District 97 finalizes cuts should the referendum fail


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Click here to see the report presented to the board.

The District 97 Board of Education and administration finalized the size of its planned April 2011 referendum on Dec. 14, as well as what cuts would need to be made in case that ballot measure fails next spring.

The board did not formally vote on both the size and cuts — that's scheduled to happen at their Jan. 11, 2011 meeting taking place at Brooks Middle School, 325 S. Kenilworth.

At Tuesday's meeting, words and phrases like "painful," "gut-wrenching" and "distasteful" were used to describe the list of $5.7 million in proposed reductions to such notable and popular programs as CAST and BRAVO, the Multicultural Center and summer school. Board members and administrators, though, also expressed optimism that the district's $75 million working cash bond sale referendum would be approved by voters. But officials maintained that if the referendum fails, deep and painful reductions would need to be the alternative to cover its structural deficit, projected to reach $6 million by 2014.

As for the reductions — which will be implemented for the 2011-2012 school year — Supt. Albert Roberts insisted these were cuts that no one wants to see.

The reductions would be to staffing positions. The board talked about whether volunteers could be recruited to help run what would assuredly be modified programs. Roberts added that volunteers were worth exploring but said the district would need to do proper vetting of those individuals. Currently staff, he noted, are fingerprinted and background checks are done.

Roberts and board members stressed that if the referendum does pass, the district would still pursue some cost savings.

District 97 Recommended Reductions

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Reader Comments

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Dave Heidorn from Oak Park  

Posted: December 20th, 2010 2:42 PM

PM nails the real issue. D97 gets too little while $1.1 million goes to rehab one more park. Three libraries exist when you can walk to one from everywhere. One high school has a principal and a superintendent. Millions of TIF dollars are spent on redeveloping downtown repeatedly and then leaders support redeveloping Madison through low income housing. No strategy to keep Oak Park competitive in a world of shrinking resources. Demand a unified plan to move into the future. Or vote no.

PM from Oak Park  

Posted: December 17th, 2010 11:46 AM

I think "Concerned Citizen" has nailed it. Painful cuts? Yes. This has been a dramatically bad recession. But again... D200 is overfunded. D97 needs money. How do we correct this? Even if this situation cannot be corrected before this referendum comes to vote... what needs to be done to correct the imbalance? Is the only answer to raise taxes to fund one school district while another is allowed to sit on excess taxpayer funds? Really?

Jassen from Oak Park  

Posted: December 17th, 2010 7:28 AM

@Colette Verdun - So what would the 'unpopular' programs be that you would like to see cut? And you CAN tell the district what you think. This list was a first round and the public is free to comment at Brooks school on January 11th @ 7PM, the next BOE meeting.

Enuf is Enuf  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 7:01 PM

D97 has never performed an external TIF analysis, only relying on its own analysis, which is conflicted by error and bias. This is the same board that quickly agreed with the village board for less than required TIF allocation funds the past year, and then admitted they lost the TIF distribution calculation formula afterwards. D97 board overstates General State Aid, which it qualifies for only because it is so impoverished by TIF funds, thus taking away state aid for more needy school districts.

Colette Verdun from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 6:23 PM

It's amazing how only popular programs are selected for reduction. I think I have been fooled once too many times to believe this story any more. I would tell the managers to go back to the drawing board and come up with a realistic way to cut costs.

Mary Simmon from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 6:22 PM

I watched the video and looked up the TIF reports (http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/tsd/tifs/Pages/TIFReports.aspx) this evening and it seems that David is correct the TIF diverts millions from the schools. We should believe reports over baseless comments at a Board meeting or someone who seems to be monitoring the comments on the website.

J. Matthews from Oak park  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 4:18 PM

One simply has to watch the entire video presentation on the referendum to hear the TIF comments. That video is on the district's website. The end of the proposed referendum is tied to the 1999 debt being retired. That's obvious and has been stated many times. But again it's just so much easier to scream about the TIF. Even if it isn't true.

Tom Murphy from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 3:51 PM

D97 does not say how much money they get with the TIF and without the TIF. All they presented are numbers that have not been substantiated. All one needs to do is look at the TIF reports to realize how much money is being diverted from the schools. Dr. Roberts stated on slide 36 on 11/18 that the $75M referendum "bridges district to 2018" which happens to be when the TIF expires. It seems that the TIF is hurting D97. Think of how much less the referendum would be if the TIF was eliminated.

J. Matthews from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 3:33 PM

Do those who claim that the TIF is hurting the schools realize that the financial analysts for the schools have determined that the District would actually lose money if the TIF was eliminated? You don't have to believe me. Ask them. Look at the real numbers and the funds that would be lost if the "TIF money" came to the District. Yet it's so much easier just to say the TIF is bad.

David Barsotti  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 2:30 PM

The TIF is part of the problem and those who think otherwise do not know the facts. In 2008 the Oak Park TIF districts diverted $12 million from all the taxing bodies. If there were no TIF districts, District 97 would have received almost $4 million in property taxes in 2008. The elimination of the TIF will no doubt mitigate the problem. There is no reason special interests should continue to get TIF money that is needed for the schools.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 12:57 PM

While D97 is aggressively pursuing substantial funds via referendum and has included a staff and teacher salary freeze on the table, there is a glaring absence of discussion re. the millions of property tax funds being diverted from D97 to TIFs. Is it better to allocate taxes for more downtown brick paved streets, or restore this revenue stream towards investing in education? Education quality is a far better economic investment relative to property values than any TIF district can provide.

Lynn K. from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 11:02 AM

Can you really be serious, "OP Resident," when you try to blame the current fiscal situation on a decades old TIF? Look around at all the districts in Illinois that are underfunded by the state and in tough financial straits. Let's focus on real facts and related arguments and leave the red herrings out of this.

something's fishy from oak park  

Posted: December 16th, 2010 8:33 AM

Thanks, OP Taxpayer. Your comment so resonates with me, I had to reprint it so no one misses it: "So let me get this straight: I moved to Oak Park for the schools, pay taxes that should be illegal so that my kids can go to a good public school and now you all are saying that the quality of our education will be diminished because we can't balance our budget? Something seems off to me."

OP Resident  

Posted: December 15th, 2010 11:39 PM

One has to wonder if District 97 would be facing these financial struggles if the TIF meisters had never set up shop in our Village. Developers and consultants have certainly enjoyed the ride but it seems like the rest of us have been taken for one.

Concerned Citizen  

Posted: December 15th, 2010 11:20 PM

90% of the people I know have had to make cuts in their spending these past 2 years. Half of those people made DRAMATIC cuts. This recesion SUCKS, but everyone has to feel the pain. Now is not the time for tax increases !! Let me tell you how it will be, There's one for you, nineteen for me, %u2018Cause I'm the Taxman, Yeah, I'm the Taxman. Should five per cent appear too small, Be thankful I don't take it all. %u2018Cos I'm the Taxman, Yeah, I'm the Taxman. (If you drive a car ), I'll tax t

Mom of 2 Kids  

Posted: December 15th, 2010 9:07 PM

We have 3 fine libraries, move the multicultural collection there so everyone can use it. Cast and Bravo are great, as are so many other programs but charge higher user fees. While you have kids in school you pay more for extra activities, but meanwhile you are not taxed out of your home. It's a tradeoff. PTOs can fundraise for fee assistance to kids who need it. We all have to make due with less. It is arrogant to expect a luxury free ride on the backs of your overburdened neighbors.


Posted: December 15th, 2010 5:56 PM

The usual scare tactics. School board: you serve the students and the taxpayers, not the teachers. Stand up to the teachers and control compensation costs. It's not like there is some alternate universe where public school teachers can go and get the raises and continued cushy pension scheme they enjoy.

OP Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: December 15th, 2010 4:04 PM

So let me get this straight: I moved to Oak Park for the schools, pay taxes that should be illegal so that my kids can go to a good public school and now you all are saying that the quality of our education will be diminished because we can't balance our budget? Something seems off to me.

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