meets ISBE and financial oversight committee guidelines and keeps cash flow high enough to meet payrolls. BTW, it is important to note that the increase in state income taxes (from 3% to 5%) does not mean new state funding. It just allows D97 to assume that the previously-set level of state funding will come on time (instead of several months late) and to assume that the previously-set funding won't be cut.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 11:12 PM

Tax caps create systemic long-term budget deficits that require systemic long-term solutions. All of the salary freezes & budget cuts discussed are one year fixes that do not eliminate the need to go back and cut probably another $4-5M from the classrooms in the next fiscal year. D97 has not had an operating funds referendum in 20 yrs, during which time enrollment has increased by approx 1000 kids. D97 has cut its budget every year for the past 10 yrs, keeping those cuts away from the classroom.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 9:11 PM

Setting aside schools for a moment, this referendum is one of the few increases I actually have a choice in. The state has already increased taxes, the fed gov't will have to soon, inflation will skyrocket, the county/village will want more, college costs are out of control. My OP taxes are already sky high and I simply can't justify ANY new expenses as I look ahead. Add serious doubts about D97's fiscal prudence and I'm left deciding that I'd rather stay and vote NO than move to Berwyn. Sad.

Voting NO  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 7:29 PM

Hey folks, let's not forget that Peter T has said that there will be more cuts even if the referendum passes. In other words, they are planning on so much new spending that even if the current referendum passes they will need more cuts. Will that lead to . . . another referendum?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 4:53 PM

Mark, oops, forgot to address the "$1B comment" - it's simple: at least 50% of D97 parents will vote for ANY AMOUNT of a tax increase. Period. $1B? No problem - it's for my child(ren) and if D97 says that a failure will have class sizes of 50 and worse...I believe them!!! I think that Stalin had a phrase to describe them. BTW, you can substitute "D97" with any "School" - this mindset is universal for parents. FYI, my kids are recent D97 rads (one still at OPRF) and it was very good for them!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 4:32 PM

Mark, D97 is attempting to persuade people to vote YES with a message of "Armageddon" (massive cuts!) if the ref fails. I'm using their own figures to show that THIS IS NOT true. It is truly that simple. You do NOT have to believe "my figures," but that's why I'm using "D97 figures." So, if you truly desire a more comprehensive review/reform - then you can safely vote NO. I think that is what needs to be done in today's economic environment. Our prop taxes are already very high. Peace!

Mark Lingen  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 3:17 PM

Chet, with all due respect, you have not provided any original documention of your own that clearly outlines/supports your position. Referencing a D97 document is insufficient evidence of a "mathematical proof". If you have an original document, written by you or a colleague, that demonstrates your proof, please indicate where this can found. Yes, it is going to be a tough sell, but that doesnt mean that it isn't the right thing to do. Finally, where did your $1 Billion figure come from?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 3:00 PM

Mark, ahem, please read my 12:24 post from today. The link that I provided is what you are looking for - and it's from D97. Translated: I HAVE submitted the document AND this was NOT the first time. Lastly, let's be honest, this is going to be a tough tax increase to pass. Why? Because of the tremendous fin'l stress of homeowners and businesses. IF it fails (for whatever reason), I'll be there to assist. Those who'd happily vote unthinkingly for a $1Billion ref can then shoot or welcome me.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 2:54 PM

Chet, I am pleased to hear that you have mathematically proven there are ample reserves. In that case, please submit the document to the WJ and Oak Leaves for publication for all of OP to read. I am sure that everyone would like to see the numbers and justification. Please do so at your earliest convenience so that we all have opportunity to consider and discuss.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 2:48 PM

Mark (and Jassen), 99.999% of Oak Parkers have more or less ignored D97 and their 7-yr semi-annual (Boy who cried wolf?) "we need a referendum!" pleas. What were we doing? Focusing on our own lives. HOWEVER, D97 is NOW wanting to raise taxes and so NOW they are starting to get our attn. I've MATHEMATICALLY PROVEN that they have ample reserves to have a failed ref - and THEN non-D97 "yes-men" can look things over and ask critical questions.We'll THEN do this right! Vote NO - FOR D97! 2018 TIF?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 1:56 PM

@Mark Lingren - I think you hit the nail on the head. We can all agree the nobody wants to pay more in taxes. If I thought there was another long term solution that D97 could implement that didn't gut the school system, I would be the first to oppose the referendum. I just don't see it.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 1:53 PM

@Frustrated - "the contracts that are bleeding the budget were set far more recently" Help me understand what this means. Your frustrated because you think the board should have taken a harder line? Our teachers are overpaid?

Mark Lingen  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 1:43 PM

I think ALL taxpayers are frustrated. I don't know anyone that wants to pay more. However, I will respectfully state that I thnked it is flawed logic to say: "Just vote No first and then we will deal with the issue". When those that say "no" are asked "what is your plan in the event that that ref fails?", what I hear are generalities with a promise of specifics/justifications only after the ref fails. Such an approach prevents decision making based on reason rather than emotion.

Frustrated  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 1:29 PM

As Jassen says, the referendum has been discussed for YEARS but the contracts that are bleeding the budget were set far more recently. Count me in as one of those who agree with Chet's cuts and views BTW, and I know there are many more like me.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 1:26 PM

@chet21- "D97 had a LOWER fund balance last year than what is projected for this year" for opening balance yes but year end balance is far different as is days of cash on hand. Again, for fund balances, this is not me, this is the ISBE guidelines for financial health of a district. It is also the finance oversight committee that require a referendum when the fund balance get that low. You just have a different opinion on that. Also, your plan doesn't address anything past next year.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 1:04 PM

Chet, I do think that cuts can be made. However, I would consider those to be relatively small compared to the projected deficit. I think that most items marked for elimination (including regular class teachers) will adversely affect our schools. Further, I respectfully disagree with your belief that additional cuts will not be made as needed by D97. I think that they did an excelent job of maintaining costs and averting a tax increase request while other governing bodies (library, D200) didn't.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 12:50 PM

Mark, why I referenced "previous posts" was because some ref supporters wrote that Spanish was critical to the ed needs of their children. THAT is why I wrote that RF elem kids do NOT have Spanish and they still excel at OPRF and beyond. Your "bigger question" is most impt and a major motivation for the "NO" people. If the ref passes, what we are both requesting most certainly will not occur. ONLY a "NO" vote will bring this about. 18 years? Nice, but just a newcomer to OP. I'm closer to 50.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 12:36 PM

I may be new to reading posts, but I have lived in OP for 18 years. I fail to appreciate your comparison of RF kids/OPRF to the need for Spanish in the future. I am not defending Media Sepcialists. I am simply asking for your rationale for the suggested cuts. That leads to be bigger question: Can anyone provide a complete list of suggested cuts, WITH justifications, that equals the deficit? It is easy to say CUT or NO. It is harder to solve the problem intelligently without harming our schools.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 12:24 PM

Jassen, check this out: http://www.op97.k12.il.us/referendum/Current Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf. Point? D97 had a LOWER fund balance last year than what is projected for this year - what about ISBE?!? Doesn't this contradict your point? Do you start to understand MY POINT? And these numbers have NO SALARY FREEZE, etc! D97 CAN lose - and still be alright. Most of MY cuts are from the D97 list - I'm just not agreeing with their scare/draconian cuts.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 12:15 PM

@chet21 - "Vote NO and then we start true oversight" - This is just a complete insult to the hundreds of citizens that have worked for years on financial oversight of the district. There is a citizen run financial oversight committee that has put in countless hours on this going back years. The referendum, originally thought to be needed in 2007, has been discussed publicly for years. To suggest that there was no planning or chance for people to give their opinoin ignores a lot of public effort.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 12:12 PM

@chet21 - The issue is you propose cuts. Cuts that are good options to you. The district, who has to take into the account of more than one persons opinion has come to the cut list that they did based on a lot of input. You might disagree, but thats just your opinion. As for $2.1M, great start. That still runs a significant deficit. As for fund balance, again your opinion is its OK but the state and the citizen finance oversight committee disagree.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 12:05 PM

Mark, you must be new here - we've been "discussing" these matters for a while. YOU noted "music, art," etc. Something that the D97 surplus and my other cuts protect. Spanish? RF kids excel at OPRF and beyond - without elem Spanish program. Media Specialists? I ask that YOU make case for this position - their schedule is 9 mos, 6-7 hrs per day and $80K per year. I think that CAST/BRAVO, etc. is more impt. D97 also lists this as cut. I agree. Vote NO and then we start true oversight. D97 has $$$.

Mark Lingen  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 11:50 AM

@ chet 21- While the proposed #'s are appreciated, you did not provide justfication for these nor would they close the deficit. The pay freezes were already agreed to so that is not a new cut. Given the demographics of our country, why teaching Spanish is a bad thing? What are you referring to by m-c department? What is your rationale for cutting the media specialists in half and how did you arrive at this recommendation? How much additional $$ will D97 get from state tax increase?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 11:36 AM

@Lingren & Oak Park Parent. Alright, for the 10th time. Here are your beginning cuts: $1.3M (freeze, yr 1) & .2M (m-c dept) & .6M (K-5 Spanish. A program that not even RF has). We're already at $2.1M. Want more? Cut the "media specialists" in half. How much? $.4M. A second year of the freeze - $1.3M. More? D97 already has a $20M end-of-yr balance. More? Add'l $$ from state inc tax increase. Can't provide % because D97 numbers keep changing. Vote NO and then we can get to work. Satisfied?

Mark Lingen  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 11:20 AM

@ Mary Ellen- You said "I have already educated myself, and I see plenty of places to cut." Several posts have asked you to explain where you believe those cuts should come from. As I understand it, the programs to be cut will include: music, art, foreign language, performing arts, and others. Please tell us which of these programs you believe should be eliminated from our children's educational programs and how much it will save us.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 10:59 AM

And I should have left out the pledge part. Fix them. My point was, many pro-referendum posters seem to view test scores as an annoying distraction instead of acknowledging the necessity of fixing the problem--anonymously, of course.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 10:48 AM

@Mary Ellen Eads - and thank you for using your name online. There aren't enough that do.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 10:46 AM

@Mary Ellen Eads - "why don't referendum supporters acknowledge the problem of low or failing test scores and pledge to fix them" The pledge to fix them and extensive plans for how to address is have been discussed extensively at numerous board meetings over the past years. This includes not only plans for how to address is but full debriefings afterwards of what worked and didn't. These are all public board documents on D97 website.

Oak Park Parent Typically Against Taxes but for Eduction  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 10:45 AM

Mary Ellen, Let us take one issue at a time. Please answer the following question that really is the core issue: 1. Please list the SPECIFIC items, point by point, that you believe should be reduced to close the budget deficit. 2. For each proposed reduction, please indicate the annual savings that will be gained...either in real dollars or in percent of anticpated deficit.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 10:41 AM

@Mary Ellen Eads - continued...the goal should always be to make AYP but to judge how a school is doing or to suggest teachers should be let go on this measure alone ignores a whole lot of factors. You have comment numerous times online that you think D97 is average at best, mediocre. This despite it continually being ranked in at least the top 10% of the state or better. I am happy to acknowledge there is room for improvement, there always is, but we should also give credit when due.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 10:37 AM

@Mary Ellen Eads - I think the point that others are trying to make is that suggesting teachers "should not be kept on" when a school doesn't make AYP is disconnected from the reality of testing works. For starters, they are children included in AYP scores that do not even attend the school. Further, any school that has enough of a particular population to have sub-groups, especially smaller schools, can fail AYP because of just a few poor testers.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park   

Posted: February 28th, 2011 10:18 AM

If it's uncivil to suggest that educators whose pupils do not meet very basic standards should not be kept on, then our accountability problem is more serious than I thought. More importantly why don't referendum supporters acknowledge the problem of low or failing test scores and pledge to fix them. Squabbling about the legitimacy of NCLB doesn't fix anything. And the testing continues. Easier to demand more %%. If you are so certain that is the solution, why not telll us who you are? I do

Oak Park Parent Typically Against Taxes but for Education  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 9:19 AM

Mary Ellen: 1. Lets try to remain civil, yes? 2. Please list the specific items you believe are worthy of cutting. 3. Your comment regarding AYP reflects a general misunderstanding of the structure and realties of "no child left behind". In short, most schools will ultimately fail the AYP mandates as they continue to rise over time. Further AYP only teaches our children how to take a test rather than teacning them how to think..two VERY different things.

op parent  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 9:17 AM

I think it's a little disingenuous to say the middle schools didn't make AYP. IEP students didn't make AYP at Julian.I don't see how cutting funding is going to help in that regard. Also, since the floor is constantly being raised in AYP, this doesn't mean kids are doing worse. http://oakpark.patch.com/articles/district-97-schools-show-mixed-results-on-isats 89.2 percent of students did make AYP. I don't see how that could be seen as a system-wide failure by any stretch.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 9:10 AM

I have already educated myself, and I see plenty of places to cut. As to claims that Oak Park housing values will decline if this referendum doesn't pass--spare me. Schools may attract some, but our astronomically high property taxes will deter others--many others. And one has to question the values of a community that builds two expensive new middle schools which both proceed to fail AYP. Did anybody get fired for this. Probably not. Will the schools improve w/ more $$$. Probably not.

Oak Park Parent Typically Against Taxes but for Education  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 8:58 AM

Nobody likes paying more taxes, myself included. However, not all taxes are the same (Cook County Sales Tax vs D97 Tax). Schools are one of the top reasons people move to OP. If we do not have good schools, people will not move to OP and property values will continue to decline. It is relatively easy math. If the D97 tax increase is not approved, the cuts will be devastating. If you do not believe this, please take the time to educate yourself about the programs/teachers that will be eliminated.

Adrian from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 10:23 PM

By my reckoning, a one year voluntary "salary freeze" is the smallest concession that the District 97 teachers union could offer without being trivial and as such seems to be more designed for public relations value than a sincere offering of shared sacrifice. Including pension and health care benefit costs in the "salary" freeze would be more substantive as would extending it for another year, as President Obama has directed for all federal workers.

Community Organizer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 4:06 PM

To the many who oppose this referendum for a variety of reasons: sign on to facebook and search for "Referendum NO for Oak Park, IL"...and join the growing, organizing voice of those who oppose the referendum. Pass it on to all like minded individuals and ask them to do the same.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 5:58 AM

@Wednesday Journal: Stop shilling for D97! The current referendum would increase taxes on Oak Parkers by SEVERAL million dollars each year while these one year pay freezes will save just $1.3 million dollars for one year. That's not sharing the pain, that's an investment in a public relations strategy that D97 and the unions hope will pay them big dividends.

twinsonic  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 10:59 PM

Here is a quote: "I just lost my job, and my house is being foreclosed on, and now you are raising my taxes!?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!??!?!" Chris Christie, New Jersey Governer.........

twinsonic  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 10:56 PM

Here is the facts: IL residents spend $10.147 dollars per student here in this state back in 2008 - And now a lot more, We have close to 14% unemployment, 19% underemployment, gas prices closing toward $4.00 a gallon and more, Inflation is roaring back with a vengence, over 600 foreclosures here since 08, Many residents here is upside down on their mortgages, We got hit with a 66% increase in our state income taxes and the private sector is shrinking faster than ever....(more)

Adele from OP  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 7:08 AM

Cont....a true sacrifice by all parties would include reduced income for both the unions and the residents (e.g., My $$ is reduced thru higher tax, union's $$ is reduced through revised (down) salary schedule. So, if each home owner on average pays $500 more per year, each union member's salary should be reduced by $500 per year. That is shared sacrifice. I am voting NO-

Adele from OP  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 7:04 AM

This could be the message board where we note how one sided WJ'S coverage has been of this issue. You continue to have "One View". The "Vote No' rationale merits some airtime too. These votes to "keep full salaries/bens constant" for one year while residents lose income to higher taxes is NOT a teacher sacrifice!) These votes are strategic for public perception and questions remain about back door comps. Can WJ do a story on this debate instead of propagating "One View"?

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