Business leaders urge no vote on referendum

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Business and Civic Council of Oak Park

The Business and Civic Council of Oak Park cannot support the April 5 school referendum that seeks a huge tax increase for District 97.

We come to this conclusion reluctantly but firmly — reluctantly because education is instrumental to the quality of life in Oak Park, and a magnet for families moving here, but firmly because higher and higher property taxes are making Oak Park increasingly unaffordable for many families with school-age children. We hope that defeat of the referendum proposal calling for $45 million in additional taxes through 2018 leads to a rethinking of pay practices, tenure policies and staffing levels that have contributed to a budget deficit projected at $5.3 million next school year and rising to $11.8 million by 2016.

We reject the portrayal of a no vote as anti-teacher or anti-student. Even without the tax increase, revenues are expected to grow steadily over the next five years — just not enough to cover faster-rising expenditures. Since 1990, the number of teachers, on a fulltime-equivalent basis, has soared more than 50 percent, outstripping the 15 percent increase in enrollment. A yes vote would only postpone the day of reckoning for District 97's structural imbalance.

It is true, as proponents of the tax increase point out, that District 97 tax levies have lagged behind other local levies, which have nearly doubled over the last decade. Still, according to the township assessor, the 49 percent increase in District 97's levy easily exceeded inflationary growth of 30 percent over the same period. The BCC is counting on defeat of the proposed tax increase to slow this disturbing trend — and to lead to necessary shock therapy during the next round of labor negotiations in two years. Oak Park is hardly alone in yearning for fiscal sanity and brakes on public-sector spending.

To help win support for a yes vote, teachers and other employees have agreed to a one-year wage freeze, saving a little over $1 million. While admirable, the move ignores longer-term solutions and is a blip compared with an accumulated deficit of $42 million projected through fiscal 2016. As it is, more than 70 teachers and administrators in a system of about 500 made more than $100,000 last year, and six topped $150,000, according to the website This is partly the result of pension-sweetening pay boosts for personnel close to retirement.

But at the heart of the matter are salary increases year-after-year that exceeded inflation by a factor of two or three and sometimes closer to four. Add to that automatic raises based on tenure and advanced degrees, despite little evidence that graduate education outside of math and science improves teacher performance at the elementary level. District 97 labor costs are set to grow at least 4.2 percent annually over the next five years in a near-zero inflation environment. Add it all up, and it is clearly a sweet deal for teachers: The district received 2,550 applications for 49 teaching positions between November 2009 and June 2010, according to the school board president.

To cope in the absence of a tax increase, school board members have approved a list of recommended cuts totaling $4.5 million and focused on popular extracurricular activities: sports and theatre programs, plus elementary art, and fourth- and fifth-grade instrumental music. Although personnel reductions also are on the menu, the BCC regards the doomsday scenario as unreasonably narrow. It should also factor in bold alternatives for productivity gains, including merit-based pay incentives, changes in tenure policy and increased class sizes. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the latter wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing: He says better-performing educational systems in Japan and Korea have up to 36 students in each class, compared with a U.S. average of 25: "In fact, teachers in Asia sometimes request larger class sizes because they think a broad distribution of students and skill levels can accelerate learning."

The BCC realizes that sweeping reform can't take place overnight. But it can be speeded along by rejecting the call for higher taxes.

This letter was submitted by board members of the Business and Civic Council of Oak Park, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that pushes for public policy that stimulates economic growth, according to its website. Signees of this letter include Marty Noll, Willis Johnson, Bill Planek, Frank Pellegrini, Greg Melnyk and Mike Fox.

Reader Comments

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Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 2:20 PM

In assessing the referendum, I reviewed my property tax bills, annual reports for 3 TIF districts, 2003 IGA, and D97 budget over a 10-year period. My property tax bill has 5 variables and 16 tax districts; the TIF reports have 24 variables and insufficient data to assess D97, the IGA has 18 variables and is being disputed by D200, and the D97 budget has too many variables to count, including 5 alone for teacher salaries. There is not an open & transparent process to render an informed decision.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:04 PM

@Future Teacher: Regarding the blue stone, many people would be (well, ARE) upset....but then we're not being asked to vote on that. The concern about unnecessary expenditures and over-taxing is not limited to District 95, but it's certainly the focus now for obvious reasons.

Future Teacher  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 4:38 PM

I don't mind debate, it is needed to truly understand what is going on in the world around us, but I do not appreciate when one source is cited especially when they have wrong information regarding teachers, positions and schools that they are at. People assume that tenure means you are not going to be fired, tenure was created so that teachers were given a valid reason for termination. Also if the BCC doesn't want to raise taxes, then they should be upset with the blue stone going in on OP Ave.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 4:20 PM

Actually, with the new Danielson model of teacher evaluation, tenured teachers who fail to perform as satisfactory in the multi-domain process for more than one year (or just one year if the performance is that bad) are subject to a remediation effort followed by termination if performance doesn't improve within a short time frame (matter of months). This isn't your Grandpa's old evaluation system anymore!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 4:07 PM

@curious. I agree with everything that you said, but I'm unaware of the "more difficult evaluation process to stay another year" part. I'm NOT saying that the OP teachers aren't professionals (they are), but once they have tenure the step increase is automatic. The classroom is their domain and the principal (who I'm assuming would provide the "evaluation") is primarily removed from it. "Tenure" for college profs? Sure. Elementary teachers? Not so "sure" of value. But that's NOT related to ref.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 3:47 PM

While the step increases are not "just for breathing" since you have to pass an increasingly more difficult evaluation process to stay another year, it does seem unfair not to make this annual increase clearer to the general public. However, eliminating it will take negotiation sessions at the end of the current contract. It would be highly unlikely to re-open the contract mid-term for such a major change. It sounds like a good discussion in 2014, though.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 3:24 PM

@Carol. Honestly, most people do not understand the step tables. It's not because it's complex math, but, I believe, that nothing in society compares to it for compensation/salaries. FWIW, when a school district announces a new contract, they'll say "3%," but IGNORE the automatic step increases - which, again, average about 2%. This is why D97 is in a bind financially - salary increases are CPI & the step - and revenue is only CPI. It's why they project future salary/benefit increases of 5%-:-).

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 3:16 PM

@Chet, ah! I see what you're saying, and you're right.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:56 PM

@Carol. I get that you don't accept my statement (EJ or Jassen? - sources you "trust" to confirm), but here's my last effort. Go back to step table: What is reflected there is NOT CPI, just the step. Do you think that BA 15 stops at $64,005(13yrs)? MA 60 at $97,399(25yrs)? Yes, "step" increases stop, but NOT NEXT YEAR'S CPI increases. It's 2 different variables. Notice how most step increases are different on % basis? Because it's not CPI.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:28 PM

@Chet, I don't think that's correct. The step is a schedule of the CPI increase, and it changes every year based upon the CPI. There simply isn't any language in the contract to support your reading that the CPI increase is anything other than what is represented on the step schedule.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:33 PM

@Carol. The step is pre-determined and already guaranteed in the contract. For instance, look at this: You next add the CPI increase, which, per the contract, will range from 2.5-4.0 percent. The step is granted, as I once jokingly exchanged with Jassen, solely for "breathing" - and he agreed. EJackson, will you please confirm? And don't even get me started on all the retirement bonuses in the contract - :-)!

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:24 PM

@Chet, I don't think that I am reading the contract in the same way that you are. The steps are based on the CPI, as I read it, and I don't see where it guarantees both step and CPI.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:14 PM

I will vote YES. I am amazed by how many people are armchair experts about education. The last paragraphs of this opinion piece are ludicrous. The derisive tone towards teachers, who have to be qualified and competitive in an incredibly difficult job market, btw, is palpable. Also: we aren't Japan. Either OP voters will agree to raise taxes for ed or they won't.But this local referendum is not going to reform the entire ed system in Illinois or the nation.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:05 PM

@CarolThrelkeld. Actually, Carol, you are mistaken about the 4%. The OPTA contact reads CPI plus step AND that the minimum "CPI" increase is 2.5%. The "step increase" is another, on avg. 2%. Here is the contract: Also, as many people have already noted, D97 has increased staff by much more than the enrollment. Few of these people, though, need to lose positions IF staff would take minor pay cut. $13K per student is not "austerity." Vote No.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:55 AM

The district just cut admin positions, including the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning. It is also making $1.2 million in cuts regardless of the outcome of the referendum. You can view those cuts by visiting


Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:44 AM

Yes, I am disappointed that the tes crowd has allowed and accepted this. Why aren't we all demanding that the district make other cuts-(admin, etc) instead of holding our children's education hostage. Instead it is neighbors against neighbor. Let's vote the ref down and approach the board together to see what can be done other than the proposed cuts.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:39 AM

Folks - not every single D97 teacher has doubled their salary in 10 years. Plus, Mr. Kuriakos failed to mention that several of the people who earned more pay in a shorter span of time are those who went from being teachers to being the principals of Hatch, Beye, Lincoln, Longfellow, Whittier and Irving. In addition, more than a third of the teachers and nearly half the administrators live in OP. They took a freeze in support of something they knew would raise their taxes.

District 97 Parent Voting NO cont'd  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:32 AM

District 97 and the school board are anti students if they cut services to students as a first resort rather than being visionaries, implementing reform. Some out-of-the box thinking is required. Does it bother anyone that Dist. 97 and school board threaten cuts to student services if Ref doesn't pass? "Play our way or your kids lose." It doesn't have to be like this. It really doesn't. Seek some inspiration.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:28 AM

@D97 PVN, you asked what workers are guaranteed a 4% raise every year just for going to work? D97 teachers are not provided with any such guarantee, and many of them are facing the loss of their jobs if this referendum fails, so I'm not really sure what you're talking about.

District 97 Parent Voting NO  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:15 AM

Reform needed. Start with tenure, collective bargaining and bloated salary scales. What worker is guaranteed a 4# raise every year just for going to work? As a former civil servant, pay freezes, 1% or no raises at all were the norm. My neighbor is an elem. teacher in Berwyn for 10 years. She has NOT doubled her salary in that time. There are a surplus of teachers, great ones, who would jump at the chance to teach in Oak Park for less money because kids come from homes where education is valued.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:52 AM

@EJackson. I replied to your "ballot question" on other WJ thread - before reading this one. I'd like to make add a comment - as noted on your 8:45 post below: "While we have a difference of opinion on what is required to be on the ballot..." The OP Township Assessor seems to be saying "tainted" and this IS significant in a legal case. I repeat, I do NOT believe that D97 acted with the intention to deceive - but that IS, sadly, the result of this "approved" ballot question.

Liddy Gation  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:50 AM

Believe it or not, most voters don't pay much attention (or read this forum for that matter), all referendums rely on this fact (see Blair report). A ballot insert explaintation would suffice for me.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:43 AM

The Oak Park Township Assessor is saying he disagrees with the calculation on the ballot, but agrees with the $38 per $1000 figure the district has been communicating for two months and believes it accurately reflects how much the referendum will cost taxpayers. What else do you want?

Liddy Gation  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:27 AM

What would a jury think? Perhaps D97 does not have any legal reason to educate the voters - how about a moral and ethical one? I would support a paper insert explaination. Perhaps the best thing to do now is to pull it off the ballot altogether. Seriously, this really smells badly.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:04 AM

@Lance - So, are you saying that Mr. ElSaffar is lying in the statement?

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:03 AM

@Liddy - Based on this section of the statute, seems highly unlikely you a lawsuit would be successful. "Any error, miscalculation, or inaccuracy in computing any amount set forth on the ballot and in the notice that is not deliberate shall not invalidate or affect the validity of any proposition approved." However, if you want the district to "waste" more taxpayer money fighting lawsuits, go for it.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:58 AM

@ E. Jackson - now move your mouse over on the screen to the section entitled "Whate We're Reading" and click "Referendums May Understate ..." and you'd see that the number is not $38 per $1000 in current taxes. D97 has satisfied its legal disclosure obligation, but it is significantly low balling the estimate of what this will cost.

Liddy Gation  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:56 AM

Thanks E. Jackson. This joint statement clearly supports a post election lawsuit if the referendum passes.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:45 AM

From the joint statement by ElSaffar and Traczyk - "While we have a difference of opinion on what is required to be on the ballot, what we have and will continue to agree upon is that the increase in the limiting rate that the district is seeking on April 5, 2011 will cost taxpayers $38 per $1000 on a property tax bill...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."

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:39 AM

D97 is not entitled to referendums, despite their claims. Their budget is primarily based on local property taxes, which have increased 77% during the past 10 years. During the same time period, the CPI has increased only 25%, and mean household income (U.S. Census, Oak Park) increased only 22%. During these boom real estate years, D97 prospered and approved generous teacher contracts. Now that the housing bubble has burst, D97 has to adjust to the new norm, just like the rest of us. Voting No.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 7:52 AM

So on top of the additional 2% in income taxes we're paying to the state this year and going forward, we'll also be asked to pay an additional 11.4% (3.8% X 3, which still likely understates the magnitude of the increase) in property taxes in both cases with no increase in the type or level of services provided. If we don't say no now, there will never be an incentive for government at the Federal, state or local level to live within their means.

Chicago Mag Article  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:38 AM

Chicago Mag article: a voter questioned the language on the ref. ballot statement for OP District 97 earlier this month, ElSaffar went over it for the Wednesday Journal newspaper & determined that the figures did not factor in the 3.3701 equalizer. "Voters are being told that they'll pay about 30 percent of what they actually will pay if the referendum passes," he said.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 6:39 PM

Back to the topic. Six members of the Business and Civic Council Of Oak Park has signed off on a letter to Vote NO on the referendum for District 97. Does a good school system benefit these business owners? Should these 6 be able to represent ALL Oak Park businesses when they don't accurately represent reality? There are many biz owners who will be voting YES

ChiDevil from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 6:22 PM

Before someone jumps down my throat, I mis-read and thought the earlier post was referring to transfer taxex.

ChiDevil from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 6:18 PM

I entered this discussion because I was disgusted by the tenor of earlier posts and believe that intelligent people can politely disagree. No one likes paying higher taxes, and our schools have a responsibility to operate in a fiscally responsible manner. And yes, there hasn't been a referendum since 1989 because they had money. With any luck we will see another real estate boom to negate the need for future referendums. But tanking our schools now will not allow that to happen. Vote Yes!

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 6:11 PM

JMG I certainly hope you are right about the sock puppets (or am I supposed to make that into a verb: sock puppeting?). Otherwise this is very troubling. By this logic we should have a tax increase schedule for each beneficiary of our tax dollars. That way they won't need to ask and we won't need to vote, we'll just know when they are due. And when they've reached 100% of our income we'll all be equal and no one can begrudge the size or worth of the house I own.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:58 PM

I'm happy I learned what a sock puppet was today. I can't see this "no referendum since 1998 rhetoric" AGAIN and take it at face value. You know why they didn't go for a referendum? Because they had money. Plenty of money. They had some golden years riding the crest of the Real Estate tax increases. What a ride! To diminish my contribution and many homeowners contributions by implying they haven't had an "increase" (like money doesn't count, only %) is duplicitous


Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:58 PM

@ChiDevil: In your world of constant tax rate increases "just because", our tax rate doubles every few decades. Where does it stop? 10% of assessed value every year? 20%? 50%? I'm just sayin'...

Julie from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:52 PM

I'm with ChiDevil! Vote YES


Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:46 PM

@ChiDevil: YES. (and thank you!)

Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:46 PM

@ChiDevil: Well, then we agree to disagree. I'm with tellingitlikeitis on this one. "Length of time since last referendum" simply isn't a criteria I find meaningful. Especially because it's based on a semantic word game (i.e., because the bond for the middle schools we approved still costs, but isn't a "referendum"). Add to that the data cited...and it explains why many feel compelled to vote NO.

ChiDevil from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:39 PM

Yes, due. Well overdue, according to the tax plan, in fact. Good schools cost money and this district, while certainly far from perfect, is a good one. It is one of the main reasons that young families choose Oak Park and consequently patronize Oak Park businesses. I understand the counterarguments and am happy to agree to disagree. But supporting a referendum to improve our schools every 22 years is not unreasonable.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:37 PM

@chiDevil: Due? D97's per student expenditures are already among the top 5 for large elementary districts in Cook County. How are they "due" for an increase? And by the way, you will be paying $10.00/day for schools, not $1.50/day.

Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:35 PM

@ChiDevil: By the way, I agree that our other tax dollars need to be similarly scrutinized and the taxing bodies need to better coordinate to do less with more.

Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:33 PM

@ChiDevil: While D97 hasn't sought a referendum, I did vote a few years back to build the two new middle schools. Additionally, the local tax revenue they receive has increased steadily since 1989. There are plenty of districts who spend less per student, deliver higher scores, and still have art and music. There's basic mismanagement going on. D97 needs to make tough choices...and parents need to direct them on what needs to be cut. It will be painful, but it's necessary.

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:28 PM

"D97 is due"? Due?? {confused head shake} Do we think that every taxing body has a responsibility to raise our taxes every so often? No, I overstate, not every taxing body, just our schools, parks, county, state . . . It has to end. The problems aren't getting solved with more $.

ChiDevil from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:16 PM

@ANV I certainly understand the frustration. However, the fact is that D97 has not sought a referendum since 1989, when the tax plan contemplated a referendum every 7 years. D97 is due, and eliminating art, music, foreign languages and sports programs is not supporting the school. Our tax dollars have supported many questionable "improvements" in the business districts as well. Fiscal responsibility in the village as a whole needs to be controlled. Sacrificing the schools is not the answer.

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:05 PM

@ ChiDevil property owners, businesses or homeowners, are paying for your children's education already and will pay an increase of 2.7 percent no matter what happens on April 5th. Those businesses who lease are paying high rents because the property owners must cover their costs - which includes ever escalating taxes - hmmm wonder why so many business are closing - Starbucks, Pasta Shoppe, Cosi or have moved to Forest Park.

Can't Do it  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:04 PM

Here's interesting reading. Warning, graphs, facts, and truths are in it

ChiDevil from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 4:58 PM

I guess I should add that I think $1.50/day (in my case) is a pretty scant investment in quality schools.

ChiDevil from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 4:46 PM

I am a parent of Oak Park and have already voted YES. I am not without concerns or questions when it comes to where the money goes, but abandoning a district that hasn't sought a referendum since 1989 is not the answer. Boycotting our businesses is not the answer either. I will remain whole heartedly "Pro Oak Park" and will support the schools AND the businesses. I'm saddened that so many business leaders are willing to sacrifice my childrens' educations when we remain steadfastly loyal.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 4:16 PM

To:Realitysux, The title of this opinion is "Business leaders urge no vote on referendum" Business leaders don't always mean property owners. None of the business profits from all the buisness' go to District 97 as directly as the property tax monies do. Thats why it's important to differentiate the 2. Alot of businesses are leased and the building owner pays the the property taxes. Not always the case as in Community Bank of OPRF they pay the Property Tax for their space on Lake & Fores

TellingItLikeItIs from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 2:38 PM

Eric - Since you are so keen to get involved, what other area communities is your young Chicago family looking at as an alternative to Oak Park? Perhaps I can entice you into one of those property-value-dragging vacant homes on my block, referendum or not. As I already mentioned, Elmhurst, which handily outperforms D97 in ISAT scores, just laid off 44 of their teachers.

Eric Blair  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 2:21 PM

@Epic Lulz: I had to ask a friend what "sock puppeting" is (it's once in a blue moon that I post in forums, so don't know the lingo). It's apparently: "a fake name, or series of fake names/identities, used by a single internet user in order to create the illusion that more people support their argument or position." Definitely not what's happening(at least by my "side"). Semi-related to this discussion: in a nutshell, why are OP taxes so high already? I've heard various explanations.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 2:10 PM

@Eric Blair. Or George Orwell. Or whoever the hell you are. My sentiments are unchanged.

Eric Blair  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 2:02 PM

I kind of liked my reverse nom de plume. Other than the name, everything else I put in there is the truth. Samuel, I understand your argument that having lower taxes also increases desirability. However, this marginal tax increase will not decrease demand for homes, whereas a well publicized reduction in school quality will.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 2:00 PM

@Interested Parent The "operational costs" that are driving this "need" for more money, are costs related to payroll, not buildings, not energy, not supplies. Payroll, in most businesses, is the biggest line item in their budget.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 1:49 PM

@Interested Parent. The expenses for nat'l gas, electric and supplies could double (nat'l gas has actually declined in price the past 2 years - check the Nicor website) - but since they are a minor part of the budget, the impact would be quite small. Salaries and benefits is about 80% of the budget. Yes, they've made "cuts," but only in "growth" of their budget. I.E., rather than 6.5% - it is 6%. Their problem is controlling costs - which only a NO vote will bring. 2.7% is more than sufficient.

Samuel Clemens  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 1:33 PM

My family currently lives in Chicago, and we are planning to buy a home in OP this summer. Like so many young Chicago families, our decision to move to the suburbs is largely due to [high taxes] in the City. Make no mistake--OP's property values and desirability are heavily driven by its [low taxes]. Families like mine will consider looking elsewhere if OP decides to [increase taxes]. You should vote NO on this [large]--and it is [large]--tax increase.

epic lulz  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 1:26 PM

@Eric Blair -- the next time you want to sock-puppet a discussion, don't pick George Orwell's real name.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 1:11 PM

Several people have mentioned the 2.7% increase that will occur with or without the referendum. This would be more money to spend on instruction IF operational costs weren't also increasing. Energy will cost more, as will most supplies used to keep the schools "as is." If the costs of running the schools weren't consistently going up each year, the tax increase could be used to provide funding for better instruction/tech. Cuts are made but costs go up.

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:51 AM

@Carol - no one is denying your experiences with D97 but the fact remains that they are well funded and looking for more & not every taxpayer is as satisfied as you and the money is real in a tough economic time. If the referendum passes the D97's levy (what D97 collects in property taxes) will increase in real dollars from $49 mil to $56 mil or 14.3% , if it does not pass they will increase their levy 2.7% - they still get money just not what they want.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:43 AM

It is true that, as in any profession, some bad teachers exist, and as in any profession, the process of firing them can be fraught. However, my own deeply anecdotal and totally statistically irrelevant experiences, and those of others related here and elsewhere, suggest that D97 is filled with excellent, dedicated teachers who deserve respect and decent compensation and benefits.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:42 AM

More money does *not* equate to a better education. If we continue to buy in to this idea that throwing money at the problem is the answer, then we will continue to enable our educators in failing to find real solutions to real problems. Here is one example of how education is improving *without* spending a gob of cash. It is *how* we educate that is the issue.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:38 AM

A bad teacher is a bad teacher, whether he or she has 25 or 36 students. And that's the real issue--bad teachers can have have a long-term, negative impact on children's lives. Anybody can make a hiring mistake, but once tenured, these bad teachers are very difficult to fire. My experiences, and those of others related here and elsewhere, suggest that the Dist 97 bureaucracy is deeply protective of bad teachers and overly fearful of the teacher's union. This is unlikely to change, ref or no.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:13 AM

@Eric- For the last few years there have been at least 3 empty bank-owned homes on my family friendly block. Even with our great schools we are not seeing a crush of young families bolstering property values. And rest assured, even without the referendum, D97 will be among the best funded schools in Cook County. Perhaps you'll want to consider Elmhurst... oh wait, they just laid off 44 teachers this week.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:05 AM

@Eric Blair: Mr. Blair, you and your family are welcome to stop by our small but charming backyard patio this summer for burgers & beer. Your children are welcome to visit at Halloween & enjoy a 20 year tradition (though it's spiraled out-of-control) of getting king-size candy bars. But you are not welcome to tell me how I "should" vote on a local issue before you even move here. (I believe the earth still revolves around the sun, not the Blairs.)

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 10:49 AM

@Eric - D97 is getting more money next year - 2.7 percent more the issue is whether taxpayers feel an additional 3.8 makes sense - and it doesn't - status quo with more spending is not the answer.

Eric Blair  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 10:26 AM

My family currently lives in Chicago, and we are planning to buy a home in OP this summer. Like so many young Chicago families, our decision to move to the suburbs is largely due to public school issues in the City. Make no mistake--OP's property values and desirability are heavily driven by its superb public schools. Families like mine will consider looking elsewhere if OP decides to water down the quality of its schools. You should vote YES on this small--and it is small--tax increase.

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 8:56 AM

Let's take some time away from all the hate and trolling to clarify how much your taxes will increase: taxes will increase by 6.5% if the referendum passes. It would increase by about 2.7% if it fails. The school will get an additional 2.7% no matter what. Businesses and homeowners will pay more no matter what the outcome.

Attack Mode  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 7:07 AM

So the attack mode is only disgusting when it comes to the business leaders -- not to teachers? Who has been more attacked in this debate than teachers? Let's worry about the wealthy business owners. I guarantee you that they make well over $100K a year with plush benefits.

No more taxes  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 7:04 AM

The attack mode is disgusting. Hasn't anyone been paying attention to the "business as usual" at D97. Some kids do well, but if a kid struggles or is different, too bad. If a teacher doesn't really do his or her job (how many Hollywood movies do some teachers show in a year) too bad. Some good results is not enough. We need all kids getting a good education. Paying more $$ for status quo is not acceptable. Thank you BCC for avoiding group think.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 6:02 AM


YesToOakPark from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 5:42 AM

Please understand our frustration with the BCC. It has a huge promotion to shop in OP to support local businesses. Many of us consciously do that, knowing that supporting these businesses costs us more than the alternatives. We are the same people who support quality schools in OP realizing it costs more, but know it's essential to the sustainability of OP. Fox, Planek, Noll have made considerable money with the "support your community" theme. Now we know they really meant,just support them

OP Resident  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 2:43 AM

How many of the folks who signed this letter actually live in Oak Park? I know that tax increases impact businesses too but it seems residents have a much greater stake in the community.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 1:12 AM

Its interesting that the only responses to the numerous facts and data laid out in the letter are insults, threats of boycot, personal attacks on local biz owners, religious attacks and an attempt by carolina song to correct a single, minor, abstract comment as if it negates the entire premise. The inability of the yes side to actually address or counter any of the real issues - excessive benefits and spending w/out any real reforms is why it seems more and more voters are opposed


Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:39 AM

Too bad so few people see the parallels with Ken Trainor or others who try to defend Obama not with facts, data or examples but by attacking/insulting everyone with a different viewpoint, ie: Bush, the GOP, Palin, Beck, Fox News, Tea party members, Cheney, Mccain, etc. Better yet, convince yourself that anyone who disagrees with you must simply be a racist redneck (you don't actually need any real documentation or proof to post this as an absolute fact since all your friends will surely agree)


Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:06 AM

What does it tell you that the union is willing to sacrifice dozens of teachers rather than offer more than a 1/2 assed 1 yr pay freeze while asking us to increase taxes indefinitely? If you don't realize that these teachers are retiring with a million $$ nest egg, you don't have a clue about the facts. I pay more into my social security and dont start benefits until age 67, which will be less than $30k/yr while also paying 1/2 the cost of my own health insurance. ITS THE BENEFITS, STUPID


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:58 PM

(pg 2) cared about our kids, schools, or community, they would be willing to sacrifice much more than a 1 yr pay freeze, (which isn't even a real freeze). Why not offer a pay CUT, or to pay slighly more of their own h-care or pension costs. A teacher with 30 yrs service can retire at 55 with a guaranteed pension of $60-$100k or more for the next 25 yrs. That makes each one of them a millionaire so stop focusing on just current pay. What does it tell you that the union is willing to sacrifice

ProOPBiz from oak park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:53 PM

Personal attacks on Oak Park business intolerant, mean-spirited, and uninformed for a supposedly educated community. The lack of knowledge of business in many of these comments is astounding, but not surprising if you look at the voting habits of many Oak Parkers. ALL businesses in OP contribute to property taxes...either directly if they own the building, or indirectly built into leases. They have a vested interest in customers having $ to spend. Suggesting boycotts is idiotic.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:50 PM

IT'S THE BENEFITS, STUPID. Anyone who actually thinks the no voters don't care about our kids or the community are clearly ignoring and/or can't counter the facts put forth. I have yet to see a single idea put forth by the supporters which actually does anything to correct the structural deficiencies that exist and simply throwing more money at it doesn't fix the simple fact that we can't afford to keep providing teachers a guaranteed million $$ retirement plan. If the teachers union really ...

JohnPaul3 from oakpark  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:47 PM

Shameful...nice Catholic clearly have no clue of the sacrifice those of us who choose private/parochial education make..most of us aren't wealthy, we just believe in the choice we make for our kids, while at the same time glady support, to a rationale degree, the public system. We want,no demand, an excellent public school system, but know first hand that money isn't the main ingredient to making that system work. A NO vote means D97 must reform & focus on quality for all students.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:33 PM

To @OP's comment at 09:53 PM--Congratulations for the stupidest, most ignorant comment from either side. Are you buying goods from people selling stuff out of their trunks or while standing on street corners since you don't think businesses are located on actual property. And exactly how do you know what someone else's profits are or how much they donate to charity? I wonder if you actually even pay any taxes since you clearly don't even understand the most basic concepts.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:45 PM

@OP. Your thinly veiled insult regarding charitable deductions being "just a tax write off" show that you do not know how this "write off" works. For instance, the highest Corporate tax rate is about 40% (which few pay). If, a "business owner" donates $10K - he then reduces his taxable income by $10K and his tax by $4,000 (40%). The "business owner" has then had an out-of-pocket contribution of $6,000 - 60%. Also, how do you know if they have a profit? It's not public information. Any questions?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:37 PM

@E.Jackson. Darn that Noel - he's once again throwing out ideas that paint him as a radical!?! Or is he attempting to expand the debate on this important topic with out-of-the-box suggestions? Depends on one's perspective. Same with LWV - they have endorsed EVERY referendum in OP that I can recall - and I can remember a lot. Heck, even the Wed Journal once opposed a ref in OP - which should tell you something about the ideology of the LWV. Can't ignore the history - Noel has a valid point.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:16 PM

@ Shameful Hypocrites I completely agree with you on this. Who do these people think they are -- having a voice of opposition? Only people with kids in the school system should be able to vote or hold any opinions. I say we throw Bibles at them when they walk out of mass - then maybe some Christian values will sink in.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:00 PM

Also view the portions of the video where Noel suggests we should consider replacing principals with master teachers, and calls the League of Women Voters biased.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:53 PM

Business owners don't pay property taxes. Property owners pay property taxes. Some happen to own both. This same group also turned their heads on the Living wage ordinance. God forbid it gets into any of their profits!! None of the names are just breaking even. Some of the most successful business owners in Oak Park. Case in point. Look at how much they donate to charity. Oh wait, is that just a tax write off?


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:50 PM

@steve-because we can't afford to pay for their salaries, pensions and healthcare any longer BECAUSE the economy has tanked. Who was the spokesperson-Jason?


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:44 PM

Congrats to Noel for his job well done at the referendum session tonight. I was very surprised when the Yes spokesman said, please see video for exact wording, "why should teachers pay suffer because the economy tanked." I almost fell out of my seat. Teachers have been receiving pay raises of 4-6% for the past few years. If they just take a 1% pay cut, no programs would need to be eliminated. This sounds like it is more about the teachers than the students.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:40 PM

It is entirely appropriate for a group of bankers, real estate developers, business owners, etc to weigh in on how the referendum may impact businesses. What I find disappointing is the foray into educational policy from this group, particularly when it misquotes and misrepresents the educational policymakers it cites. Does the BCC really think we should have class sizes of 36 in K-8? Arne Duncan's quote about class size was made specifically about secondary ed (i.e., high school).

OP neutral  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:06 PM

Unfortunately this heated topic has brought out the worst from both sides. I have seen some unkind comments from both the YES and NO sides, especially from the leader of CAOP. It would be to everyones benefit - the YES and NO's - to stick to the facts and not bring personal names and private information into the conversation. We should be able to treat each other respectfully!

No Rubber Stamp  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:52 PM

No No No No No No No No !!!

@ Michael Lotus  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:48 PM

It's a good question you ask about civility in comments. About a week ago I sent a note requesting moderator attention for a couple of anon. comments that were near-slanderous to a LTE writer who had signed their name. I got no response from WJ staff and the comments were not removed. I don't think WJ is doing our community any favors with this wild-west moderation. Also- after reading for a few weeks I think many of these commentors are the same 5 people (desperate for attn.)

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:01 PM

The point being, that if the State gets its way, the schools in Oak Park will not be a draw for families to move here, since the pot of money will all be one big pot for Cook County (except for Chicago) and our property taxes will be used to fund schools in other communities, "evening out the playing field."

epic lulz  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:56 PM

"Is it the usual practice to vilify people personally while remaining anonymous?" Welcome to the Internet. Your complementary muffin basket is on its way.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:52 PM

And while there is all this bickering going on within the community, I'm wondering if anyone is paying attention to Gov. Quinn and the folks in Springfield to consolidate school districts. In other words, all OUR money that is currently local, the state is looking to "consolidate" it, in 2012. Why isn't anyone talking about that? Here is the bill:

Voting NO  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:47 PM

Maybe business owners oppose the referendum because they understand that constantly providing 4-6% raises to employees without any assessment of the effectiveness of those employees does not make sense. Communities all over America are grappling with educational reform including how to assure quality education on a sustainable budget. Here in OP some still equate spending more money with progress. Our teachers get more money regardless of their performance. It is our children will suffer.

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:24 PM

about Shameful: I've noticed him[?] insulting Catholic on multiple discussion boards. Ignore him. He just want to bash Catholics not participate in a meaningful exchange of ideas.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:24 PM

I was going to comment about how this Viewpoint is tighter, cleaner, purposeful writing, compared to Wednesday Journal's meandering editorial endorsement. But after reading through the comments, I'm flabbergasted. The vilifications, the character assassinations, the threats of boycotts, simply because you disagree with someone? Now I know why the children of today have such little respect for others, and why bullying is at an all-time high. They've learned from their parents.

Michael J. Lotus, lawyer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:53 PM

I am new to these discussions. Is it the usual practice to vilify people personally while remaining anonymous? Is that really the Oak Park way of conducting a public discussion on a serious matter of public concern, where very large sums of public money are at stake, and well intentioned people can disagree? A display of poor citizenship by the Yes faction. Very sad. I expected better.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:39 PM

Excellent point Opie. Has the VMA announced their endorsement for the D97 referendum yet?

Wow! Who's Shameful, Seriously. from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:25 PM

So you want a catholic education like Mr. Planeks children. Start by eliminating 30% of your teachers salaries, then raise your test scores significantly, then have 100% of your parents show up for parent teacher conferences, Don't forget to put your children in a school uniform and require them to treat their teachers with respect. It's very easy. Mr. Planek has donated a public school education by paying for his children to attend private school and you have the gall to attack his character.

Shameful Hypocrites  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 5:50 PM

It is interesting that many of these busines owners are also wealthy enough to send their children to private Catholic schools... but not enough to put their religious values into action by helping provide to less wealthy people what they feel entitled to. I ask Mr. Noll, and Mr. Planek especially, where are your Christian values? Contemplate your hypocrisy while you sit smugly in church this Sunday. Greed is contrary to Christ's teachings.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 5:34 PM

Hey John, guess what??? Most of these signers of the BCC are VMA supporters!

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 5:25 PM

I voted Yes on the D97 Referendum. That does not mean that I disagree with the BCC'analysis or viewpoint. My decision to vote Yes was gut wrenching. I'm sure that was true for the BCC as well. The blog comments create the impress that the BCC is a greedy bunch. In fact, the BCC is the one of the most civic focused groups in town. They are civic stars who have earned their stripes with decades of integrity, honesty, generosity,and civic involvement. Disagree with them, but respect them too.

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 5:25 PM

These business owners are certainly entitled to their concerns about rising taxes in Oak Park, and I share those concerns. But when they display ignorance about education, as they do when they talk about class sizes and quote Arne Duncan as some kind of educational expert, they lose me. It is so sad to see these sorts of attacks on teachers here in Oak Park.

Seeing the light in Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 5:02 PM

I am looking at the names of the board members of the Business and Civic Council. These people have invested heavily in our community and are very supportive of our schools. Intelligent and thoughtful, they believe the tax burden threatens the viability of Oak Park. The idea that some residents would even suggest a boycott is sad. I will continue to support these businesses and encourage other residents to support them as well.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 4:14 PM

I am partially mistaken!!! Just re-read contract. CPI used for salary can not exceed 4% or be lower than 2.5%. Of course CPI was lower than 2.5% the past few years and so the teachers benefited. HOWEVER, that may not be true for the next couple of years - and the contract runs thru 6/14. Regardless, D97 still has deficit spending in 2016 and will need another tax increase referendum - even with our taxes increasing by CPI. Vote NO and start reform process!

Under The Radar  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:56 PM

@ih8idiots. That is my favorite post ever, anywhere!

Michael J. Lotus, lawyer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:50 PM

It is disappointing to see the Yes faction immediately assuming bad will and resorting to proposals of retaliation rather than engaging more actively with the substance of this cogently stated letter.

Boycott all business with YES Signs from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:50 PM

Okay, if we're going to be childish, I think that NO voters should boycott OP businesses with YES signs since they are in favor of wasting taxpayer money. Sorry Maya Del Sol, Competitive Foot, and Holiday Camera...I just can't support you anymore. We pride ourtselves on having a diverse community....but apparently that doesn't extend to diversity of thought. Pinheads.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:49 PM

We're doomed anyway??? The Chicago CPI rose .6 in Jan and .5 in Feb. Know what this leads to? Both higher prop taxes (even if ref fails) AND higher wages to teachers. Why? Tax Caps allow annual increases of CPI or 5% annually - whichever is less. The teacher contract is CPI PLUS step. So, if inflation is 6%, D97 raises our taxes by 5% AND teachers get a raise of 6% plus step! Have you, ahem, noticed prices rising lately? Will D97 run out of money quicker because of structure of contract?


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:43 PM

Ok, all you "yes" people, please tell the "no" people where you work and what businesses you run so that they can boycott you. Idiots.

Really? from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:38 PM

Enough with the hysteria, these business owners get to have an opinion too. By the way, as the "Yes Police" have stated over and over, "it's only $38/1,000"...but these business owners (and all the other taxpayers, btw)STILL pay a whole bunch more in taxes that benefit OP schools. Not supporting the ref doesn't mean you don't support the means you've had enough. If we chase these business away from OP, we'll just have more taxes dumped on the backs of families.

Nancy from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:16 PM

En Oh spells NO - please VOTE, everybody!

Can't Do it  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 2:38 PM

@mom0f3I don't shop at Whole foods. The prices were high before the CEO's rhetoric. But once I heard him, no more of my money. So, the owner of the out-dated, last one standing, ole time Lake Theatre is part of this group, according to their not maintained website. Now, I have said many times, "we're going to the Lake to support our local business." But no more. I'll enjoy stadium seating, with movable armrests so I can cozy up next to my husband in a scary movie. No letter just a no vote.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 2:34 PM

Perspective? CBOP took the bldg vacated (many years)in the S&L crisis, the Carleton was a flea bag, and the Lake Theater a dump. Want CBOP to go the route of FBOP? I'm sure that the Carleton is already concerned about the village effort to build a new hotel. Lake Theater? Movie attendance in US is in decline. These businesses provide tremendous support to OP and have made multi-million dollar investments. Their opinions should be respected - not maligned. Tread carefully with your thoughts/acts.

Can't Do it  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 2:29 PM

The BCC is this really an organization or just a group of like-minded who came up with a name. I talked to a few OP business owners and they hadn't heard of this group. So maybe we're giving them to much credit.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 2:13 PM

While I support the ref, I am concerned by those who desire to boycot businesses that do not support the ref. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and these opinions should be voiced out. I already voted yes, but I almost want to vote no in light of this discussion and the rhetoric used. You may not agree with the owner of Whole Foods, but one still shops there. Our local businesses have their own perspective just like parents when it comes to the consequences of this ref-both positive and

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:58 PM

@ Carol, thanks for the lively debate! I guess we will just disagree. Peace.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:48 PM

@Mary, respectfully, I disagree. Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from the potential consequences of that speech, especially when that speech is intended to sway opinion on public policy that affects everyone in the community. I really am sorry that it makes you sad, though.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:47 PM

Its funny how the folks that signed off on this letter are probably the wealthiest of the entire Council. I would love to see all of their tax returns and see how much taxes they really pay. My guess is very little based on loop holes in the law.

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:42 PM

Let me rephrase All tax payers should be allowed a voice on this referendum without fear of retribution. Support or lack thereof on one issue does not define whether a business or person supports our community. It saddens me to have to have this discussion.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:21 PM

@Mary, ah, I see. I thought that the "our" part was implied in the word "community." I certainly never meant to suggest that it belonged to me exclusively. With respect to your other points, I'm not sure where you see people being denied a voice. This board seems like a fairly good example of people on all sides expressing themselves on the topic. And we'll just have to agree to disagree on whether these business' opposition to the referendum demonstrates a lack of support for our community.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:16 PM

And the community benefits from having banks. Just ask folks in communities where there are no banks. And what is part of the reason our real estate taxes are so high? Could it be that we need more business in Oak Park, not fewer - or that we need our current businesses doing more business. Go shop somewhere else so that your tax dollars can support education in another community. That will really make sense!

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:16 PM

@ Carol, my point is that this OUR community and all tax payers should be allowed a voice on this referendum. I disagree that not supporting the referendum = doesn't support the community -- whether business or neighbor.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:59 PM

@Mary, Community Bank benefits from the deposit accounts of D97 schools and PTOs, as well as the OP Educational Foundation. That may help you understand why they have been singled out among the signatories. And I apologize if my word choice offended you. How about I use "the community in which I live" rather than "my community". Would that be more acceptable?

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:49 PM

I can't stop thinking about the idea of boycotting OP businesses who oppose the referendum because "I don't think that your business is one that supports my community". (I especially like "my community") Community Bank is specifically singling out. I did a quick Google search and found this newsletter. 2011.pdf See page 5: "The Excellence in Philanthropy: Business or Organization Award goes to Community Bank"

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:38 PM

@Voting NO, who is going personal? @Mary, I'm confused by your question. What does my financial support, or lack thereof, for certain businesses have to do with my relationships with my neighbors?

sarah corbin from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:34 PM

So this exchange is the exact reason why sometimes as business owners, we should be a-political. Even members of this committee were split. Why even weigh in on an already polarizing issue? This ref. doesn't impact the small business owner THAT much, but the anger coming off of this page of comments might. Support your local businesses.

Something is Wrong from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:00 PM

So, in the context of the number of businesses that have failed in Oak Park (or the many more that have relocated to communities on our borders) including Pasta Shppe Cafe, apparently Starbucks, Bennetton, Cosi, Barbara's Books, etc. -- are people really so willing to so easily dismiss the opinion of biz leaders that they have a concern that OP is headed the wrong way? BCC is asking for reform, and so is the WJ endorsement. So, WHERE'S THE REFORM? What is D97 actually going to do differently?

Voting NO  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:58 AM

The extent to which the "raise taxes" folks are willing to go personal is indeed disappointing. By OP's logic should we also demean the opinion of people who live here but don't have kids in D97? Anybody who lives/has property in OP has an interest in the success of this community as a whole. That includes quality schools and affordable tax rates. Just feeding the schools more $$ will not give us the educational progress we need. FYI - we do need progress.

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:53 AM

@CT We all have a choice on where and on what to spend our money. If you choose to vote yes to increased taxes and to boycott businesses that do not support the referendum, that is your choice. I just hope that you won't boycott a neighbor who doesn't support the referendum. The business don't get to vote, but they will be impacted none-the-less.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:41 AM

I think it's interesting that people are getting upset that some of the business' bottom lines might be negatively affected by their public opposition to the referendum. Really? I get to say where I spend my money, and if I don't think that your business is one that supports my community, then I get to choose whether to support your business. Simple. Not to mention that the list of signatories is quite small, leaving plenty of other options for spending locally. E.g., Metropolitan Bank.

OP tax payer/D97 parent  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:25 AM

These business leaders have a right to their voice. They are informed and they are tax payers of this community. They are also factual accurate. And all have a right to boycott and let their purchases fund the tax base of another community (bite of your District's nose to spite your liberal face). I think the issue with most opposition is collective bargaining, it's seniority only basis, it's tenure, and it's insulation from market realities and disregard for value or performance.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:07 AM

One other comment about this letter are the disturbing assumptions that it makes that D97 would be better off with less educated teachers who get paid less. Gee, doesn't that sound like an amazing recipe for success. I think I would appreciate D97's education policies being set by people with an actual education on the topic, thanks.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:05 AM

no kidding chet-the yes side have been saying all along that they respect the other side but these comments are examples of how that simply isn't true. Just because they don't agree with you, they don't care about the children and you are boycotting them? My goodness-didn't the Bush admin operate like this? If you were against the war, you were unpatriotic. I am ashamed to be an Oak Parker.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:04 AM

3 of the 6 signers may have property here in Oak Park, BUT DONT EVEN LIVE HERE.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:01 AM

Thank you to the BCC for your carefully considered and well written position. I especially apreiciate that you understand the importance of quality and cost control. As you stated, those of us who oppose raising taxes do not oppose quality education. In fact we support it strongly. Thank you for your leadership.

Carlson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:00 AM

BCC, I support you 100%. Good editorial.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:55 AM

@Cathy Yen. FYI, I am a vocal opponent of the ref. I want you to know that I will NOT be boycotting any business that you are affiliated with - and loved how you ran Prairie Bread at Lake and Oak Park. My wife and I sometimes disagree on impt financial and family matters - we do not then threaten each other with "boycotts!" Win, lose, or draw - we are in this together.

Cathy Yen from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:47 AM

Please be careful of attributing this position to ALL local businesses. Although the headline reads Business Leaders, the letter was signed by a handful of BCC directors (see above), not the entire organization. As a director of the BCC and member of the business community, I voted against this position and this letter. I STRONGLY support the referendum and indeed am Treasurer for Vote Yes. Many business owners agree with me.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:36 AM

@Don't shock me bro. Add another aspect to your conclusion:D97 resumes deficit spending in 2016 - ANOTHER ref will be necessary. They project salary/benefit increases of 5% annually. They are not expressing "the necessity of fiscal restraint." Here's the link for their spending IF the ref passes: Financial Projection of Limiting Rate Increase.pdf. That's why a NO vote is, sadly, necessary today - to stop the "business as usual" mindset

response to Kris Gallagher  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:35 AM

OP taxpayers already pay more than $13000/student, but you say we don't care about our children's education? Please tell me: how much per student is enough to show we care?

What the  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:34 AM

@i agree, u miss the point. Saw interview, Education is expensive, not to have it is to be ignorant...that's cost a whole lot more. See criminal, in jail cost twice as much as the cost to educate to have educated them in jail. Probably why you're no vote. VOTE YES

Kris Gallagher from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:30 AM

When the recession hit, my husband and I made a commitment to eat, shop, buy and see movies in Oak Park so that our local businesses would survive. We did that even though it often cost us more. We did it because we believe we are part of a community. It's clear the Oak Park Merchants don't feel the same. They are here to suck our dollars, and they don't care about our children's education. This is so short-sighted; what kind of community do they think Oak Park will be if we downgrade schools?

Don't shock me, bro!  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:27 AM

@LanceManion: you're probably right, which to my way of thinking makes a YES vote that much more urgent. Nobody's going to get rich off of it--we need it just to maintain. These times are teaching us the necessity of fiscal restraint. No shock necessary.

LanceManion from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:19 AM

@ shock me - it is going to be a hard lesson to learn (hence the shock part), but public funds aren't limitless. At 75% of D97 expenditures, compensation, as the lions share of spending, will have to come down to reflect the tax base that is available. Even if the referendum passes, the rate of increase of compensation cannot continue.

Don't shock me, bro!  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:12 AM

@LanceManion: they're the ones who called for "shock therapy." I'm in favor of supporting our schools financially (not blindly) AND boosting parent involvement. That's a patently false dichotomy.

Don't shock me, bro!  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:09 AM

@Chet21: I agree, watching the free market at work can be pretty horrifying. But that's the breaks in our capitalist culture, isn't it? Individuals get to decide with whom they do business and why. I think I'll keep my business with my Oak Park brothers and sisters because my goal is a strong community, and shopping locally will still be the right thing to do even if the referendum fails. I don't agree with the logic of cutting off my nose to spite my face no matter where it comes from.

LanceManion from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:08 AM

How is limiting spending to the princely sum of $13k per pupil cutting off our nose to spite our face? Spending, by all comparative accounts, is high. Perhaps the message is: we're spending a lot; let's see if we can tune the engine to make it perform better before blindly spending more. Research shows that parently involvement rather than higher spending correlates with better performance. Let's focus on the no-cost results-based item rather than the high cost item.

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:05 AM

I support OP businesses. So many of my favorites have already moved to FP because doing business in OP is too expensive/difficult. Let's not pile on the insults. In tough times (and these are tough times) a community needs to come together. We can support our schools with a no vote--it just takes a little extra effort. Let's give of ourselves not just of our pocketbooks.

Don't shock me, bro!  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:56 AM

I for one appreciate the BCC's candor in announcing their support of the so-called "Shock Doctrine." It's rare that anti-tax forces admit that they are willing to damage public services to make a point. Clearly, the difficult economic times we are experiencing call for careful scrutiny of spending public money. But the BCC's position that we should, indeed must, cut off our nose to teach our face a lesson is plainly wrongheaded. But I thank them for making the meanness of it so clear.

I agree! from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:56 AM

@Tanya. Exactly. That's what I've been saying about the YES people from day 1! They are so ignorantly supporting the D97 blarney.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:52 AM

Here's the best Arne Duncan quote "if you think education is expensive, ignorance is even more." He said it on Colbert.

Bill Strong from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:49 AM

FOR THE RECORD: I am not a signatory to the BCC position on the D97 referendum and left the organization more than a year ago. However, my name still appears on the BCC website merely because that page on the site has not been updated in a long while. I want to make it clear to all that I support the referendum and will be voting YES on April 5. I thought the WJ editorial did a very nice job of making the case.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:48 AM

The "logic" of the YES crowd appears to be: "businesses shut up and pay for my children!" How much? Don't ask - "it's for the (my) children!" You can NOT question the amount - ever! Hey guys, do the math, what do you think that businesses are already paying in OP taxes? Unlike the Feds, they can not print money. They've made HUGE investments in OP! You're concerned because they are requesting that D97, like themselves, live within a budget? Have you no sympathy for struggling Oak Parkers?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:42 AM

NOW do readers know why I use a pseudonym? Look at the long knives coming out against businessmen/residents who have spent more in one year "for the children" of OP than most in a lifetime. D97 spends more per-pupil than almost every district in IL and this is reflected in our nose-bleed prop taxes - and STILL the "Yes" people are upset that it's not enough? And now SOME "Yes" people wish to punish those who invest in OP? Want MORE vacancies in town? Taxes will increase and homes will decline!

ReginaR from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:37 AM

@ Jassen Strokosch -- thank you for the information concerning the out of context quotes and information made in this statement. @ Concerned -- thank you for posting the information regarding who banks at Community Bank.

ReginaR from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:33 AM

I believe in supporting local businesses & have done so even though the price is often more expensive locally than buying online or going to a neighboring community. The goals referenced in your statement directly impact the well-being of your customers and the community itself. People are drawn to this community in part because of our schools and their presence in this community then has a synergistic effect on local businesses like yours. I am shocked that you so carelessly disregard this fact

Outraged Yes Voter from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:32 AM

@Concerned, thank you for this information. Oh the irony--particularly Community Bank. Maybe these businessmen would like to do some classroom observations of their own before they make such outrageous statements? Again, blame the's so easy to do that, right? Bet these same men would be humbled at the daunting task of teaching a class of 25 second graders, much less a class of 36..

ReginaR from Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:30 AM

What are the business ramifications of removing these programs from the schools? Will Oak Park residents really want to forgo art classes, music and instrument classes, middle school sports? It costs quite a bit more than the proposed tax increase per year to pay for private classes. If I am spending money on private lessons for my children that are no longer supplied through D97 I will have less to spend on local businesses. The BCCOP are not dedicated to the long term viability of Oak Park.

Carol Threlkeld  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:25 AM

@Voting Yes, you can see who actually signed the letter in italic font at the bottom of the column. Community Bank is indeed one of the signatories.

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:24 AM

@Concerned. Thank you for the info. I hope that the D97 PTO's seriously consider pulling their accounts from the Community Bank.

Voting Yes in from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:24 AM

Thank you Concerned. Do you know if the Board polled its membership before writing this letter or did they just send it independently? If the membership was in support of the letter, I think we need to have a list of the businesses. For example, if I know Community Bank and Rave Wines is a "No" but Competitive Foot and Holiday Camera are a "Yes". This will help me determine how I will shop locally.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:12 AM

For those interested in avoiding BCCOP business members, the BCCOP website has curiously not been updated for a while, maybe to avoid exposure, but here is what I understand: Prairie Title (Frank Pellegrini),Pellegrini & Cristiano (F Pellgrini),Community Bank(Marty Noll), RP Fox and Assoc (Mike Fox), Greenplan Mgmt/OakParkApts (Bill Planek), Lake Theatre (Will Johnson), Greg Melnyk, Attorney. Particularly disturbing is Community Bank where the PTO's, schools and OP Educ. Foundation bank.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:07 AM

Based on the number of people listed on the current D97 administrative compensation report (28) and the current enrollment (5506), the ratio is actually 196, which is smaller than D90 (166) and D200 (162).

Michael J. Lotus, lawyer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:07 AM

"... at the heart of the matter are salary increases year-after-year that exceeded inflation by a factor of two or three and sometimes closer to four. " Most of Oak Park's parents, voters and taxpayers have not experienced nothing like this. To the contrary, they are getting clobbered financially. This recession is the wrong time to raise taxes.

To Mr. Noll  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:59 AM

Mr. Noll, you are certainly entitled to your opinion but so our your customers. I hope district 97, 200, the PTOs, the Ed Foundation and the many other education related non-profits who bank with Community Bank send you a nice letter of thanks for this.

Yes Voter from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:59 AM

Doug S., there is a lot of misinformation floating around about class sizes. My third grader has been in classes of 21-24 for the past two years. Those sizes will increase if the referendum fails. We may not see the increase next year but the following years. It's not a scare tactic. It's a fact that's scary.

Doug S from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:57 AM

Fine. But lets see the numbers. And the administrative ratio is 177. What's the Plan A Plan B scenario there?

Yes Voter from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:56 AM

I am going to a local business this morning. Two months ago, I started shopping there rather than the national chain in another village to support our local businesses. I think I might have to start politely asking whether the business owner is supporting the school referendum before giving these folks my business. I hate that it comes to this, but I would think a locally owned business would want to support local schools, especially since I am going out of my way to support that business.

To Doug S  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:54 AM

Keep in mind that you are comparing two totally different stats Doug. Student staff ratios and class size are not the same thing.

To JenQ from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:51 AM

Keep in mind that while they had time to research this letter, the BCC hasn't updated their website in a while so some of the Board members on that page are no longer with the BCC. People can look at the names above, such as Mr. Noll of Community Bank and Mr. Johnson, owner of Lake Theater if they want to know who wrote this.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:50 AM

As one who supports our community by understanding the importance and cost of quality education, this stunned me. We are also the ones who realize the value of local shopping even at a higher cost. The BCCOP merchants have "played us" and our sense of community. Their position, putting aside its falsities, outdated data, manipulated phrases, out-of-context statements and Scott Walker rhetoric, is an insult to those of us who supported them. Join me in withholding support for BCCOP businesses.

Doug S from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:47 AM


Doug S from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:45 AM

The student/teacher ration in D97 is 15.5 according to the state report card. The BIG question that no one has answered to date is, what will the ratio be if the ref does not pass? What will it be if it does pass? these numbers must be somewhere in the Plan A and Plan B budgets. And I don't think we will go from 15.5 to 36! Stop with the scare tactics. I agree with our business leaders, vote no and expect real change. It's time.

JenQ from Oak Park   

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:43 AM

As someone who takes supporting local businesses very, very seriously, I would like to post a link to those who belong to this council- because I, for one, will not longer be supporting them.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:39 AM

Or maybe even just the the same paragraph where he says, "secondary school classes..." There are some valid point in this letter but they are clouded by outdated information and poor research.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:39 AM

I am also sure the Business and Civic Council has done a thorough analysis of every District 97 school building and determined that increasing class size to 36 wouldn't put a strain on the existing facilities.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:34 AM

I guess I would pose this question directly to Mr. Planek, who is an Ascension parent. If it is beneficial to raise class size to 36 in the public schools, why does the Ascension Web site "tout School Board policy recommends that class sizes top at 25 students, but the student to teacher ration is actually 18:1, with teachers from special curriculum areas including music, art, physical education, Spanish, computer science and library." If bigger class sizes are so beneficial, will they do it?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:32 AM

That was a great speech by Arne Duncan you quoted from. Perhaps you missed two paragraphs earlier, "Or consider the debate around reducing class size. Up through third grade, research shows a small class size of 13 to 17 students can boost achievement. Parents, like myself, understandably like smaller classes. We would like to have small classes for everyone--and it is good news that the size of classes in the U.S. has steadily shrunk for decades. "


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:23 AM

At the Hatch forum on the referendum, Mr. Kuriakos made a similar statement about increasing class size: "a good teacher with motivated, top students would work just fine." The gasp from the crowd was audible as it sank in what he was saying: put those "other kids" somewhere else. I fear we are rapidly heading toward a two-tiered education system where the struggling students are relegated to a lower class education if we listen to such advice. Be careful what you wish for!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 8:22 AM

Perhaps these guys can read and understand budgets? The 5-yr projected budget by D97 shows IF the ref passes that deficit spending begins in 2016 (because expenses increase from $70M to $81M!) and that, ta da, another referendum is coming!!! Does this EVER end? Nope. D97 will only reform IF ref fails. They have a large surplus and can withstand waiting until 2012 - otherwise D97 will require another ref in 2016 to pay for expanding programs/staff. Please vote NO and let's get this right - today.

OP Voter  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:36 AM

Proposing a class size of 36 or larger is absurd, just because they may do it in some Asian schools. Asian culture values respect for education and elders. We do not. I would like to invite those suggesting that such a solution is reasonable to join the teaching profession. Any takers? Many enter the profession, few are able to stay. If the burdens outweigh the benefits, no one worthwhile will be willing to teach. I fear for the future of our country.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:17 AM

Nicely put. So, it seems we all agree (including the WJ) on the need for reform in District 97. So, where's the reform in the long term plan that should go along with this permanent increase in taxes?


Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:47 PM

We'd love to hear your position on the proposed 40 year use of the old Comcast building.

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