With opponent on panel, D97 referendum debate intensifies

Opponent charges mismanagement. Supporters point to decade of cuts

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By Jean Lotus

Contributing Reporter

A vocal opponent of District 97s tax hike proposal has surfaced and for the third time this week joined a referendum debate hosted at a local school. Tuesday night the traveling series of referendum presentations came to Irving School, 1125 S. Cuyler Ave. Noel Kuriakos represented the Citizens Alliance of Oak Park and debated Carollina Song, co-chair of the Referendum Yes’s Steering Committee. School board President Peter Traczyk also participated.

In one or two minute responses to questions from the audience, the well-prepared Yes and No camps traded statistics in a 90-minute debate that included allegations of fiscal mismanagement and appeals to emotion. Kuriakos, a CPA, presented several slides and graphs. More than 50 people attended the debate, co-sponsored by South East Oak Park Community Organization, the Irving PTO and Wednesday Journal. In earlier presentations, PTO organizers had invited opponents to presentations, but no one stepped up.

Both Yes and No camps agreed that the proposed permanent tax levy increase comes at a bad economic time for residents. “Our timing is God-awful and terrible,” said Traczyk. “Quite simply District 97 is running out of money. It will not be able to make payroll in 2013… The fat is gone.”

Both Song and Kuriakos are District 97 parents, and both serve on school PTOs, but they disagree on the causes for the cash crunch at District 97. Song pointed out that an inequitable state and federal education tax formula put too much pressure on property taxes to fund education. Kuriakos agreed that funding was not equitable, but that District 97 had failed -- through mismanagement -- to negotiate sustainable collective bargaining agreements with the teachers unions. Using charts and graphs, Kuriakos showed what he called “ballooning pension costs.” “Some teachers have doubled their salaries over the past years. Has anyone here doubled their salary?” Kuriakos asked. He said District 97 would get an automatic CPI budget increase of 2.7 percent yearly without the referendum and that the district needed to live within its budgets like employers in the public and non-profit sectors.

Under the state’s tax cap legislation, school districts annual tax increases are limited to the Consumer Price Index. In the past year that amounted to 2.7 percent. Traczyk pointed out that a year earlier that number had been much lower but acknowledged that the CPI increase had averaged 2.5 percent over the past decade.

When responding to a question about what would happen if the referendum fails, Traczyk returned to the list of programs the district has said it would cut -- arts, music, drama, sports, and foreign languages. He acknowledged that recent voluntary one-year pay freezes among teachers and staff might give room in the budget for somewhat less draconian cuts. “Some positions might be spared by that dollar,” he said.

If the referendum fails and class sizes must ultimately be increased, he said the district would consider reorganizing elementary schools into “grade centers” focusing on grades K-2 and 3-5. By clustering grades, the district might have greater flexibility in managing class size. Forest Park implemented this strategy 18 months ago.

Kuriakos suggested that the surplus dollars in the District 200 Oak Park and River Forest High School budget might be used to fund language, arts, music and sports in the middle schools. He suggested that the absence of discussions along these lines between the school districts was a “failure of leadership.”

Song cited the importance of public education in her life, saying that when she grew up “my family qualified for free-and reduced lunches” and that now two of her siblings were now working toward PhDs. “Public education has been the ladder to my family’s success and I’m here as a partial repayment of a debt of honor….The question to ask ourselves as we decide what to do on April 5 is which choice is likely to lead to better schools?” Song called the Yes vote the right choice, “even if it’s not an easy choice.”

Kuriakos, who was laid off 11 months ago from a job in software product management, said that the anti-referendum voters oppose “this referendum, not public education… I value my community that’s why we want to keep it affordable.” In a post debate interview he said he stepped forward to oppose the referendum because he represents the “silent majority. The rhetoric is causing many of my neighbors to be silent. Someone has to stand up.”

Early voting has begun at Oak Park’s village hall.







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Can't Do it  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:44 PM

My husband and I moved to Oak Park in 2000. I said then, "Oak Park has high property taxes good schools". If the referendum fails all that's left is, "high property taxes". And those established taxes aren't going away.There's no draw to move here. I live close to Austin, can't claim it's perfectly safe, ex. dead body dumped near school. Oak Park is not the prettiest place to live.Old homes are money pits.Families,from a myriad of backgrounds, take the leap into Oak Park for the schools. YES!

SalaryMan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:25 PM

@let me guess. Not a doctor or a lawyer. Rather, a guy with no education beyond high school that has worked his ass off for 15 years to build two startups from the ground up.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 9:55 PM

Why can't the D97 Board just use everyday English and say that your property taxes are going up 3.8%! The township assessor has stated that D97's levy will increase 3.8% if the limiting rate inc goes through. Why all the $38/$1000 lingo? How does this further the education of the voter? One can only conclude that this Board is not in touch with the voters. Yes there are other districts that used the same language, but there are also districts that stated the tax impact in everyday English.

let me guess  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 9:32 PM

@SalaryMan: let me guess. You're a lawyer . . . or a doctor . . . one of the things I loved about OP when I chose to move here was that it was not just a bunch of doctors and lawyers. I liked that my block had people from all walks of life. It's too bad that OP will be less and less socioeconomically diverse as times goes on and taxes go up. Plenty of hard working people have not seen their salaries double in the last 10 years. But what do you care about them. . . .

SalaryMan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 9:08 PM

I suppose Noel's question isn't really meant to elicit an answer so much as elicit cheers from folks who don't care to fact check, but I for one can say I've doubled my salary over the last 10 years, as have many of my working peers that began their careers alongside me.

Hidden cost of YES vote from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 8:07 PM

When you have to cut the price of your home by $50,000 or $100,000 because that is the only way to entice someone to take on your big property tax bill, when you are trying to sell, that is the hidden cost of measures like this. Don't destroy your net worth. Vote NO. My property tax bill has gone up 220% during the last 16 years. My house has only gone up 25%. Your mileage may vary, but that sort of math hits all of us. We have to get control and we are giving dist. 97 more $ each year already

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 6:18 PM

@elaine mary. Most in OP have the "homeowner exemption." It is unrelated to this issue. You will pay $38/$1,000.

elaine mary  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 5:29 PM

does anyone know - I have a home owner exemption. My tax bill is reduced about 22%. Will I pay $38/$1,000 or will the exemption reduce the amount to $31/$1,000?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 4:47 PM

@Dan Haley. You are correct, and Ali (and Kevin Peppard) have done a great job on this matter - but we both know that this does NOT solve the dilemma of the ballot. Many voters will NOT know about the "true figure" ($38/$1,000) and their vote will be tainted by the wording on the ballot. Reverse the matter, say that the ballot led the voter to believe that the increase would be $150/$1,000 - do you think that D97 would THEN have obtained a 2nd opinion-when the "error" didn't,cough, benefit them?

Dave of Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 4:34 PM

Relative to OPRF teachers, D97's are underpaid. Still, given the slimebag tactics of VMA to railroad low income housing onto Madison and trash the neighborhood's value and Oak Park's well being, how can I possibly support increased taxes for anything? Until there's some commitment to the real needs of people who live in Oak Park from the junta that is VMA, I would urge everyone to vote against this increase for the simple reason nothing else but opposition will get anyone's attention here.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 4:16 PM

Folks--There is no grenade from Ali ElSaffar. As he has said and we have reported, the equation used on the ballot question is incorrect. You can argue legal aspects but the math is wrong. However, both ElSaffar and the district have agreed since Jan. that the district's formulation of $38 per $1,000 in current property taxes is an accurate equation to figure out the impact on a tax bill.

Robert T  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 4:01 PM

I feel like Mr. ElSaffar threw a giant grenade in the middle of this issue and left us with the task of trying to put things back together again. First he says the calculation on the ballot is inaccurate, but now he is saying through a joint statement with Mr. Traczyk that the $38 per $1000 the district has been promoting is accurate. Any chance he is reading these comments and can provide some sense of clarity?

Clarification Please  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 3:37 PM

Sorry should be a . not & between paper and their future.

Clarification Please  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 3:35 PM

@chet21 & others - thank you for your responses - I have seen some post that stated the actual tax increase will be more $$ and that when using the multiplier that Mr. ElSaffar had in the paper & their future taxes if this referendum passes came out to more($57/1000) then the $38/1000 just trying to understand how some can be so sure of the 38/1000 calculation. (sorry trying to understand it all late in the game)

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 3:17 PM

@Fed Up with Name Calling: I, too, regret the tenor of some of the comments being made on both sides. In fact, I wish the ballot provided the opportunity to not only vote "No" but "No, thank you." That way I could object politely. Unfortunately, I am forced to keep it short and sweet: NO.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 2:36 PM

@Clarification Please. Not clear on your question. Did you mean "multiplier" for "equalizer"? Any way, for simplification purposes, you can assume that the $38/$1,000, for this year, will increase each subsequent year by the CPI. My only confusion is that OPRF somehow managed to extend their tax increase in future years, too. They said that this was necessary "for the children" and now have an $80M surplus. They also plan on keeping ALL of the RF TIF money "for the children." It never ends.

Sorry Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 2:28 PM

Went over to Village hall (early Voting) and voted NO on this referendum. Took several other people with me. All voting No. Schools will have to adjust like many of us have in recent years. This is just a bad time to ask for this increase.

No No No No No No No No No No No from Oak PArk  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 2:12 PM

Voting No. Live Within Your Means!

something for clarification please to consider  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 1:50 PM

Keep in mind that 2011 is a reassessment year for OP. It will be virtually impossible for any individual taxpayer to determine the true impact of this referendum regardless of any potential change in the equalizer because your property value may change this year. (And if you are new to OP, the reassessment will no doubt be a huge shock in terms of how much it increases your taxes.) Part of what scares me about the reassessment is that you can't really predict the cost.


Posted: March 22nd, 2011 1:42 PM

@NP What I find legal but unethical. 1. Intentionally holding referendum on historically low turnout election. 2. Targeting specific voters, or those of voting age to register, who agree with you rather than targeting all voters. 3. Misleading ballot information. 4. Seeking media support opposed to laying out all the facts and letting the media decide for itself. D97 (and the blindly no crowd for that matter) has valid points that get lost along with their credibility.

Clarification Please  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 1:35 PM

O.k. - will this "equalizer" be able to change going forward thus increasing the $38/$1000 equation?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 1:12 PM

The tax rate increase will be forever.

Clarification Please  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 1:11 PM

Sorry - trying to understand this before April 5th. This $38/$1000 is for this year and this year only - correct. The Equalizer can go up or down so the amount owed could also change? Is this a one time only?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 12:55 PM

Yes, the board should always have a plan for how they will manage the district and it should address all possibiliites. If passage of every referendum was a sure thing there would be no need for voters to vote - boards could just set new rates. The fact that they handed out pink slips while having no plan for what they will do without those teachers says to me they have no plan other than to keep raising taxes - now and in the future. Our kids deserve better.

Not Being Played  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 12:04 PM

@CAOP, so tell me what is the INaccurate info the district is providing again. We surely are not still talking about the $38/$1000 since that has been verified by Ali ElSaffar and others who have investigated it. You will complain about the district no matter what it does. If it would send a flyer stating the facts to every homeowner in the village, you would say that was unethical and spending money foolishly. If the district doesn't do that, it isn't getting the word out. No win situation

I made the move... from Nashville TN  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 12:00 PM

If anyone is interested, we moved to the Nashville TN area and coming from OP we can't believe the difference. For instance, Williamson County provides excellent public schools with a real estate tax bill of under $3,000 for a 3,000 sq ft home; no state income tax; abundance of cultural venues; great health care; international airport; gorgeous rolling hills; and much better winters. I am a former Realtor from OP and now work in the Nashville area. For more info contact me at pstudney2@gmail.com

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:46 AM

@Not-BP. The district should provide the voters with the right information so that the VOTERS can make an informed decision. When the district spends taxpayers' $ on spin, advises the YES side on tactics and strategy,(we know that the Board members are personal friends many of the leaders on the YES side, and is marginally transparent with financial information, etc, etc, that is not a plan. That is lobbying and questionable ethics.

Doug S from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:59 AM

My bad, I assumed you worked for District 97. Will pose the questions elsewhere.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:47 AM

@Doug S continued: as for why your math comes out differently, you say "when I use the equation supplied by Ali ElSaffar" you arrive at a different number. 1) I would ask Ali. I didn't supply that equation. 2) Ali states if every statement and article on this topic that the figure of $38/$1000 is correct. I am sure if you can show him that he is wrong, he will let us know.

Not Being Played  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:45 AM

I don't understand the views on the "plan" for the referendum. Should the district have just thrown it out there without any plan of how to get it passed. Of course they want it passed, so why wouldn't they figure out a way to achieve that? I don't feel played, I feel like the board and adm thought this out and decided it was necessary. Once that decision was made, they came up with a plan. That makes total sense. If they hadn't planned, the "no" crowd would have complained of no planning.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:42 AM

@Doug S - I am not sure what you mean by 'formal notice' so hard to say. They discussed it at length in public meetings, they issued a statement to the media and they communicated via the channels they have in place. If you had more than that in mind, you would have to ask them, I don't speak for the District or the Board.


Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:39 AM

A few of my favorite D97 goals excerpted from the Blair presentation: 1. Obtain Media Support 2. Research Voter Trends, Turnout and Voting Records 3. Target Specific Voters in a Registration Drive. Does anyone out there feel like you're being played?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:19 AM

@CAOP. I found the report from Wm Blair both necessary and chilling. D97 should seek outside counsel on how to address a potential ref. I commend them. "Chilling"? Pg 13 is a POLITICAL STRATEGY and that bothers me beyond words! My property taxes paid for this?!? The only thing that Wm Blair omitted from this page was "scare the parents" and "hold the children hostage." I do NOT blame D97 for this document - it is an emotionally trying period for many of us. Peace.

Interested in the Discussion  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 8:55 AM

The YES folks are "puppets orchestrated by the masters...?" You are starting to sound a lot like a certain dictator in Libya.

Fed Up with Name Calling  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 8:52 AM

@CAOP - The Vote NO folks keep saying the people in favor of the referendum are "bullies, puppets, etc." They are entitled to an opinion, just as you are and it seems they make far fewer derogatory comments. To cite a handout from the Wm. Blair Co. that outlines ways to work toward a referendum as an outline of a sinister plan to take taxpayers money is amazing. One line refers to celebrating successes (if there are any). This wasn't Board policy, it was a possible list of options to consider.

Doug S from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 8:51 AM

@ Jassen. 1. Why has the District not made formal notice to all taxpayers that the ballot wording does not coincide with their mantra of $38 per $1000? That the ballot understates the proposed increase by a factor of 3? 2. Why when I do the equation supplied by Ali Elsaffar using the equalization factor do I get $52.50 per $1000 added to my current tax bill?


Posted: March 22nd, 2011 1:16 AM

All the 100 million rinks, New village hall, and the new hotel. It's over. We can't afford it. Come down to earth. Cut taxes and live within your means. We have overspent and it is time to save. We need new employees who understand this. I think that many people who are out of work are up to this task and at half the pay or the folks who handle our tax dollars.

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 11:06 PM

Did D97 Board acknowledged that the legally required language was both misleading and potentially inaccurate at any publicly held meeting? Can someone confirm whether this did or did not occur?

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 11:04 PM

The YES side is loosing credibility by supporting the Board & Admin blindly. If anyone is interested as to why and where they got started check out this link http://www.wednesdayjournalonline.com/ftp/pdfs/referendum_032310.pdf on pg 24. The YES side clearly is a puppet orchestrated by the masters at the Board & Admin. I like the fact that p24 also includes some information as to how to celebrate! They must clearly believe that the voters of OP can be played like a fiddle!

Greg Kuenster from OP  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 11:02 PM

Hi Laurie, I did not know you were still around. I had to give up all my vices due to getting toooo ooold! I am OP Resident and OP. and What evah. I love you!! Dave is still alive. What evahh!

Voting NO  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 10:01 PM

If you think our taxes are okay and that it would be okay for them to go higher, take a moment or two to talk to someone who is thinking about selling their house. Their number 1 conern? Taxes! Yes we have good schools, but there are plenty of other communities that have schools as good or better but lower taxes. We need our admin/school board to figure out how to deliver good education (including the arts) at an affordable price. It can be done.

OP_taxpayer from OakPark, IL  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 7:41 PM

OK, lets use - "just as an example" - a very low tax estimate so we can ram through what we want. The voters are too stupid to do anything about it - right? WRONG. Voting NO. Telling everyone I know about the real numbers so they can make an informed decision. We have to stand up to this insanity and mismanagement. And by mismanagement - it means spending more money that you have, which is what the administration has done.

L. Bergeron from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 7:32 PM

@ Voting Yes. OP taxes are already relatively high. I know of many families who are renting here, but have realized that they cannot afford to buy homes because of the property taxes. Increasing them further will only reduce the number of potential buyers. Decreased demand decreases values overall. Remember, the $380 increase is IN ADDITION TO an average 2.5% annual increase and don't forget the additional 2 % in state income tax you will be paying.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 3:24 PM

@JMC - "For Voting Yes to say the average increase is $380 annually is incorrect" We totally agree and that is why all of the YES Campaign materials are perfectly clear, $38/$1000. The $380/year is used as an example of someone who pays $10,000 annually already. We have never attempted to create an 'average' increase as that would have no meaning for anyone. Feel free to check our FAQs on our website and other materials.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 1:37 PM

Sorry, JMG, misunderstood what you were saying. My apologies. I think the $380 is simply what is being used as an example. This is straight from the statement released today. "We also agree that taxpayers can use this $38 per $1000 figure to determine how much this proposed tax increase from the referendum will cost. For example, a household that has a $10,000 tax bill will pay an additional $380."


Posted: March 21st, 2011 1:32 PM

@E. Jackson. I'm aware of the 38/1000 calculation - you may have seen it in my post. For Voting Yes to say the average increase is $380 annually is incorrect. Unless (and I haven't seen it anywhere) the average OP homeowner tax bill is 8,000. In that case they are correct. By not qualifying the number It might even mislead some voters and no one wants that.

Voting Yes  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 1:08 PM

Attended the drug free teen commitee meetings and forums for d97. The tools to combat substance abuse -sports, art, music technology. The tools to combat budget issues- sports art music tech. The budget cuts undermine the effort to give kids positive alternatives, to keep up grades and behavior to participate in extra activities. Our problem is not what we value - we all value these kids, the problem is that everything is funded via property taxes. That must change.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 12:42 PM

@KWerner - I still don't understand how this policy has anything to do with the referendum, nor do I see how this serves as a jumping off point for needing more money to hire more staff. @JMG - the Oak Park Township Assessor and District 97 Board President released a joint statement today announcing that the $38 per $1000 is an accurate calculation of how much this referendum will cost taxpayers. Not sure what else you need to be convinced.


Posted: March 21st, 2011 11:28 AM

That is not an accurate number you provided. Unless the assesors office states the average OP assessment is 8000. It should be noted that 38/1000 is probably the least amount you would pay and it will continue to creep annually.


Posted: March 21st, 2011 11:28 AM

Let's leave salaries alone, keep a watchful eye on drastic increases in salaries as teachers approach retirement age and stop deferred comp veiled in the cloak of "sick days"! Thanks to the multiplier applied to rolled over unused sick days, teachers can be paid a lump sum upon retirement and a day from their first year is paid out as a benefit at their ending salary.. That's a lot of money. If the School Board commits to ending this deferred compensation practice, they have my "yes" vote.

A. District 97 Parent Voting NO  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 11:19 AM

@Can't Do It. Agree totally. Lead the charge. There's got to be a way to stop the insanity. Anyone know a community with affordable housing and better schools, but with lower taxes than Oak Park? I am so ready to be out of here. Please post sites where this info is available.

Voting Yes  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 11:18 AM

The proposed annual increase is est. at $380, slightly more than a dollar a day. From what I have seen, the Dist has done a very good job with our tax dollars where they have control. I love the education my children are getting, and want my property to remain attractive with a great school system. Lose that and all you will have left is the high tax bill. My prpo value will drop more than I will save if this does not pass, in my opinion.


Posted: March 20th, 2011 3:49 PM

Make enough of these kinds of changes and of course we need more money to hire more staff - with no obvious benefit to kids. We should be looking for efficiencies, not creating inefficiencies.


Posted: March 20th, 2011 3:44 PM

The proposed change in policy will put increased demands on principals' time. I think (and certainly hope) that many parents participate in a wide variety of classroom activities. Requiring this involvement to be coordinated through the principals office creates an additional layer of work and - since principals may not always be available - may discourage parental involvement in classroom activities. Both of these seem to be the opposite of what we should be trying to do.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 3:14 PM

First, I am not really sure what this policy has to do with the referendum. Second, Ms. Werner, are you suggesting that District 97 should get rid of building principals since they are the only administrators mentioned in it?

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 3:06 PM

Chicago Tribune Article pg. 10 today's paper: Chicagotribune.com/cktax. Doesn't seem to be the full article online...


Posted: March 20th, 2011 2:47 PM

If you are wondering why D97 needs so many administrators, take a look at the March 8 packet with the draft classroom visit policy. Currently if you want to participate in a classroom activity in your kid's room you coordinate with the teacher. If (when) the new policy is adopted all parents will have to get approval from the principal before volunteering etc in their child's classroom. Does this make sense?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 2:42 PM

@E. Jackson: Yes, the $38/1,000 figure is accurate, but that's NOT what it says on the ballot. Hence the confusion and all of the articles and discussion. To his credit, ElSaffar has been very consistent in his responses. (I'm not sure where the $126M figure came from either...can anyone cite a published source?)

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 1:31 PM

@Another No Vote - I absolutely agree with you on that point. Mr. ElSaffar seems to be adding to the confusion on this issue by saying he disagrees with the calculation on the ballot, but agrees with the $38 per $1000 figure. Which is it, Mr. ElSaffar? Is the $38 per $1000 figure an accurate representation of how much this referendum will cost taxpayers?

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 1:24 PM

Same article: "For the taxpayers,our concern is whether they are getting good information or bad information." ElSaffar said. "These numbers are too low. It's bad." I still think there is some question in my mind because there seems to be contradictions regarding the actual taxpayer cost of this referendum. Does ElSaffar think this referendum, if passed, will result in more taxes over and above what has been proposed - yes or no and why.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 12:56 PM

From that same Trib article. "Both Traczyk and ElSaffar agreed that another figure released by the district %u2014 that the referendum measure would increase tax bills by $38 per every $1,000 of existing property taxes paid %u2014 is both easier to calculate and an accurate representation of the potential tax increase."

Vote NO  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 12:24 PM

We've seen the housing bubble burst, it is time for the taxing bodies to realize that the tax bubble is bursting. The days of "times are good, a little increase in tax rates won't be a problem" are gone. Times are not good. We cannot assume that families can continue to pay ever higher rates. I pay a lot more in taxes than when I bought my house because its value went up. That is enough of an increase. Time for D97 to live within a budget.


Posted: March 20th, 2011 12:11 PM

@MaryEllen: Very nicely stated.

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 11:30 AM

"As many as 10 referendum ballot questions affecting school, park and fire districts in suburban Cook County don't accurately reflect how much property tax bills would increase if the measures pass in next month's election, officials say." - like the "don't accurately reflect how much property tax bills would increase" portion.. as well as the bar graph depicting the difference.

Full Moon from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 10:24 AM

@Another No Vote. you must have a different version of the Tribune than me because I dont' see anything about $126M. I see the same story that has been done about 20 times now that says the equalizer isn't on the ballot but that doesn't equal $126M.

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 9:47 AM

Great story in Sunday Trib chicagotribune.com/cktax Don't ignore the equalizer - story states it will actually cost $126 mill not $37 mill

OP Resident  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 9:33 AM

@Mary Ellen I Couldn't agree with you more. Well said and thanks for the post.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 9:16 AM

(contd) Teacher and administrator salaries certainly seem exorbitant to me but it's too late to roll them back. The challenge will be to keep them from going even higher. The Dist 97 board and bureaucrats have done a poor job of keeping costs down up to now--somebody negotiated those exorbitant salaries, they didn't just happen--and an influx of new property tax cash is unlikely to encourage frugality in the future. In fact, more money is likely to have the opposite affect.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 9:11 AM

According to my latest Zillow e-mail, Oak Park housing values dropped nearly 13 percent over the past year-Jan 2010 to Jan 11. This is a significant loss of wealth for OP homeowners, with no indication of improvements in the foreseeable future. This loss, along with Quinn's two point permanent (the temporary part is a fairytale) income tax increase and other price increases coupled with a very slow jobs recovery, make a raise in our extraordinarily high property taxes very difficult to absorb.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 5:48 PM

@KPost - Would you please direct me to where you are finding those salary numbers for teachers on step 4? Are they for just a M.A. or for added credits beyond a M.A.? Just asking for your source - not contesting your numbers.


Posted: March 19th, 2011 3:00 PM

Changing the subject back. The numbers you stated are the MINIMUM a 4 year teachers with a Masters degree could make. Since we have real numbers, lets use those. Of our 14 4th year cert staff with a Masters, 3 make your stated 51k. 4 make over 60,000 with the highest salary for a 4th yr teacher being 66k. Who can defend back to back 20% pay bumps? 15-20k per staffer annually? How many years of arts funding left through the doors because of those Salary hikes?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 2:40 PM

@Interest Parent. In truth, broke/Arc Light have a pt. One reading of the step table shows that a teacher with BA 30 maxes out at $66,000. One with a MA 30 maxes out at $92,000. True, that's not a 1-yr raise, but it is close to a 50% differential - solely because of the MA. FYI, "maxes out" is at 25 years and so approximately age 47. Here's the step table: http://www.op97.org/job/cert10-11.html

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 2:08 PM

@Broke - Way to change the subject. The topic with Arc Light was the massive increase (h/she said 50%) for getting a M.A. My response dealt with that, showing only an 8% increase. I know - still too much for you. Yes, the retiring teachers got the pay bump based on their contract language. That is dead and gone but smaller bumps remain. That will have to be taken up at the next contact negotiations.

Can't Do It  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 1:29 PM

D200 give us some money back! We should push for a tax break after 4/5. The high school, District 200 is sitting on a 80 million surplus. Something is just fundamentally wrong with a public body sitting on taxpayer dollars. Who wants to lead the charge to get D200 to repel their increase?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 12:54 PM

In my opinion the worst part of this referendum is the amount of new spending D97 wants to add to the budget. 5 million may be a "minor investment" to Peter T, but when you consider all the "minor investments" he said the district wants to make it looks like major taxdollars to me.


Posted: March 19th, 2011 11:44 AM

@Interested Parent: Please go to Familytaxpayer.org and check out actual salaries for the last 4 years. Note especially those w/20 years and the increases they get as they near retirement.

Lake Wobegon? from OP  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 10:23 AM

@Broke: Yes, welcome to Oak Park where all of the children are above average and each is a precious snowflake unique and delicate. @Sam: I'm in the same boat...and so are MANY others. Not to mention the 600 houses in foreclosure that keep driving down everyone's value and adding nothing to the tax base.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 9:16 AM

@ArcLight - I don't know where you got your numbers from, but from the teacher salary schedule on D97's website, a teacher earning a master's gets nowhere close to a 50% increase. A 3rd yr. teacher would earn $47,350 in yr. 4. With a M.A., they would earn $51,239. That's about an 8% increase. That percentage increase grows smaller the longer the teacher waits to get the M.A. 50% jump - No way! Any by the way, my son in a private business would get an increase for getting a M.S./M.A., too!

Sam from OP  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 8:59 AM

I want to move away from Oak Park to avoid paying these high taxes. Unfortunately, with the real estate market so slow I am unable to sell my house. Now I'm gonna have to pay even more in taxes. I'm between a rock and a hard place.


Posted: March 19th, 2011 7:24 AM

Attending a middle school grad a grandfather was heard to ask why so many kids had an asterick by their name. The answer was because they're on the honor roll. The grandpa asked "are kids today that much smarter?" Answered by a retired teacher "no we like to encourage the underachievers". NO to the referendum. REFORM is absolutely necessary!

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 6:16 AM

@Arc Light: Thanks, great perspective. Btw, you're lucky....my taxes have increased by over 50% in that same period of time. And, like so many others, my property value is down over 50% as well. And don't get me started on what my 401K looks like!

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 6:12 AM

@Teresa: Many here share the respect for good teachers, and agree that admin costs are a part of the problem. D97 Board and "yes on Ref" continue to repeat that consolidating districts is "difficult" and "won't save any money." A reasonable person throws his hands up in the air because it's hard to see how it COULDN'T help. But (paraphrasing) apparently the system is so broken, that consolidation won't help. For me, in part, I'm voting NO because I'm sick of feeding the broken system.

Arc Light from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2011 12:05 AM

Brevity is the soul of wit: In the last 12 years, my cumulative raises is 24%, but my property taxes is up 34% but the teachers getting a master's degree gets a 50% raise. Is this substanable in 3 or 5 or 10 years from now, if so, how???

twinsonic from Oak Park   

Posted: March 18th, 2011 11:58 PM

Teresa, you have a point: Detroit MI, will shut down close to 40 schools, causing the classrooms to swell up to 60-62 kids. But the administration exploded with close to 130-140 making over $100,000, plus the city have over 335 million dollar debt and word is out that bankruptcy is coming this summer. Or Providence RI, the city have sent all teachers, staff, and adminstrators-1927 pink slips due to financial mismanagment by the city - 140 million in the hole.....

twinsonic from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 11:50 PM

Oak Park Population 1970 - 62,000 roughly - now 51,000. the tax base is getting smaller. With Chicago losing 200,000 people, Cook County losing 225,000, you are now in a situation that almost mirrors Detroit MI back in the 1960 and 70's when taxes took off and the unions began to strangle the city........

rooted to the rock  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 6:01 PM

@Noel, in Nov/Dec when the bd. was planning on working cash bonds, a policy was proposed to make the spending of that $75M bond transparent. in the policy, it said no DSEB bonds would be sold except for emergency or state not paying bills. I misinterpreted. DSEB could have been sold. And DSEB ($3M/yr) will continue to be sold whether the referendum passes or not.

Teresa from OP from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 4:49 PM

As the child of a retired school teacher,I have a special respect for teachers. They earn every penny! I'm not as certain about bloated administrations. Why aren't we cutting admin costs? Why do we even have a separate district for the high school? One school districts are terribly inefficient (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-05/news/ct-met-1school-20110305_1_school-districts-elementary-districts-lone-school.) If we had a combined district we wouldn't be having this argument!

Recently left OP  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 4:11 PM

@Thks sharing - While our move is not an option for most folks, the costs OP faces were built up over many elections over many years. I was really surprised how little spent here on facilities compared to OP and there is nothing in the elem. system like Cast/Bravo either. Still last rankings I saw for academics were high. Strong cultural & socio-ecconomic diversity - many ESL families. Way more density - single family homes are scarce. Best wishes to everyone. Voting matters!

Thanks for Sharing  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 2:42 PM

@Recently Left OP - Thanks for sharing your story. Of course, you are not only in another city, you are in another country. Hard to compare systems and taxes! You had everyone excited here because it seemed you were living "next door" in heaven.

Recently left OP  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 1:47 PM

Moved to Canada - west coast, due to new job opportunity. We are taxed more on income, not property, but a stay at home spouse and the $ a family spends on kids sportslfittness comes off our taxes. No mortgage interest deduction. Can't deny the impact of almost a decade of US military spending on the imbalance, as well.


Posted: March 18th, 2011 1:42 PM

I think we are all curious where you are now, Recently Left OP. If there are no free lunches in your school, there's obviously no economic diversity. Please tell us where you are now that is so eco-friendly and diverse.

Where are you  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 1:33 PM

Recently left OP-where are you may I ask? We are seriously thinking about leaving because the taxes are outrageous and to be honest I am not that impressed with the schools. I would rather they focus more on the basics rather than the extras. I grew up with out the extras and I recieved a pretty good education.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 1:29 PM

The most disturbing part of Recently Left OP's comment is not, I think, the issue of property taxes, troubling though our exorbitant OP taxes may be. It's his assertion that his children had to work harder to get good grades in the new system. In so many ways, Oak Park is a community where very low expectations are not only permitted but encouraged.

Recently left OP  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 1:20 PM

cont: School dates to the 1920's, upper grades eat lunch on the gym floor, no busses, no free lunch, no Multicultural center. My solid OP A/B student now got all C's. I was shocked. The kid has to work harder now to get As/Bs. OP has beautiful facilities - the middle schools with the multiple auditoriums & comfy chairs are a luxury compared to here - but at $11,500 less a year, I guess I can handle a folding chair in the gym.

Recently left OP  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 1:18 PM

In OP our prop. taxes = $14,000. In our new eco-friendly, transit rich, multi-cultural, progressive town a higher valued property = $2,500 in taxes. Kids love school - lots of student social interaction w/ parent paid camp & ski trips. School offers French, art & music. PTO fundraising for "nice to haves" like new playground equip. No push for ipods/laptops for students. Kindergarten has a Smartboard. School funding is tight. Didn't tear down old schools and no million $ playgrounds.

Recently left OP  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 1:14 PM

Higher prop. taxes, hurts property values because the tax bill cuts into what a family can afford with a mortgage. Go to the MLS - OP listing that have senior tax freeze rates that make the taxes on a non-senior home look out of whack. Sellers advertize taxes being appealed. After 10 yrs in NW OP & 5 appraisals (foreclosure prices matter), sold for little more than our purchase price. You can try to hold out for more, but how many YEARS do you want to sit on the market?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 11:34 AM

A while ago I was at a board meeting in which there was discussion about some new spending. When the issue of the benefit to education came up a board member commented that the money they wanted to spend would come from the building fund, not the ed fund. As a member of the community it seems to me that the money in all these funds come from my taxes. Maybe we should be looking to see what is in some of those other funds.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 11:06 AM

@rooted. It seems that they took that trade off into consideration when they proposed it originally & made the full court press for its acceptance. There is no mention in their original presentation back in the fall of 2010 that they would not be able to sell the yearly bonds. Can you educate me as to why it is not possible to sell the yearly bonds if they issued working cash bonds?

rooted to the rock  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 10:16 AM

@Noel the value to the dist. to have a limited rate increase, means the dist. can still sell DSEB bonds yearly. Almost every year, $3M have been sold in bonds to add $ to the ed.fund and for bldg projects. If the dist. had stayed w/working cash bonds plan, they wouldn't have been able to sell yearly $3M bonds. W/the limiting rate increase, the dist. can still sell the $3M bonds. And the dist.plans on continuing to do this. Our taxes pay back these bonds.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 9:40 AM

So why didn't the board just cut the size of working bond amount instead of doing switching to an indefinite increase in the tax levy rate? With the working cash bond, any increase in taxes would be finite and disappears in 2018.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 9:38 AM

@North Sider Voter, I believe you meant to say that 'this prevents the Board from just raising the levy rate ABOVE THE CPI RATE, without voter approval'. The levy automatically increases every year with the rate of the CPI. It has been averaging about 2.7% over the last decade. So so the D97 taxing body does request & does get that yearly tax levy increase. In addition any new construction & TIF carveouts are added to the tax base, increasing the levy.


Posted: March 18th, 2011 9:27 AM

@OP Voter: The IL teachers pension amount is determined by the highest four years of salary. Year after year, and up until last year, D97 unblinkingly doled out 20% raises for multiple years to retiring teachers for the express purpose of gross pension inflation. Pointing out this abuse does not constitute pension bashing. Frankly if someone from D97 would even acknowledge the practice was abusive rather than defend it I'd be more inclined to consider supporting a tax increase.

North Sider Voter  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 9:03 AM

@Noel -I'm not necessarily from the Yes Camp, but the statement you asked about appears to mean that without a voted-in tax levy increase, the district would be limited to the taxes calculated under the Tax Cap Law. After a successful vote to increase the levy, the formal Tax Cap rate is replaced by the new rate specified by the referendum. This prevents Boards from just raising the levy rate without voter approval.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 8:22 AM

@Mary, here are some trends. http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Oak_Park-Illinois/ The population of Oak Park has decreased in the last 10 yrs. This will reflect in the demand for OP homes in this decade. A young family looking to move will decide between OP, Elmhurst, La Grange, Western Springs. OP is priced out of this competitive set.


Posted: March 18th, 2011 7:45 AM

Foreclosures are 33% of Oak Park sales. Foreclosures are 10% of River Forest sales. Some condos go for $ 40,000 and have $ 3,500 property tax bills. Thank you one party system. Thank you Democrats, Parks, Schools and Township. Thank you for increasing the homeless population. Teach your children well.

Leaning towards Yes  

Posted: March 18th, 2011 7:25 AM

I would like someone to answer Noel's last question. What does that statement mean?


Posted: March 18th, 2011 7:18 AM

@Mary: My experience is that home sales in other communities have started to increase while in OP tho people are interested and the houses prices are down, once they see the real estate tax bill, they look elsewhere. Do you know anyone trying to sell their house? Ask them.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 10:06 PM

Can someone from the YES side explain in everyday English what this wording means from the ballot language? 3) If the proposition is approved, the aggregate extension for 2010 will be determined by the limiting rate set forth in the proposition, rather than the otherwise applicable limiting rate calculated under the provisions of the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (commonly known as the Property Tax Cap Law).


Posted: March 17th, 2011 10:03 PM

chet, you are welcome.


Posted: March 17th, 2011 10:00 PM

http://familytaxpayers.org/salary.php. See salaries here.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 9:56 PM

@Mary- According to Zillow (probably not the best tool), property values here have dropped quite a bit in comparison to the rest of the region.

to Mary  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 9:52 PM

Property values have declined because a) they were over inflated to start with for a couple years and b) the economy tanked. Property values dropped nationally, not just in OP. We were lucky to have our good schools through all that financial crisis.

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 9:45 PM

The Yes group is saying that our property values could very well decline if this referendum fails and D97 is forced to cut arts, sports, etc. But property values have been declining while we've been enjoying all of these "extras" (art, sports, etc) that keep OP from having an "ordinary" school district. So, that argument doesn't hold any water with me. Anyone else think that logic doesn't make any sense?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 9:43 PM

@op. Thanks for the note. I honestly do take it in a positive way. In the meantime, admittedly, it may appear as if I hang out on this site 24/7, but, actually I don't. I also, surprisingly, have "a life!" Honest! This was also my last post of the night - I was performing just one more "check" before heading to bed. BTW, can't I both "job search" and "kvetch" - :-)? Thanks and peace!


Posted: March 17th, 2011 9:37 PM

chet, excuse me for not hanging on your every word. No, I didn't know what your employment status was. But judging from the number of your posts, I guess you do have a lot of time on your hands. May I suggest craigslist or monster.com? Or would you rather just hang out and kvetch here?

Concerned tax payer  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 9:27 PM

What has district 97 done structurally to make sure my taxes won't go up in two years again for the same reason. I will be voting no because the district doesn't seem to be financially Savy enough to see out a few years. Just throwing more money at the issue doesn't solve it, it just kicks the can down the road. This isn't the lesson I want to teach my children.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 8:42 PM

@op. You must have missed it, but I remarked yesterday (day before?) that I was now part of the "underemployed" ranks of OP residents/taxpayers. What's your point? Are you expressing sympathy? Will you next suggest that I get my teaching cert and apply? Gosh, only hundreds of applicants for every opening!?! I NOW know why!


Posted: March 17th, 2011 8:29 PM

Top list of D 97 sacred cows. Administrators, Cast, Bravo, 100,000 a year gym teachers, spanish immersion, Multi Cultural Center(what do they do again?) I understand that the real world is closing in on those who chose to hide from it in the public schools of Oak Park, but take your lumps like every other profession that has been gutted. Air Controllers,Comp Progammers, Steelworkers, UAW etc. Nothing last forever and now you can feel the Solidarity with the rest of us throw aways. WELCOME


Posted: March 17th, 2011 8:27 PM

chet, what do you make? you seem to spend a lot of time not working.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 8:27 PM

Pt. 2. The "pension bonuses" are STILL enormous. Read all about them in the D97 contract here (beginning on pg 38): http://www.op97.k12.il.us/hr/OPTA_Contract_2008.pdf. NOW I know why the "freeze" was actually a "sorta freeze" - and included pension bonuses. Please OP voters, know WHY D97 costs are so high and going up all the time. Read the contract. THIS is why ART/BRAVO/CAST/MUSIC is being threatened and why they never have enough money. Vote NO and reform!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 8:21 PM

PT. 1 @jmg. What is the pension "bonus" now? Isn't it 6% for 4 years? How do you account for these: Year of Notice of Intent to Retire Severance Payment 2009 $10,000 2010 $7,500 2011 $5,000 2012 $2,500 2013 $2,500. And there's more pension "bonuses" - Upon retirement from teaching, each teacher who will receive annuities from ITRS as a result of that retirement shall receive as a retirement stipend $15.00 times the number of accumulated unused earned sick leave days, to a maximum of 236 days.


Posted: March 17th, 2011 8:08 PM

2010 was the last year the staff received 15k and 20k annual raises over last 2 pre-retirement years. This resulted in a large number of retirees. Traditionally, OP and the OP Teacher Association split the cost of the retirement dinner. Last year OPTA offered OP 2k as their portion and ask we pick up the rest due to the large number of retirees. Adding, it's only for this year.

from op  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 7:59 PM

if you read that article completely, you would see that there wasn't consensus on the issue of the ombudsman position. The board was discussing this position because it was recommended in the strategic plan; it's not like they plucked it out of thin air. My personal feeling is that parents in d97 who have problems do need someone to help guide them through the process and be their advocate when needed. I think for many people having an ombudsman could help parents who are having difficulties.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 7:41 PM

@OP Voter. You are partially correct in your post. True on %'s for teachers. Not true for Soc Sec. BOTH the employer and employee pays 6.2%. The other material fact that you omitted is that, ahem, social security benefits are about 1/4-1/3 of teacher pensions and that is at age 67 (reduced ben's at age 62). Full teacher pensions begin at age 57. I am NOT criticizing "teacher pensions," but your effort to belittle them vs Soc Sec is false. How about I trade my Soc Sec for your pension?

OP Voter  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 6:42 PM

Stop bashing teacher pensions, and get your facts straight. http://www.ilretirementsecurity.org/news?id=0050 http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10003.html

OP Voter  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 6:41 PM

Here in IL teachers pay 9.5% of their income towards pension, and the district pays .54%. In contrast, the average person pays 4% of their income to social security and their employer pays 6.4% (nationwide). If IL switched to Social Security for teachers only tomorrow, it would cost IL taxpayers an additional $950,000,000 a year. Yes, almost a billion dollars. Teacher pensions save taxpayers a billion dollars in our state every year. Illinois collected the $$, but did not fund pensions with it.


Posted: March 17th, 2011 5:40 PM

According to another article, D97 is thinking about creating another postition. They just don't get it!! They are asking taxpayers for more money while crying broke and threatening program cuts but created more positions? It doesn't make sense. I am no longer undecided and will vote NO!!

Insider D 97  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 5:22 PM

Interesting that the Buildings and Grounds department was spared any cuts. They probably had to hire consultants to figure out how Jerome Malatesta(former Supervisor) stole those millions of dollars during his reign of power. Just send the payers another bill. They probably have forgotten by now. Keep voting YES and keep forgetting about bad government and how irresponsible they are with your money. I'm keeping my money in my pocket. Away from theft and waste. NO


Posted: March 17th, 2011 5:12 PM

@Curious - To be clear: the fact that D97 approved 20% pension inflation raises up until last year and only stopped when forced to because the state outlawed the practice , not because it constituted the kind of abuse that needs to end, bears on my referendum vote. As does the fact that D97 average teacher salary is still on par with or exceeds those of some Illinois' wealthiest communities. PS I'm not Steve.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 4:53 PM

@JC: Great point. I agree that this has been set up as a bit of a false dichotomy. Many would support "austerity measures" and shifting more responsibility to the parents of participants. It's clear that more funding doesn't necessarily drive better schools (and there are several proof points for that idea).


Posted: March 17th, 2011 4:49 PM

Wow! You were given some facts about your post and you turned it into a chance to take more shots at myself, the facts, and Yes voters. There were no pro or con statements made about the referendum. I just gave you the facts about your earlier statement. I sometimes feel like posters here learned well from Hannity and O'Reilly. (OK, now you know my political leanings.)


Posted: March 17th, 2011 4:31 PM

@Curious: It's interesting how D97 and supporters are always so quick to point out that 20% pension inflating "salary bumps" were perfectly legal up til last year, as if that makes it OK. It has always seemed to me an inherent abuse of the system, even if legal. I realize the pensions are a state system, but unions contract are local - and it was D97 who negotiated the bogus raises into the teachers union contracts year after year.

JC from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 4:28 PM

So the two choices are: more funding or cut? Has anyone considered (i.e., has District97 considered) other options? For example, how about austerity measures for a period coupled with shifting non-education items (e.g., clubs, art, music) etc. to the parents of kids who want to participate. Kids should get a first-rate education, no doubt, but I'd like to see some creativity rather than assuming that more money means better education - it doesn't. Parental involvement = better education.

District 97  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 4:04 PM



Posted: March 17th, 2011 3:32 PM

@Steve - Just so you know, the high paid employees you noted are now retired. Their final salaries reflected the 20% salary bumps allowed under state law up through the 2010 retirement year. Much smaller increases are allowed now. Also, Supt. Collins (and Dr. Roberts) have 260 day contracts with the same vacation days as other district admins - 20 days per year.

On the Fence--Really!  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 3:15 PM

@Steve, please stop posting if you're trying to convince me. The overpaid teacher is an ugly myth. I'm the son of a public school teacher, the bro-in-law of another. I know teacher's lives aren't how you portray them, and that actually pushes me to vote YES. Beating down teachers (who work long hours outside of school and during those supposed "summers off") is my lowest priority. (Cutting admin posts/pay and giving teachers more control over curriculum and instruction? All for it.)

Insider on D - 97 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 3:10 PM

I am amazed that someone had the courage to mention pension balloon at the great debate. As we shift the tax burden on the backs of our children with Bulging pre retirement packages. The state raises taxes and the district looks for more cash from the payers. Our free spending ways have to stop or we all need to get jobs with fat retirements and 180 work days per annum. The discussion has to be about what is fair for these public servants. Voting NO will help this discussion begin. OPRFnext


Posted: March 17th, 2011 1:24 PM

Dean: Spoken like someone who doesn't understand (or pay?) property taxes. Or are you suggesting that because D97 merely spends at the level of the area's wealthiest communities and doesn't double their spending or pay $200,000 teacher salaries (yet) that they have shown fiscal restraint?


Posted: March 17th, 2011 12:59 PM

Dean, that's fine Constance isn't there anymore. There are plenty more examples. Goto: http://familytaxpayers.org/salary.php. How about the psychologist Pamela Matusek-Lupei that makes $112,000 a year. Should i do the math on her pension as well? How about Social worker Terry Grace making $134,000. Which is really about $250,000 a year. Or english as a second language teacher Elizabeth Buckley making $122,000. You said superintendents don't work 9 months a year, so you are saying less?

Oak Parker from Birth  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 12:47 PM

Vote NO!! We need to demand fiscal responsibility from the District 97 Board. Enough of the over spending- we need line item budgeting so we know exactly how we will be spending this referendum money- at least for the first two years. The current spending guidelines for the proposed amount- 38K- is too broad.


Posted: March 17th, 2011 12:28 PM

@TILIS: You ask for "a little fiscal restraint to spend within our means." OK, how about this data for the ISBE: Total D97 expenditures went up 79% from 1999 to 2010. EAV per pupil from 1999 to 2010 went up 142%. If there had been no fiscal restraint they would be the same percentage.


Posted: March 17th, 2011 12:23 PM

@TellingItLikeItIs: Is it OK if I just call you TILIS?

oh and Steve?  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 12:23 PM

Superintendents don't work 9 months


Posted: March 17th, 2011 12:17 PM

@steve: Hate to break it to you like this, buddy, but Constance Collins is no longer the superintendent of D97.


Posted: March 17th, 2011 11:39 AM

Constance Collins District superintendent made $236,000 last year. With 3months of vacation (and we all know it is more), annualized salary is (12/9)*$236k = $314,666. If worked for 30 years, pension will be 66% of salary or $177,000. Not to mention paying basically nothing for heath insurance. Assuming 20yrs of living post retirement, taxpayers will pay $177,000*20 a minimum of $3,540,000 post retirement. Add COLA and figure is north of $4,000,000.


Posted: March 17th, 2011 11:31 AM

If teachers and teachers unions were really about the students, they would switch their pensions into 401k's. If they did this, with current funding, i believe instead of 20 or 30 to 1 student to teacher ratio, it would be more like 5 to 1. Taxes would be cut in half and values of our houses would rise by a third. Sorry, this is Illinois, i forgot, let me wake up from my dream.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 11:30 AM

@On the Fence: Everyone seems to agree that no one wants OP schools to become "ordinary"...but there are schools who are better than D97 for less funding. For me, it's about new paradigms. As Arne Duncan has been saying, the challenge is to "do more with less"...not just in Oak Park, but at all public schools. The question is how we manage taxpayer burden while delivering more. It's a conversation that the Board and district doesn't even seem to be having as long as the Ref is a possibility.


Posted: March 17th, 2011 11:25 AM

Lili Savage makes $143,000 per year(dis 97). She is a librarian. She works 8 months a year. (3months off during summer), spring break, winter break, other holidays), her annualized salary is (12/8)*143k = $214,000. Now let's look at her pension, with no cola,(which there is) assuming she lives 20years post retirement, taxpayers will have to pay her ($143k*.75)*20yrs = minimum $2.14mm. Will the quality of education really decrease if we pay her less? NO! http://familytaxpayers.org/salary.php


Posted: March 17th, 2011 10:53 AM

Fence: OP already funds the schools on par with much higher property value communities. As I've pointed out elsewhere, the RefYES site's list of comp districts for salaries has $644K in property value behind each student vs OP's $322K. D97's avg teacher salary is already higher than Wilmette, Glencoe, River Forest and 38% higher than Berwyn. In the current market, I don't see a risk of precipitous property value fall in a little fiscal restraint to spend within our means.

Not a believer  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 10:41 AM

I am sorry but I do not believe that the district will make cuts to art or music. Why? Becuase of planning time. Who are going to be with the kids during the time that they have specials? Isn't it in the contract that teachers have planning time during the school day? Why aren't the yes people demanding that the distict trim the fat in areas other than Bravo, music, library instead of just accepting these proposed changes?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 10:32 AM

@On the Fence- it would appear property values would be negatively impacted by either a) decreased quality of education, or b) increased property taxes. In this regard, both sides of the referendum issue share a common concern that is supported by legitimate claims. The problem is that education relies upon property taxes, and those who pay property taxes rely on income. There is a disconnect in the taxation system, causing a Catch-22 situation that has been exacerbated by the current recession.

On the Fence--Really! from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 10:09 AM

I still haven't heard anyone from Team NO really address the idea that, if we allow our public school systems to become ordinary (via larger class size, fewer "specials" and resources, etc), our home values will drop precipitously, meaning we'll pay a lot more in lost equity than a single-digit rise in annual RE tax. I don't want to pay more property taxes, who does? But I sure as hell don't want my home value to drop (more). I find that argument pretty compelling from a money standpoint.

paul from oak park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 10:04 AM

I have been involved with my kids in five different school districts. For many years we lived in one of the more exclusive north shore suburbs where money was no object for education. There were two grade school districts in this community. One was perfectly managed, had the best test scores in the nation and won a Presidential Citation. The other was badly managed with substantial lower test scores and dramatically different standards. Two districts, one community.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 8:55 AM

@Daniel: I can't speak for all opposed, but I think that D97 schools are quite good and I want them to stay that way. However, when I see other nearby districts (see Elmhurst, LaGrange, Western Springs) delivering better test scores for less per student cost and less burden on the local taxpayer, I ask "why can't we do that?" One answer is that we've never even tried nor set a goal to do so. That's the first step. And, yes, I fully recognize that change is never easy nor painless.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 8:35 AM

There certainly are good faith arguments to be made in opposition to the referendum. But the great canard on the NO side is that our schools are in the midst of some deep malaise - that the admin is guilty of mismanagement, that the teachers are overpaid and living off the fat of the land, and that our kids our not getting a good education. I may have missed it, but I've seen no one actually articulate what they mean by "new vision."

Voting NO  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 8:17 AM

A Reed - thanks for the getting us refocused on the issues and for stating them so clearly. Without a clear vision/plan this referrendum makes no sense. As you say, the tax hike will go on forever, even after the bond and TIF are over - which Peter T says will result in lots for $$$ for D97. Of course he also said that once the bond and TIF are done they'll probably come to us and ask for another tax hike anyhow.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 5:53 AM

(cont'd): The current YES rhetoric focuses on (1) save our schools from painful short term cuts (i.e., "pay higher taxes or we cut the arts and might fire your favorite teacher") and an unspecified, fuzzy promise of improvement ("to preserve strong schools and protect your property taxes"). But, beyond the ref (should it pass, heaven forbid) there seems to be a lack of vision for just what D97 schools should be. And hasn't that been the problem for a while now? No vision = Vote NO.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 5:45 AM

The requested tax hike has no expiration date - if passed, it goes on forever. At the same time, the D97 Board has laid out only a very short term plan (cut this, fund tech, etc.) For an open-ended increase in taxes, where is the long-term plan for what D97 schools strive to be? Will test scores go up? Not addressed. Will the arts be preserved forever? No, but not cut for now. Will the achiev. gap be closed? No mention. Will ours become the best schools in the state? Not touched on.

Citizen for Civility  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 2:25 AM

@COAP, I lied, I'm not going to be able to let it go so easily if I'm to sleep tonite. There was no cabal, just people out of their elements sincerely trying to put on a fair forum. The only thanks Ms. Diamond's gotten for her efforts are your repeated personal attacks. Was the forum perfect? Far from it. Was it intentionally stacked against you? Absolutely not. Assuming you won't give her the apology she deserves, would you at least have the decency to give the character attacks a rest.

Libbey Paul from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:05 PM

@CAOP - thanks for the smile. My Pollyanna side is going to take that nice comment and not look for any underlying sarcasm. Now shouldn't we all get some sleep?

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:02 PM

BTW, just a quick clarification, we were not inditing the entire Mann PTO as Ms. Libby states, just ONE of the Presidents. We don't mince words, we lack tact & we are brutally honest.

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:58 PM

@CFC, we demand to know who else is part of the kitchen cabal :) Let get back to merits. How many Oak Park homes are in foreclosure? http://www.trulia.com/for_sale/Oak_Park,IL/foreclosure_lt/ That is going to hurt OP and our community & higher taxes are going to hurt it even more. When you open you tax bill there will be a 3.8% increase. Yes the referendum is worded differently. That is why you hire lawyers to legally word smith what is going to be painfully obvious (after you vote).

I remember it  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:51 PM

I'm not a cohort, I don't flounce, I didn't snicker or snort derisively at answers. Not an eye roll. I'm an OP taxpayer and D97 parent. Not an OP parent, or an Interested Parent, or OP Mom. I have no group edu/union/pension agenda to further. More than once I've been asked to go to forums. Submitting your open faced question to neighbor/PTO member wasn't as anonymous as said. Many stayed for extended QA. It should have been stated time ran out rather than all ?'s were answered.

if only i knew how much my taxes would be  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:48 PM

Had you known that your property taxes would increase to their current levels, would you still have bought a house in OP? How attractive is OP to new buyers when our property taxes are this high? How many Oak Parkers will be forced to leave as a result of these increases? You know that property taxes will go up again when we are reassessed. They'll go up even more if the referendum passes. End the madness, and vote NO! $13000 per student should be enough to educate our children!

Citizen for Civility  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:41 PM

@CAOP at 10:16. Ms. Diamond was sitting at my kitchen table when your demand to videotape the meeting came in a few hours before it was to begin. Not being a law professor like Mr. Greenberg, she didn't know whether it was legal and didn't know what you intended to do with tape. In that context, you can hardly blame her for being reluctant to videotape the forum. This is last I will write on the subject, but rest assured I know the "facts" on this issue. Let's focus on the merits.

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:38 PM

BTW, Ms. Libby Paul, we at CAOP, still love you from the bottom of our heart and hope we can part take in some milk and cookies when this is all said and done.

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:37 PM

Ms. Libby, you are still a great person, regardless of the pot shots that you take. I believe you are a true testament to your PTO. Keep it up.

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:35 PM

@Jassen, did they ask for a copy? NO. Why did the PTO Prez ask to extend the opening from 5 min to 6 min BEFORE the start of the forum even after the agenda (sent hours before) stated that everyone will get 5 min? Did the video tape decision need 5 hrs of lead time? Really?

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:31 PM

@OP MOM, those 'model' numbers were the worst case scenario where the 'foretasted' short fall would be shouldered by parents with kids in D97 only. That was a scenario of many. Again, the D97 forecast is built based on assumptions. Those assumptions are subjective estimates. eg D97 has NO CLUE as to how many students will enroll next year. They just assume enrollment keeps going up & up. Pop of OP dropped in 2010. Why isn't this accounted for? So the budget short fall is a #s game.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:29 PM

@CAOP - "we requested to video tape this session specifically to avoid this type of discussion." As you well know Noel, the reason this request was denied is you asked for it hours before the meeting and requested to record it yourself leaving no other parties a chance to have their own copies. At the other forums, the hosts where able to make recording that are available to both sides.

Libbey Paul from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:19 PM

I hardly think that the fact that we videotaped the two most recent referendum forums is proof that the Mann PTO acted in any way inappropriately. Check your logic.

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:17 PM

@Anne, Value add is not a subjective measure. Anyone can look around & see good teachers. How can a system full of good teachers move kids from grade to grade knowing that some of those kids are not where they are supposed to be. How can a school system of good teachers consistently produce kids who are not white or Asian, who score below their white & asian peers? How can a school system of good teachers produce test scores where one school exceeds the dist avg above all other schools?

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:12 PM

@ Citizen for Civility, we requested to video tape this session specifically to avoid this type of discussion. Guess what, Ms. Diamond denied us this request and failed to provide us with any rule that disallows video taping. The Hatch meeting coordinator Sanford Greenberg, a law prof at Kent, did allow video taping. The SEOCOP meeting was also video taped. Get the picture? Please if you are really for civility then please get your facts straight before you take the high road.

Citizen for Civility  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 9:16 PM

@CAOP at 1:42 pm, your claim that Ms. Diamond biased the Mann Forum by picking questions that favored the YES side is both baseless and offensive. She's a conscientious person who tried hard to be fair; the fact that a few of your cohort's questions apparently weren't asked doesn't prove otherwise. If people seem hostile to you, the ease with which you accuse others of dishonesty might have more to do with it than your position on the referendum. Let's all agree to stop the personal attacks.

epic lulz  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 8:39 PM

People are really hurting out here. Now is not the time to ask people with empty pockets to pay even more, especially when there is an untapped slush fund the Village Board is sitting upon. If D97 needs funds, tap the TIF. Come back to the voters for a tax increase AFTER the econ rebounds.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 8:31 PM

OPRF no, the high school is separate from the elementary schools. And they ran 2 referendums, almost back to back, a few years ago. Which is why D97 didn't ask for a referendum in 07, when they originally wanted to. That's why the high school has a surplus, and elementary schools are broke.

Arc Light from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 7:57 PM

I have three issues: Politicians and Unions (1 & 2) Both of them have a unholy alliance with each other and the taxpayers (who should be the boss!!) get the shaft. Unions elect politicians who are in favor of more benefits, while the politicians once elected, grants them their wishes. Then the Administrators.(3) The last 4 to 5 years, they load up on their salary, (10 to 50%) gets 90% of the pension, district carries for 2 yrs, then the state picks them up and TAXPAYERS pay for it.

William Moy from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 7:45 PM

To the Oak Park mom voting yes, the tax base is shrinking aready. Close to 600 foreclosures already in Oak Park since 2008 and I have two houses here in 1000 block of South Elmwood that are in foreclosure. The house across my street, the bank is asking $184,000-no takers. It is going to auction and I am willing to bet that it will get lot less than asking price. Care to wager?

OPRF no from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 6:53 PM

Why doesn't anyone question why OPRF pays salaries approximately 30% higher than Dist 97 (for the same education level and experience) and they somehow have a budget surplus?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 6:30 PM

Yes, let's keep in mind what comes next. Peter T said that even if the referrendum passes there will be more cuts. Why - because they want to keep adding new spending. How about an overall plan to get us to 2018 (Peter T says end of bond and TIF will mean lots of additional $$$ for D97 in 2018.) If the referrendum made sense I would vote for it but all I see now is an money grab with no real planning or management.

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 6:22 PM

@chet. Fair enough. I also think it's fair to differ on what to do with the current (US/state/local) $ crisis. I'm not one who holds a "no" vote against my neighbors - at all (I don't know anyone who is) That's why we vote! But I would ask all of you to honestly think about what comes next. Hold your reform leaders to high standards, too.

No Really I am a different person from Noel's Computer  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 5:29 PM

Noel, it looks like you learned a thing or two from the Les Golden playbook of posting online at OakPark.com...Does your keyboard smell like smoke?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 5:16 PM

From what I read in the national newspapers, school districts around the nation are working to improve educational outcomes, restructure teacher evaluation and move away from tenure, while managing expenses in tough economic times. Oak Park seems to be among the very few who still believe that all will be well if we just raise taxes. And yes our D97 BOE works tirelessly - to spend spend spend. Its time to stop spending and start listening to all members of the public.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 5:05 PM

@OP Mom. I can't deny that your questions are valid, but can you accept that most people typically don't give a hoot about ANY bd in this town and that you can apply your logic to infinity and back as a criticism to people NOW becoming involved....in anything? I see the glass as "half-full" and am ecstatic that so many OP residents are NOW caring and are engaged. Yes, some will fall off, but some will not. Isn't this just human nature? I said that I'd knock on Jassen's door if the ref failed.

Oak Park mom voting yes  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:53 PM

@chet21. OK, one person's thoughtful ideas is another person's wild swings, years after the rest of us have been thinking about this referendum. Again I ask: Where is this energy at time for board elections (unopposed!) To be frank, half the reason for my voting yes is that I'm terrified of these No leaders decimating our tax base, destroying trust in our elected officials, and wandering off when they get bored with us. The board has earned my trust w/their (apparently thankless?) work.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:48 PM

@DougS. I am also underemployed. My wife is working extra hours for, as she puts it, "job security." I have one child in college and another who is a jr at OPRF. I was one of the first to post on this site about the ref BECAUSE of the pain that I KNOW many (residents and businesses) in OP are experiencing - while D97 proposes business as usual with 5% annual spending increases. I wonder if they are divorced from reality? Do the YES people not see this? Seen the fin'l markets recently?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:41 PM

@OP mom. I very much recall those posts, too. I took them to mean that he was "thinking outside the box" and sharing his thoughts. I liked what he was doing - D97 (and ed) needs this sort of "free flowing thoughts" in order to break down some of the walls. Since then, CA has spent more of his writings (and PTO meetings!) on the ref and doing an exemplary job of providing info to the OP community. As I praise Jassen, I praise Noel - thanks!!!

Doug S from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:39 PM

Anyone can do the math on any property in OP. cookcountyassessor.com provides the necessary info. However, there are 3 equations you need to choose from 1)the ballot, 2)D97 mantra, 3)Oak Parks own assessor. I live in the Historic District, pay over 20k tax, am under-employed, wife unemployed for 12 months and have a child off to college next year (after 2 years of decimated savings) and one in D97. Money does matter, and I vote NO.

Oak Park mom voting Yes  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:33 PM

@CA. Here I go again?? What, asking you about your own words? On March 5 (7:41 pm) you wrote "in our model those fees would be jacked up some where between $5k-$10K." In several posts on the same day you propose getting rid of all principal positions. You also talk about running a recall campaign. The posts are right there for anyone to view: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/03-01-2011/Logic,_data_lead_to_'no'_vote_on_D97_referendum If you want to lead, be clear where you're going.

now anon  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:33 PM

Yes, D97 has many good/great teachers. However, my experience when my kid got one of the clearly not good teachers, was that other parents just nodded their heads, shrugged their sholders, and urged me to wait until next year and hope for a better teacher - as they had done. I think the worst insult we can do to the good teachers is to keep the bad teachers on at the same pay etc without the admin doing anything to try to get the bad teachers to improve.

Been Burned Before from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:29 PM

@Unbelieveable: My experience is much like Just Say No's. I agree that we should be able to disagree and still be respectful. Guess not. My experience with OP parents in district 97 was so negative that I put my kids in private school and we're all much happier now. I see from these posts that nothing has changed. I'm voting no, btw, because if private school can give my kids a great education for under $5K, public school should be able to do it for under $14K.

Robert T  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:21 PM

Since people have chosen to discuss the "impact" of this possible tax increase for Ms. Song and Mr. Traczyk, perhaps we should inquire about the "impact" on Mr. Kuriakos and his home in the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District.

Anne B. from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:18 PM

Per D97's annual report card, 75% of 396 teachers have at least a master's, average 12.7 years of teaching and a $72,208 salary. Teachers pay out-of-pocket $5,000/year for family PPO health insurance. They gave up a raise next year in a good faith move - yet the anti's assert it's not enough. But most parents know (in my case, at Longfellow) that these teachers are dedicated professionals who work hard for Oak Park's children. I'm grateful, and they've earned my respect.

Anne from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:17 PM

Citizens Alliance, where in the world do you get your figures of 20% great teachers, etc? Did you make these figures up? If not, what is their source? As you repeatedly told us to consider "value added" from teachers last night, I looked around the room that contained so many of the valuable teachers my daughter has had at Irving and thought how much value they have added to her education. At Irving, I would say we are closer to 95% excellent teachers, many of whom were in the room.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:16 PM

So does that mean Mr. ElSaffar is going back on his own public confirmation that the $38 per $1000 the district has been communicating is accurate and represents the true impact of this referendum on taxpayers?

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:13 PM

Why is the Superintendent special? His contract states that 'The Board shall provide and pay all premiums for full family hospitalization, major medical ins, and dental coverage for the Superintendent, in accordance with the basic insurance coverage provided to certificated members of the professional staff.' He also gets an allowance of $600 per mo for the use of HIS personal automobile.

now anon  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:12 PM

Unfortunately there are indeed parents and teachers in Oak Park who will retaliate against children for the action/opinions of their parents. I am among those who used to think this would not happen. Then I and my children had some first hand experiences. Thanks to the Journal for providing a forum where we can discuss opinions and information without risking harm to our children.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:04 PM

Just Say No, I am sorry that you feel that way. I am an involved yes vote parent, and I have met parents who are voting no. I would never dream of treating any different than before this conversation began. April 6th we will still be neighbors, our kids will go to the same school, and we should still be respectful towards one another.

Inquiring Mind In OP  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 4:02 PM

After last night's forum at Irving, it's clear that my RE taxes are going up 3.8%. I confirmed this the the township assessor. I also found out that Ms. Song has a historic property tax freeze on here FLW home - the tax increase will not hit her as hard as a 4 square on South Euclid Ave. In fact the property tax paid per square is higher in south Oak Park than north Oak Park. I see that Peter Traczyk's RE taxes are $20K on his $1M home and this increase won't put a dent in his wallet.

NO Voter from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 3:42 PM

I agree that the teachers ought to sacrifice like the rest of us. We're retired, have had no COLAs in two years, our health insurance premiums have risen, our tax assessments are already higher than most other community's. If we have to struggle and give up things "for the good of the country", so should the teachers. It won't kill them to not get an increase, or even take a 1% cut. If we can do it on retirement income, so can they. And no way do they pay $10000 for health insurance.

Just Say No  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 3:40 PM

There is NO way I am letting other parents know how I am voting. Are you kidding me? I would be ostracized and God only knows if my kids would be retaliated against. I will smile and clap at the forums when I am supposed to and wear the button, but will vote NO. Unfortnately, having a mind of your own and being cautious and critical about the ref means you are morally bankrupt and do not care about the children.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 3:37 PM

@Libbey I like facts & I stated it. I believe you were there @ the Mann meeting. If you find what I said about the cherry picking & the purposeful selection of a question attacking my credibility untrue, then please be direct and say so. I spoke as a private citizen not as a PTO member. You certainly are entitled to your well formed opinion but when you make comments like below then it is a reflection of the YES side & also is an example of the 'poisoning' that was discussed below.

Another Perspective from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 3:34 PM

My experience at the two forums I attended was that they were pretty much pep rallies or marketing presentations for the referendum. Little actual data was shared and most attendees wore a "Yes" button. Few difficult questions were asked and they were mostly dodged without providing real info. The neighbor I came with remarked as we walked out, "well, I guess I'll have to look up the info myself if I want to make an informed decision." I agreed completely.

Libbey Paul from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 3:25 PM

@Noel - I admire your courage for leading the no charge, but frankly find your maligning of any PTO leaders to be way out of line. Standing up for what you believe in is great, attacking others is not. Please try to stick to the facts, or risk losing any credibility you may have left.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 3:22 PM

At the Mann forum I put in a question regarding the 4 middle school elective teachers that were being laid off. My question was what was going to be done with the students? At the end of the forum the PTO president said that "all" questions had been asked. But my question had NOT been asked. I do not know how many other people this happened to. My experience makes me think it certainly is possible that mine wasn't the only question that got "lost".


Posted: March 16th, 2011 3:19 PM

Jon--$10,000 a year? You have seriously swallowed some propaganda if you believe they pay anything remotely near that.

Voting Yes from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 3:13 PM

@ Jassen & @ Peters, I'm not sure what proof you have that that Mann forum involved "cherry picking" of questions? Leave your comments to the facts and details of this very important referendum so that we can all make an informed decision on April 5. In the future, please refrain from lodging unfounded accusations.

Alanna Sullivan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 3:03 PM

My comment is this: when did it become okay to skewer people by name in public just because you disagree with them? Sharing and supporting opinions is one thing. Ridiculing others is just not okay, Noel!

Please Vote No!  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:49 PM

Noel, Thank you for your courage to stand up to another ridiculous real estate tax increase. Like you, I have been laid off from my private sector job as I watch my property in Oak Park decline in value at the same time as taxes just keep on increasing. The defenders of this increase keep using the same false premise: either good education or never ending tax increases. Have they watched "Waiting for Superman" which to me just confirmed the obvious? Public union employees have to start suffering the full economic realities like the rest of us. Otherwise we need education free choice to leave this overpriced and underperforming public school system in favor of private and parochial school initiatives . We need more Marva Collins' and less tenure!

The fact is from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:49 PM

D97 pays 100% of single HMO coverage or 60% of family HMO coverage. If an employee elects PPO coverage (which costs more than HMO coverage), the employee makes up the difference. PPO coverage for a D97 teacher and spouse costs the employee approx. $5,000 a year in premiums. The only coverage that is fully paid by the district is single HMO coverage.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:47 PM

Noel, the Mann forum was the first forum where the No and Yes sides were presented. I am sure Mann's PTO people did all that could that night to ensure a balanced discussion. They were not completely prepared for how the night would. But you did not have to put their name out to everyone. That shows a complete lack of decency and decorum. We CAN disagree without being disagreeable. But again thanks for showing up. Yes parents are getting more galvanized every time you speak. Thanks for push!


Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:46 PM

Today's Trib has an good article on the benefits of multi-age classes (including a quote from Whittier principal Carol Young). According to this article many districts are looking at these classes to save money - and they are finding they provide good education as well. My son was in a multi-age class for 2 years and had a great experience. This is one way to manage costs while providing quality education. The article states some parents are resistant but the data shows good ed results.

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:45 PM

@EJ, Per the NIU IIRC, Elmurst SD205 Avg Admin sal was $117,609 vs D97 $126,347. EAV per pupil for Elmhurst is $323,458 vs D97 $322,863. OP Exp Per pupil, Elmhurst $11,679 vs D97 $13,348

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:44 PM

10k health care number incorrect. We've discussed healthcare. Many ask why D97 employees don't pay a portion of their own healthcare costs. Perhaps 4000k annually like you suggest OP Parent would be a good start. Believe me, the healthcare question wouldn't be allowed to die in thread after thread if "Oak Park public teachers" paid 10k a year in healthcare". That notion would have been disabused months ago.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:39 PM

I think it is worth noting that the agreement that provided a salary "freeze" also extended the current contract by a year. I think that means what really happened is the raise got deferred. The current contract assures an annual raise of at least 4-6%. In today's climate that is a lot and I suspect the OPTA is aware that the next contract may not be as generous. Also if the state lowers the max on retirement bumps the OPTA will still get the old bump until the contract expires.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:34 PM

CAOP, here: http://www.op97.k12.il.us/hr/OPTA_Contract_2008.pdf. E.J. Does D97 have MORE administrators than Elmhurst or La Grange? Also, with teachers, where are they at on step-table? Isn't Elmhurst consolidated? I don't think that La Grange is. Better number is what we pay per student. Where does OP compare to those districts in that category? That's what really matters - I'm guessing that they don't have Multi-Cult dept and other fluff that we do.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:31 PM

The OPTA contract, memo of understanding, and other information regarding pay, benefits, etc can be found on the following page http://www.op97.org/hr/index.html

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:31 PM

Actually, I found the information about the non-certified staff in the Personnel and Student Data Report that is posted on the district's Web site - https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=30778637. Specific information about this group of employees can be found on pages one, five and seven of the document.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:29 PM

@Oak Park Parent. Actually, I don't think that the example of the OP teacher paying $10K per year is correct. It is either an exaggeration or includes other items such as the monthly Flexible Spending Account, etc. contributions.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park   

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:25 PM

Despite its reputation for openness and diversity, Oak Park has repeatedly demonstrated great intolerance for political views which do not lean left. Thus it is not surprising that those who oppose this referendum for a substantive tax increase are being depicted as right wing crazies, anti-education, and so on. If you reside in Oak Park you either subscribe to these views or you ignore the rhetoric. Given that this is OP, though, it is surprising that so many pro-ref commenters are anon.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:24 PM

Didn't Ms. Song say last night that the average administrative salaries for District 97 are more than $10,000 lower than peer districts? And if you want to cite the two examples you've mentioned several times in forums, CAOP, the average admin salary in LaGrange is $132,944, while it is $126,347 in D97 and the average teacher salary in Elmhurst is more than what D97 teachers receive. All information taken from the 2010 state report card.

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:23 PM

@OP Parent, can you post the exact wording of the collective bargaining agreement that states how much the teachers are paying and how much D97 is paying? I love to debate based on facts vs conjecture. Also keep in mind that we have not seen a TOTAL comp number including a 12 mo normalized work year (or 260 day year).

George Hay from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:20 PM

Kudos for a fair discussion of the pros and the cons. I particularly want to acknowledge the courage it took to voice an evidence based NO position. The rhetoric often pushes us to demonize the other side of the argument. I am pro-teacher, pro-education, pro-Oak Park AND I am voting NO this year. I want to see all of the expenses that my taxes pay get considered as we prioritize services by our values. I want our village leaders to come up with more affordable options. I'll vote YES to those.

CAOP - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:20 PM

@EJ, you have identified some of the 300 non admin emps. But what about the rest? Who do they affect direct instruction and the learning outcomes of our children? Perhaps you can ask the district for this information and enlighten us. We certainly have requested this. Look at the enrollment # and the total ops exp per pupil. It keeps going up even when the enrollment dropped in the early part of the last decade. Why are the musical & the visual arts expendable? Where is the explanation?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:16 PM

The "yes" folks may not have actually said the "No" folks are anit-education, but the constant refrain of "we need quality schools so vote yes" certainly suggests that anyone against the referrendum is against quality schools. I would agree that it's the admin and BOE, not the individual teachers, who are to blame for the current very generous contract & also for being so willing to make sure that teachers who are not doing a good job get the same pay, benefits, security as the good teachers

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:14 PM

@OP Mom, there you go again, we did not say $5k but $/kid to fund the programs that were on the chopping block such as the movement arts. Keep in mind that that structural deficit is a forecast based on some assumptions made by an outside consulting co. If you change the assumptions, the deficit is much lower and manageable. At the debates we showed how D97 did not control expenses by caving into the teachers' CB unit & higher admin sals etc.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:13 PM

Because you are the one saying there is fat in the budget, not the district. And, based on your response, it sounds like, beyond administrative salaries and health care costs, you really haven't identified what that fat is and can't without doing the zero-based budget. As for the non-certified staff, aren't they the ones who maintain the buildings, work in the front office at the schools, serve lunch, etc. How would you propose these things get done if you cut these positions?

Oak Park Parent voting yes  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:13 PM

@CA. Beats me on why my employer doesn't negotiate better. But even your own source says that the national average for employee-portion paid is about $4000. So OP teachers are paying twice the national average. And those are national numbers. Are local prices just higher? Not my field but on the face the numbers don't seem terribly out of line.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:05 PM

@ E Jackson. By looking at the admin sal inc over the last 10 yrs, we stated that admin salaries should be cut by 15%. That is about $500k based on 2010 sal#s. If you want to eliminate positions then you need to do the zero budget exercise. Also there were about 300 admin non-certified emps as of 2010. A ZBD will show which of these positions s/b phased out. Again the district can have admin employees pay more of their health ins premiums. Again, why aren't you asking the admin these ?s.

Oak Park mom voting Yes  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 2:02 PM

@ Noel (aka Citizens Alliance) What happened to your idea - detailed in comments on this site - of charging $5000 to $10000 in fees per year for each student? Why aren't you discussing that in these open forums? I suspect it's because you understand that given current contracts, pensions, and legal restraints, D97 cannot bridge the gap with cuts alone. Comments?

Irving School parent  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 1:56 PM

I attended the meeting last night and just want to thank SEOPCO and the other organizers as well as the panel presenters for a very interesting discussion. Ms. Song and Mr. Traczyk were particularly impressive in their knowledge and dedication. I feel very pleased as a voter and community member to be represented by thoughtful, experienced leaders like Mr. Traczyk and the other board members. I think they have been honest and realistic in forging this path forward.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 1:52 PM

CAOP, you continue to state over and over again that there is a ton of fat in the D97 budget, which would lead one to believe that you can cite with some specificity what that fat is beyond salaries and health care costs. Yet, you're making it sound like the only way to identify the fat in the budget and determine what to cut is by using a zero-based budget method. Which is it? Either there is fat and you can tell us exactly what it is or you can't ID it without doing the zero based budgeting.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 1:47 PM

Based on the paltry number of posts appearing under actual, verifiable names, it clearly takes rare courage to assume a prominent role on such an emotionally charged issue. I salute Mr. Kuriakos. Not sure if he represents a silent majority. Or minority. But I'm pretty sure why they're silent (and why Peter R. heard "zero vocal support"). Who wants to be called anti-kids, anti-teachers, anti-arts, anti-property values, etc.? And I've read all those labels on various comment forums.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 1:42 PM

@Jassen & @ Peter. We are all for an open discussion. The Mann PTO Pres, Ms. Diamond, cherry picked questions and left out questions from the NO side. She purposely picked a questions that questioned my credentials to state what cuts should be made. Some of the PTOs NEVER solicited the NO side for their fairs even though they were advised to be impartial and unbiased. The YES side used the Julian list serve to solicit volunteers in direct violation of the rule to stay impartial.

Jack Chalabian  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 1:41 PM

**Part two** For once OAK PARK (WJ JOURNAL VIEWERS), can't we all agree that no matter how you feel or believe in this referendum, we CAN debate on issues without having to "kill" each other on a "battlefield!!" I leave this audience with this.....VOTE ON APRIL 5TH and tell your neighbors to get out and vote too!!! The voters will decide whether or not we fund this initiative.

Jack Chalabian  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 1:40 PM

Yesterday's forum was very informative. I think both sides of the argument fielded really good points and articulated their points as best as they could. All three individuals on the panel did a great job!!! Those who are in the middle of this fight, got the most out of this forum and we should feel good about that.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 1:37 PM

@ E Jackson, we have repeatedly stated the Admin needs to create a zero based budget. That exercise will show the cost of Direct instruction and indirect instruction. ONLY after such an exercise can the admin & the board credibly discuss what to cut. There HAS been ZERO explanation as to why the Admin & the Board have decided to cut the musical and visual arts. Nobody wants these cuts, yet it is on the table. Almost everyone wants admin salary cuts but that is not on the table.

Peter R.  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 1:05 PM

@CAOP Voting No - It seems you are using these accusations to try to silence supportiers, much as you claim you have been silenced. I have neither witnessed, read, nor heard anything like what you describe. Please show me emotional rhetoric either from D97 or the 'Yes' camp that "poisons" and demonizes those who disagree. Despite my fundamental disagreements with much of what Noel said Monday night the audience was respectful. Rest assured also, YES will also be at the polls April 5th.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:53 PM

@Citizens Alliance "The YES side, with the help of the PTOs have poisoned the discussion by labeling the those who want to vote NO as anti education." For the record Noel, I don't think, nor have I ever said, you are anti-education (can't say for the rest of the NO vote as I don't know anyone else). Nor have I heard anyone else say it. If they did, I would argue they have misjudged you. I disagree with you on a number of things but I don't believe you views come from being anti education.

Another voter from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:51 PM

D97 teachers only ones to accept a pay raise equal to the median (50%) of area salaries. This NY Times article discusses the broader issue of public views of teachers: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/education/16teachers.html?ref=us

Enough teacher-blaming!  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:48 PM

@Citizen's Alliance: Um, you don't see anyone perpetuating the greedy teacher myth on this board? Are you reading other people's posts? @A .Parent: If you think public school teachers work 7-hour days you clearly have never known a public school teacher. That's exactly the myth I'm talking about. @all you "NO's"--will someone explain to me why a drop in my property values is a better deal than a tax increase? We need better funding AND admin pay cuts AND more accountability IMHO.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:39 PM

First, I am pretty sure they've been talking about these cuts in open session during board meetings for almost a year. Second, other than cuts to administrative salaries and asking employees to pay more for health insurance, what other cuts are you suggesting (i.e., the cuts the "community wants")? And, if the administration is so incompetent and mismanaged everything so badly, why would you trust them to the make the right decisions if the referendum fails?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:31 PM

@ E Jackson. If one wants to pursue intellectual gain by earning higher ed degrees, they are free to do so. As the research suggests, if it does not increase the teaching effectiveness of our kids then we are WASTING valuable scarce resources. I know PhDs who make less than some of these tenured teachers. They didn't get their degrees for $$ and are happy at what they do. We need passionate, effective teachers not tenured, over educated ones. Especially in these dire economic times.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:28 PM

@ E Jackson. You should ask the Board, the YES side and the Sup, as to why and how they came up with the list of cuts. We are not privy to this information, even though we have repeatedly asked for details (to no avail). Isn't this part of what the admin & the board is supposed to do? The referendum is a vote on the D97 budget. The 'professionals' at D97 need to make the hard choices that reflect what the community wants. Where is the Zero Based budget that will allow us to prioritize?

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:25 PM

But isn't one the primary reasons why people seek these types of degrees, other than getting additional training and education in their specific field, to advance their careers and earn more money? I guess I would pose that to the people on here who say they earned a master's or PhD. Didn't at least some of you do that with an eye toward making more money? Not saying it is a bad thing...just curious.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:24 PM

@Peter R. You are entitled to your opinion. The YES side, with the help of the PTOs have poisoned the discussion by labeling the those who want to vote NO as anti education. Given this environment, it is no wonder that my neighbors and community members are reserved about coming out publicly but WILL exercise they right to vote on April 5th, by voting NO. You and other can help diffuse this situation, by encouraging open discussion of the FACTS without getting emotional.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:21 PM

So we would still get rid of middle school electives, middle school extra-curricular activities, secretaries, librarians and special education teacher assistants?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:19 PM

@Jackson, I applaud you for asking the right questions. Here is a primer on the MS degree issue. http://education.washington.edu/news/fac_spotlight/wasley_roza_edweek_12022009.html [the near-universal practice of compensating teachers for earning a master's degree should be phased out. It cited research demonstrating that "on average, master's degrees in education bear no relation to student achievement."]

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:18 PM

Based on the negative reaction River Forest had to consolidation, doesn't seem likely their voters would support it. I would be interested in hearing perspective from D200 parents on this issue.

Peter R.  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:18 PM

Noel Kuriakos may believe he speaks for a silent majority - and I surely hope he does not - but it also appears to be an absent one. At Hatch Monday night, given multiple opportunities, I heard zero vocal support for his own rhetoric.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:16 PM

@ E Jackson, we would keep the current set of cuts and fund musical & visual arts ONLY through admin sal cuts & making emps pay more of their medical ins prem. Why isn't the district offering the #s to these alternative scenarios? They should be doing this? Where is an independent assessment of the validity of the alternatives? Why isn't the YES asking these types of questions instead of acting like deer in the head lights & poisoning the discussion with gloom & doom rhetoric?

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:15 PM

OK, so what is the argument on the importance of master's degrees? Last night, Mr. Kuriakos said that having a master's degree doesn't make teachers better except in the areas of math and science. However, I have heard several people on the no side talk about their advanced degrees and low pay. Are advanced degrees important? Should having them impact one's salary?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:12 PM

Why is the YES side fixated on a tax increase when they could plow their creative energies to come up with creative solutions to our current D97 financial mess. They should be crunching the numbers to determine what a unified school district would look like. Collaboration & coordination among elem, middle & HS will go a long way toward creating efficiencies & educating our children more effectively. We need 21st cntry mindset to solve these issues. The YES side is content with 20th cntry ids

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:09 PM

So, if every administrator takes a 15 percent pay cut, the total savings are around $570,000 to $585,000. Where is the other $4 million coming from to save the rest of the programs on the cut list?

A .Parent Voting No  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:08 PM

Reality check: District 97 teachers have a sweet deal. Salaries of $50,000 to $100,000 for 7 hour work day, 10 months of work which includes 3 weeks of vacation plus generous personal days. I was a state employee with a Masters degree earning only $39,000 after eight years. (Vacation benefit of 6 weeks per year was my incentive). My spouse has a PhD., has 20 years with his company, no job security, earns $70,000 with three weeks vacation tops. He's clearly unerpaid, but it's the insurance bus.

Tom from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:08 PM

We all need to go back to the basics on this issue. Our kids need good educations to be able to compete for the few good jobs that are still out there. We want the very best teachers, which means they need to be well compensated. Good schools will help property values in the long run. Cuts need to be elsewhere, and of course, we need accountability from the financial analysis.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:08 PM

@KW, it not illegal to fund programs that benefits D200. D200 funds a OP Township substance abuse awareness program because it affects D200 students. D200 can make the case that it is in the interest of D200 to have its feeder schools (they clearly have to offer something to D90, since they provide about 25% of the D200 students)graduate 'educated' students so that D200 will have to spend $$ later and would be more efficient to address this earlier at the elem & middle schools.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:05 PM

I would think that D200 could help fund afterschool activities for middle school students if it wanted to. Right now D97 gives funding to early childhood activites that it does not provide so there must be some means by which a public district can fund some sorts of activites outside of its own services.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting No  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:02 PM

@leaning. You have a good point. Our argument is that let D97 make the following actions (credible cuts in admin sal by 15%, benefit freeze - allow emps to pay more of their health ins premiums, zero based budgeting, metrics & measures for better mgmt etc) to show good faith. D200 can then provide SOME funding for musical & visual arts for 2-3 yrs until D97 balances are built up & these programs become self funding. It is in the interest of D97 to have well educated kids when the enter HS.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:02 PM

At the forum at Mann a question was "are the cuts cast in stone" Peter T answered "No" and explained that to get the teachers to agree to a 1 yr pay freeze, D97 agreed that money saved would go to teacher salaries and, as a result, some teachers would certainly be hired back. Sounds reasonable but I don't think this was part of the written MOA so I wonder what else they agreed to that is not in writing. The MOA does extend the contract-with its minimum of 4-6% annual raises-by 1 yr.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:01 PM

Not even an issue about D97 keeping its hands off the D200 surplus. The actual process of one public school district loaning and/or transferring money to another public school district is illegal.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:58 AM

@ enough. Why aren't the parents on the YES side voicing concern about the cuts. Why haven't the DEMANDED from the board & Sup, a different set of cuts like we proposed. For example, keep music and arts & fund it through admin salary CUTS. Lets start with 15% across the board cuts. The current sup made $150K in his last job but is making about $200K now. Why can't we just reduce his sal to $155K? These cuts are scarce tactics. The sup is an old hand at referendums & knows how to work it.

Leaning toward No from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:56 AM

I agree with everything the No people have said - except for one thing: Hands off District 200's money!!! Why should the high school have to contribute toward fiscal mismanagement at District 97? Bad idea, opposition - keep the focus on making District 97 responsible!

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:54 AM

@enough. Nobody is saying the teachers are greedy. Their Collective Bargaining unit has done a masterful job of extracting benefits for the teachers. About 20% of D97 are GREAT teachers and they deserve EVERY penny. There are about 20% whose value add is mismatched to their current total compensation. The remaining 40% provide value but their pay needs to reflect the market rate.

Enough with the mythical "Greedy Teacher" from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:48 AM

Anyone who knows a public school teacher knows that they are rarely paid anywhere near what they contribute to society. No one seems to be thinking about the impact that weaker schools will have on our property values. I can afford a tax increase a lot more easily than I can afford to get upside-down on my mortgage. The proposed cuts will make our schools a lot more ordinary, and that will make our home values a lot lower. But hey, at least taxes will drop. Will you NO's be happy then?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:46 AM

Here is the link for the Kaiser info http://ehbs.kff.org/?page=charts&id=1&sn=6&p=1

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:45 AM

@ OP Parent Voting Yes. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 'The average annual premiums in 2010 are $5,049 for single coverage and $13,770 for family coverage. Compared to 2009, the average premiums are about 5% and 3% higher for single and family coverage, respectively.' Your employer must be awfully generous, don't care about cost control, or has a emp population that very unhealthy. Can you provide us more details about your medical care plan?

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:42 AM

@ Leaning towards no, Remember that the Board's MODEL (filled with assumptions) is forecasting a severe drop in fund balance. If they cut back on expenses & keep them below the 2.7% CPI increase in tax levies that they automatically get, then their fund balance will not dwindle. D97 needs professional mgmt to make hard decision as to how to control costs. The board's caving in to the teacher's CB unit is one MAJOR cause in the run away exp. The make no mention of admin sal CUTS either.

Oak Park parent voting yes  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:41 AM

@Chet21: Where have you been? Do you have any clue what health insurance costs these days? My employer pays just about $25,000 per year for my premiums (and I pay another $3500 or so per year - premiums only, lots more in co-pays) and the idea that my insurance is gold-plated is laughable (high deductibles, limited prescription coverage, dental of $1000/year and no vision coverage.) And I work for a large corp. Health insurance is insanely expensive, period.

Leaning towards no  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:30 AM

Mary Ellen-Peter T. did mention last night the the funds saved from freeze will be used to save jobs next year. This doesn't make sense to me. Can someone explain this is more detail? So basically, the district does not have enough money to pay salaries. The bd's negotiating skills are questionable. Look at where the country is going. I don't understand why Oak Park isn't following the trend of doing more with less. WE CAN"T AFFORD HIGHER TAXES.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:29 AM

@Jon. $10K per year? Per the contract, D97 pays 60% of HMO family coverage. That would translate to an annual premium of $25K - which is as "gold plated" as it comes. Also, single coverage for D97 teachers is FREE. You must have chosen a $0 ded, $0 co-pay, top of the line plan. You might want to reconsider your plan choices and save a lot of money. Yes, honestly, I am a licensed ins agent!

Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:21 AM

Song's concern for low income kids to have access to arts and after-school activities would be more credible if she had a track record of advocating for them in non-ref days. ISBE reports that approx. 20-35% of low income kids in D97 fall below state standards - compared to usually 5-6% non-LI D97 kids (depeding on which grade/subject is looked at). Song has, however, advocated for more services for gifted students - as evidenced by her leadership of Page97, the gifted parents group.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:07 AM

I did notice that Dist 97 reps seem to be walking back the doomsday talk a bit. What exactly are they going to do with the extra monies from the (very modest) salary giveback. One possibility, if the referendum passes, is that they could give some or all of it back to the employees via even bigger raises next contract. When teachers' unions and local politicians are maneuvering in the wings,things are never as they seem on the surface. And we taxpayers tend to end up as the victims.

Parent voting No  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 11:02 AM

Great work Noel! I wonder if Ms. Song grew up in the Oak Park schools but I tend to doubt it. I have issue with D97 and their lack of transparency. Also taxpayers cannot afford high salaries and high pensions. Let's have a sanity check and VOTE NO!

Please Vote NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:58 AM

Those against this referrendum are NOT anti-education. We're FOR our board of education acting responsibly to offer a plan that enables sustainable education - in terms of both quality and cost. Instead they are trying to panic the community by getting rid of art so they can go on a spending spree - while having no plan in place (other than more concessions from teachers) on how to provide planning time if the referendum doesn't pass. This is a bad referrendum. BOE - we need a real plan!

A. District 97 Parent Voting NO  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:52 AM

C'mon sheeople, use your brains. Don't fall for District 97 scare tactics. OPRF high school district has a multi-million dollar surplus of tax money which needs to be tapped. In the event FLES, BRAVO,CAST, art, gym, music etc are eliminated, would it matter? The entitled children of Oak Parkers are in private music lessons, scouting, gymnastics, karate, swimming, and play organized sports. For those families/kids without funds, the YMCA and Park District have scholarships and reduced fees.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:52 AM

DeJordy, Oak Park public teachers pay $10,000/year for health insurance. How much do they have to pay for you to consider it "fair"??


Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:45 AM

Why must school costs keep rising faster than anything else? Get a handle on compensation. Insist on a fair teacher contribution to health insurance. Actually negotiate with teachers. The school board president is often indistinguishable in his words from the union leaders. Taxes have become absurdly high in Oak Park.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:44 AM

Finally! Thank you for stepping up for the silent majority Mr. Kuriakos. I cannot afford to live here anymore and I consider myself middle class. Not only have I not doubled my salary, I have decreased my salary. People vote yes to keep the art class with absolutely no comprehension of how the salary and benefits packages work for these teachers. Please keep it up. Let's put the entire picture in the paper not just the scare tactics!

DJW from OP  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:41 AM

I find it so interesting that Mr. Kuriakos and other "no-siders" have chosen to fight the referendum rather than run for a school board seat. Why is that race fielding only unopposed candidates? If they are a) truly supportive of public education and b)sincere in their belief that previous boards have been fiscally irresponsible, I would think they would want to be active participants for long-term systemic change. As it is, their (lack of)action belies their words.

Eduardo from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:32 AM

While I will be voting for the referendum to pass I still commend Noel for presenting his views last night. He along with the other 2 panelists should all be commended for their participation in such an important civic event.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 10:28 AM

Thank you Noel for stepping up and representing the "no" side. Thank you too for clarifying that it is the referendum we're against and not public education along with pointing out D97 fiscal irresponsibility in past salary/benefits negotiations. Change is NECESSARY!

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