On Feb. 7, the River Forest Board of Education presented a plan to fund All-Day Kindergarten and expand two schools, effective August 2023. The board will vote on the plan Feb. 21. Exterior construction, in 2024/25 if needed, would cost $9.1 million over 4 years and $1.1 million annually, plus inflation, beginning Year 5 in perpetuity.
If only interior construction is needed, costs would be $2 million over 4 years plus $0.5 million, inflated annually in Year 5, in perpetuity. These costs reflect $1.286 million to delay for four years extra pension funding, and must be added to figures shown in the financial packet, according to Anthony Cozzi, District 90 chief operating officer.
Funding won’t cover the program cost, despite a $9.5 million bond issuance in 2023. D90 continues to deficit spend in its operating account, and the deficit could increase exponentially, per Mr. Cozzi.
Taxpayers will soon face OPPRF’s Phase 2 project costs and in 2025 a new D90 teachers’ contract after high wage inflation. By 2026/27 D90 likely will face a referendum and by 2027 resume extra pension funding for an expected state shift to local districts. Community trust would be critical to a referendum’s success. High tax bills relative to other high-performing districts weigh on property values.
Many of the 75% of residents without children in D90 schools have not heard the plan nor its full impact. The plan was created by a 22-person D90 committee of mostly employees and only one unaffiliated resident. Enrollment projections are incomplete.
This plan is rushed. A thorough process would create an inclusive plan to evaluate and adopt a cohesive K-8 curriculum and ensure appropriate staffing, training, financing, space and supplies. Board members want to hear from other constituencies before the Feb. 21 vote.