Though the 2011 municipal election is about nine months away, District 97 this month has laid out its timeline in hopeful preparation for successfully passing an operating fund referendum next April.

The elementary school board and administration discussed that timeline on July 13. By Aug. 24 – also the first day of school – the district plans to have a climate survey related to a referendum ready for public distribution. A five-year budget projection presentation is also planned for that August board meeting. About a month later on Sept. 28, the board and administration will meet to start looking at actual referendum models. A community forum is scheduled for Oct. 19. The survey results are also expected to be released by that date.

Last month, the administration provided $2.6 million in proposed staffing reductions if the referendum were to fail next spring. The board plans to vote on those recommendations on Dec. 14 but any cuts wouldn’t take effect until the 2011-2012 school year. A referendum resolution will also be presented at that meeting for first reading with a board vote scheduled for Jan. 11, 2011.

Between now and then, the district also plans to fine-tune its message to the community. The board and administration began some of that during their July 13 planning session.

“We can’t go out and say we’re going to raise your taxes to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Board President Peter Traczyk. “This needs to be part of the vision of where we’re taking the district to. And I don’t mean by building the Taj Mahal or more buildings. I do mean by improving the educational experience for kids. What do we need for resources and what do those look like?”

New Supt. Albert Roberts said that the message should reach non-parents as well.

“We don’t want to make the reduction piece – what happens if there’s no referendum – a threatening issue. We want to make it an information issue,” he said. “The public’s in this together. If the schools can’t run programs that have made us Oak Park – whether or not you have children in school – you’re impacted.”

Other members chimed in about how a referendum can impact future needs educationally – technology being one area. Traczyk noted that the district could use an alternative school to provide special needs services to students. Those kids, he said, currently go outside the district for services. Members talked about maintaining successful programs as well.

The board and administration also discussed having a clear, transparent message for the community. “What we need to know is where the community is at that point and time, in supporting or opposing,” said Rance Clouser concerning the run-up to next April. “If there is a sense of support – for what amount? We just really need to do a good job of gauging where the community is.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Referendum timeline

Aug. 28 Five-year budget projections presented; Prepared climate survey completed

Sept. 28

Establish referendum models; Finalize referendum message

Oct. 19

Community forum; survey results released

Nov. 16

Board’s first reading of recommended staff cuts in event of failed referendum

Dec. 14

Board vote on staff reductions; also first reading of referendum resolution

Jan. 11, 2011

Board vote on referendum resolution

April 5, 2011

Referendum election ballot vote


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