Shrubtown March 1, 2017

Opinion: Shrubtown

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By Marc Stopeck

Editorial Cartoonist / Weekly Sales Representative


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Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2017 11:01 PM

Every year the amounts of property taxes we all pay goes up. Always has and always will. So every year the schools get more money to work with anyway. The referendum is them asking for even more, and life will go on if they don't get it. No need to pretend that the schools will close. No need to have fake numbers about population increase in a land locked town, the school just added pre-K which is going to cause a headcount increase all by itself, and maybe that was a bad idea. Arts will survive, and the poor kids will be able to stay in town to hear them, we don't want to force people out over French Horn anyway. The set up of the referendum process was designed to allow us to say no and control things getting out of hand, so its a perfectly civic duty kind of thing to vote NO.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 6:19 PM

(continued) I think Leon is trolling. Maybe not, but that's my sense so I'm not going to waste my time trying to counter his statements. Anyhow, one real concern I have is that we may truly be pricing middle class families with school-age children out of Oak Park. The wealthy families who want to live here have the option of sending their kids to private schools, and many of them do. They have other reasons they to chose to live here.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 6:09 PM

Jeanine and Jason, I'm thinking that Leon is a troll trying to make those who oppose the referendum increases look

Jeanine Pedersen  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 5:47 PM

Leon, I am firmly in the no boat, but if you are one of my fellow travelers, perhaps it's time for me to rethink my position. What an ugly comment.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 5:20 PM

Leon, I am sure glad we have very few people like you in our community. I am all for arguing the merits of this increase but to make the statement that's it's not up to local government to provide a high quality education to everyone is mind boggling. I assume it's ok if those less fortunate get a horrible education or none at all if they can't afford a private education? The smarter our children are the better our country will be and everyone should have an opportunity to learn not just those that can afford private school. I encourage everyone to attend one of the meetings on the referendum. I can certainly understand everyone's concerns about the hike so go to the meeting and ask the hard questions.

Leon Montana from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 4:33 PM

I for one am with Bruce, Mary, Nick and the rest on this one. It is high time we stop this school funding in its tracks. The money we waste is, as Bruce and Tom suggest, better not spent. I agree with Bruce and Nick that schools are not a good investment of public dollars, chase high wage public employees who suck more of our dollars out in pensions and benefits. If class sizes have to grow or programs get cut, so be it. They can go to private schools for more enrichment. It is not the taxpayers job to pay for good schools, its the parents responsibility. There are plenty of private schools to choose from. With President Trump, maybe we can get to a point of common sense. Like Bruce Kline and Nick Binotti, we think once President Trump and Sec. DeVos get moving, we can begin to strip these schools down to the size they ought to be. Join with me, Bruce, Tom, Mary, Nick, Gov. Rauner and President Trump in changing our course to vouchers, beating back unions and giving our taxes back to us.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 3:33 PM

To all those folks complaining that Illinois ranks last in school funding, can anyone guide me to the information that states for every extra dollar the state would acquire from an OP household via a state income tax hike would result in a dollar decrease in property taxes on that household? I've been unable to find that info myself. Because if that's not the case, then that last ranking is a moot point. It's total spend and district allocation that counts. Illinois is 13th in America in highest spending per pupil. That's higher than California, Minnesota, and Oregon. And if the state increases education funding as it plans to do with an income tax hike, it means little if OP gets none of that funding back.

Ben Conley from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 2:54 PM

Personally, I don't view my kids' education as nonsense. Also, I think this technology thing might catch on, so I for one think teaching kids about it (and not just the kids with parents wealthy enough to afford an iPad) is a valuable investment. Regarding the admin building, the fact remains that the District was facing dumping $3M into a building that had exceeded its useful life by 40 years. The new building (and use of TIF funds) allowed the District to move buildings without reducing the funding available for education initiatives, and allowed the Village to free up space to further its Madison Ave revitalization initiative.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 2:19 PM

Oh please. Stop the "sky id falling" nonsense. We have been very generous to our teachers over the years. We as a community have put our schools at the top of the list. So stop this nonsense about gutting our schools. We are asking that monies be spent wisely - which up to now has not been the case (can you say iPads for everyone). And $9 million (or is "only" $7) for an Ad building and then the charade that since it comes out of a TIF its like money from Mars. No its money out of our pockets. There is only one way to cure this unencumbered, virulent spending disease: Vote NO.

Jennifer Alten from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 1:05 PM

No one wants higher taxes, but what will be gained if our schools are gutted? Our property values will plummet and families who can afford it will either leave the area, pay for private school or pay for enrichment. Where does that leave the kids whose families can't afford this? Floundering. Funding our schools is an equality issue. Plus, consider the fact that Evanston, Berwyn and Wheaton are facing the same type of referenda. LaGrange just passed theirs. Clearly, this is not simply a village or board mismanagement issue. If you examine Evanston, it looks like they plagiarized our talking points, except sadly, they are in the same situation we are because of the fact that Illinois ranks last in funds that local school districts receive from the state. Rather than vote no and cut off our noses to spite our faces, we need to get involved with state and local government. We need to get Rauner and his successor to step up to the plate. We need to work with the Village to find additional education funding sources for schools aside from homeowners. However, our kids deserve the same educational opportunities that previous waves of Oak Park children have received. Seriously everyone, do the right thing and vote YES.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 12:49 PM

No Ben. It's not a conspiracy. That is not even a consideration (although I sense that is your sarcasm coming through). What is the issue is this: The D97 ask is overwhelming for many in our community. We are an overtaxed community. It is that simple. It is that basic. Every village board trustee candidate (save one) admitted as such at last night's candidate's forum (at the library). Stopeck's cartoon is absolutely spot on.

Ben Conley from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 11:44 AM

I sense sarcasm, Bruce. Misery loves company, as they say. My point, if it wasn't clear, is that perhaps the suggestion that the budgetary woes are primarily caused by state under-funding has some validity, given the various other school districts that are facing the same concerns.'s all one big conspiracy theory?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 11:25 AM

Well Mr. Conley, it's so comforting to know that we are not alone in drinking the Kool - Ade. It makes it so much more palatable. I'm still voting NO for this outrageous, irresponsible, unaffordable and enormous tax increase.

Ben Conley from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 11:09 AM

Just want to point out that Oak Park is not unique in its school budgetary woes and referenda ask. Evanston, Berwyn, Wheaton and various others are in a similar conundrum. The primary driver here is state under-funding, although the problem in Oak Park (and Evanston, from what it sounds like) is amplified by significant enrollment increases.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 9:56 AM

Because James this is Oak Park. And we need "those things that are best" come hell or high water, insolvency, or bankruptcy.

James Hall  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 9:12 AM

Thanks for the link Michael Nevins. This is elementary school right? I'm confused why we have French Teachers, Humanities Teachers, occupational Therapists, Spanish Immersion, Language Arts...... Start cutting now! Why wait for the referendum to fail?

Mary Pikul  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 12:24 AM

Love these. Keep em coming Marc.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: March 1st, 2017 3:14 PM

@TM - attached is a recent D97 file which supports the D97 claim that enrollment has increased (by 28%) since the 1989/90 school year. However, there is another part of this page - while enrollment has increased by that figure - the FTE (Full Time Equivalent) teaching staff has increased by much, much more. How much? 65%!?! I'm referring to page 9/12 of this link: I therefore strongly encourage OP residents to vote "NO" next month and allow the new/old board members to review matters like this, the PK3 and PK4 proposal, etc. and then determine true needs and wants of an important school district. They can then return next spring with a more honest figure.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2017 11:57 AM

It is sad that so many people do leave town as soon as the kids are out of school here. We see so much of the community systematically driven away. Its almost impossible to justify staying once the kids are gone and the constant stream of so called, can't survive without it referendums, is not a good trend. We all need to re-set expectations and keep voting NO. Life will go on, schools will still have more money each year anyway with annual incremental increases they still get and the only way to force these organizations to live within a budget is to not keep throwing extra money at everything.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: March 1st, 2017 9:40 AM

The above illustration by MS has simplified the D97 referendum in a manner which many OP residents unfortunately understand and appreciate - regardless of how they might eventually vote. What, though, are we actually being asked to vote on/for? I'm confused. It has already been established that D97 has enough in the Ed Fund to continue the status quo through next year's second property tax installment. The next D97 board, about 50% comprised of new members, can therefore use the following nine months vetting what is truly needed. As one example, do we "need" a PK3 and PK4 program? Why? Where else has this been done? Where are the existing classroom spaces? With 20 budgeted teachers (+ support staff, admin, etc.) this is the equivalent of one brand new school and very, very expensive. I don't ever recall any discussion on this issue and I'd like to see it take place between now and next December. Let's do this right - vote NO today and YES in 2018. Why? Marc Stopeck's illustration completely covers the effect of our ever-increasing taxes - residents can't afford to remain after their children have graduated (i.e., Dan Haley moving to Berwyn) and these two referendum questions (combined it's about $1,000 per $10,000 of prop taxes) will make it even harder.

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