A balled-up ballot

Opinion: Editorials

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By Editorial

OK, this is a screw-up.

The District 97 tax hike referendum question that voters will read when they enter the voting booth on April 5 includes misleading information on the financial impact to taxpayers if they support the hike. The formula used to calculate the tax hike understates the impact by a factor of three.

How this happened is a curious and complex tale. Critics, and those of a conspiratorial bent, will assume either that the elementary school board consciously underestimated the cost to taxpayers to win more votes or that this is an example of the board's incompetence.

We don't believe either of those things. And we'd point out that most every other taxing body in Cook County going for a tax hike vote this spring has miscalculated the state-mandated formula in precisely the same way. Likely that is because they all used the same law firm which interpreted the state's equation identically.

Now we get into the arcane nature of tax law. In Cook County, to get an accurate sense of the tax hike's impact, the property tax equalizer or multiplier would have to be factored in. In the case of Dist. 97 and nine other taxing bodies, the law firm of Chapman and Cutler — hot shots who actually helped write the state law a few years back — decided the law did not specifically require inclusion of the equalizer.

But Oak Park state Sen. Don Harmon, who co-sponsored that law, says that's nuts since the clear intention of his law was to provide voters a clear estimate of the financial impact of a referendum.

The question is: What happens now? School board members questioned their lawyers' math from the start but buckled when told this was the standard procedure. That was a failing of the board. But to its credit, in every public discussion and document, the district has used only accurate figures reflecting the true cost of a yes vote. There was no intention to mislead. The law is specific that if there was not an effort to confuse voters, then there has been no wrongdoing.

And yet, a casual voter reading the ballot for the first time on April 5 could rightly assume a yes vote would cost them $150 annually in added tax when the real number is about $500. That's not fair.

What to do? The vote will go forward. The ballot question will stand. The district must go to active and considerable lengths to explain the discrepancy between the ballot equation and the reality of supporting the referendum. We believe every taxpayer must be contacted by the district via a mailing. Beyond that, there must be clarity for future tax votes in Cook County.

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy


Posted: March 16th, 2011 9:54 AM

@Dean: If your goal is to outspend Berwyn, we outspend D100 on average teacher salaries by nearly 40%. Do we really need to be outspending Wilmette too? And if Oak Parkers are so keen to further drain their wallets for education, why does the district need to put a gun to the head of arts programs to get the funding for their high teacher salaries?

Frustrated from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 7:56 PM

@Dean: Quit with the scare tactics. District 97 currently spends 50-56% more per student than Berwyn does, so there's little chance it will slip to those levels without the ~15% tax hike they're pushing. And even at the current level of funding, OP ain't cheap. Just demand that D97 figures out how to maintain great schools at their current level of funding -- yes, that means being efficient. VOTE NO.


Posted: March 15th, 2011 7:12 PM

TellingItLikeItIs: So, what you're saying is that education is very important to Oak Parkers and they make sacrifices for it. That is how it is. And it's a good thing, because without good schools we would be Berwyn-- a cheap place to live near the city.


Posted: March 15th, 2011 5:05 PM

Below are the top 15 Illinois large elementary districts in ISAT composite and meeting AYP ranked by spending. They are listed by District, EAV(equalized assessed property value) per student, and operating expenditure per student. As you can see, spending generally tracks with EAV, except for OP which is 5th in spending and 13th in tax base per pupil. Agreed that test scores are not the only criteria, but by any measure, D97's spending is out of pace with our ability to pay for it.


Posted: March 15th, 2011 4:45 PM

WINNETKA 926,170 17,353 APTAKISIC-TRIPP 530,885 14,525 HINSDALE 690,243 14,123 NORTH SHORE 666,984 13,960 OAK PARK 322,863 13,348 WILMETTE 577,631 13,060 SCHAUMBURG 465,726 12,293 ORLAND 436,772 12,267 KILDEER 479,162 11,932 DEERFIELD 581,578 11,333 LIBERTYVILLE 437,316 10,145 NORTH PALOS 281,052 10,129 MOUNT PROSPECT 378,483 9,878 FRANKFORT CCSD 359,063 9,231 ANTIOCH 269,888 8,830

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 7:10 PM

@Can I help?: Search for "Vote NO on Oak Park Referendum" on facebook. Also, https://sites.google.com/site/referendumno/ is another resource. Thanks for your help!

Can I help? from Oak Park  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 2:44 PM

Alan, would you please re-post the address for your site? I'd like to assist. Thanks.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 1:37 PM

@op parent: yes, that's a challenge. But it is for all schools in the US. As Sec'y of Ed Arne Duncan said at the American Enterprise Institute, today all schools are being asked to do more with less. But in Oak Park, we're debating how we'll essentially remain status quo, but spend more. It's hard for me to understand how a community as vibrant as this isn't engaging in the national debate and leading the way...instead, I feel like some are grasping onto a model that is quickly disappearing

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 1:30 PM

One problem with all these comparative metrics is, inevitably, everyone is always deficient to some degree to whomever sits atop the pyramid. It is a never-ending arms race, a spinning hamster wheel. Heck, even Bill Gates got knocked off his perch as the world's richest man by Carlos Slim. It's all well & good to keep up with Joneses, but not if you're taking money that belongs to the Wilsons, the Smiths and the Grabowskis to do it.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 1:27 PM

@DJ: I know what the Board has laid out...if that's where they feel the cuts will hurt least on total educational value, then who am I to argue? But, keep n mind, the paradigm of "pass this referendum or we chop the arts" was THEIR doing, not anyone else's. I'm sure that D97 parents (who have an actual stake in this where I don't except my tax bill) will make their opinions known. Over time, I have to trust the right changes will get made.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 12:27 PM

@Jassen. I don't really believe that the ref cmte has "a plan" to target myself and others who raise questions regarding the ref. I do, though, tire of being a constant pinata because I don't precisely word and/or agree with the opinions of others. I've endeavored to raise interesting pts on a critical matter (raising taxes on OP residents and businesses) and am pleased with my effort. My wife and I have many disagreements and our marriage is strong - I therefore expect disagreements here, too.

op parent  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 12:21 PM

Another data point: The cuts that have been announced are just what the district will have to make in order to function for the following year. Further cuts beyond those announced this cycle will have to be made in years two, three, etc., that will further impact other programs, class size, etc.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 12:12 PM

@Alan.Regarding "metrics," the board has laid out what it thinks will need to be cut if the referendum fails. One can disbelieve the board and argue that such cuts should not be necessary, but then it would be incumbant on that one to show how the board can meet the current budget without making those cuts. Or, one can argue that the proposed cuts are OK because those programs have little or no ed value. I don't think we measure the ed value of those prgms solely by reference to test scores.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 12:02 PM

@Telling. OK, I get you now. I would suggest that teacher salaries should be tied to neither community wealth nor test scores. As others have suggested, it would be better for schools to be funded from state-wide taxes. But that is not going to happen anytime soon, so salaries have to be determined by market factors, which include supply/demand, collective bargaining, the value the buyers (communities) place on education/teachers and, yes, what communities are able to afford, among other things.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:51 AM

@Alan. Well, the board HAS said what it would need to cut in order to stay within the current revenue stream. If I understand you correctly, you are saying the voters should set the budget at the status quo, and then it will be up to the board to find a way to deliver the same product on that budget. If that is your argument, it would be helpful for you to explain how that can be done.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:06 AM

One more thing, though: should we only be concerned with test scores, is that how we are measuring "success" in our schools?


Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:05 AM

Late to the game here but what school districts are being compared for all these reports? I would think we want a similar district, size-wise, as well as close to possible to our other demographics. Let's hear the districts being compared please. I would like to hear from both the yes and no crowd.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 10:59 AM

DJ- Correct: The RefYes website list of wealthy districts for their salary comps is not the same as the top 12 Cook County ISAT performers. Imagine that. RefYes gives no basis for their comps for high D97 teacher salaries, other than that they pay high salaries. RefYes's wealthy comps have an average of $644,000 in tax base behind each student vs OP's $322,000. It does indeed seem like high teacher salaries are tied more to the wealth of the tax base than to test scores.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 10:38 AM

@DJ: Well, frankly, I was trying to be respectful of the School Board that has been elected and the D97 Administrators that are highly paid to figure such things out. They decided where the cuts would be, they decided the scope of the ref...as voters we can only react to what's put in front of us. I'm still not clear on what metrics you would accept to make such a decision, but I'll go ahead and use what's publicly available at Illinois Interactive Report Card. Not perfect, but objective.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 10:26 AM

@Ironic: Intended the irony...glad you enjoyed it. But, as stated, I don't believe the calls I have received have been sanctioned by anyone. Jassen is, nonetheless, one of the leaders of a passionate and committed group. I hereby withdraw my hyperbolic allusion to kool-aid. Apologies to all who may have been offended.

Ironic from Pot and Kettle Village  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 9:46 AM

Alan Reed, you are aware you just likened Jasson to a cult leader demanding suicide from his followers and implied he is somehow to blame for "interesting calls" you supposedly have received, all at the same time you called for an end to hyperbole and emotion. We have a word for that.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 9:21 AM

@Alan. I agree that is YOUR argument. The one I articulated is the one that I am hearing most forcefully from from opponents of the ref. As to your argument, I say, respectfully, that to argue that D97 can make it work on the existing budget (revenue),without explaining how, is an oversimplification.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 9:05 AM

@DJ: Don't oversimplify. The counter-argument is "stay within your current budget and work with your Board/administrators to determine what needs to get cut." I don't care how the budget is met...just meet it. I'm not anti-teacher, anti-arts, etc....I just think it can be done reasonably on the current budget. And I pay admin and expect the board to figure it out with input from those most impacted.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 8:37 AM

@Reality. I don't think people are arguing that our kids will suffer if we don't pay teachers more. They are arguing that our kids will suffer if valuable programs are diminished or eliminated, if we get higher student/teacher ratios, etc. The counter-argument is that we won't need to do those things if we just make the teachers take a big hit. My response is that all of us, not just the teachers, should shoulder the burden of closing the deficit.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 7:46 AM

@Jassen, chet: Regarding hyperbole, let's just put it to rest and take emotion out. D97 thinks they need more than an $80million/yr budget to educate 5,457 kids. The referendum simply asks the taxpayer if they agree. I don't because there are great public schools nearby doing it for less per student. But D97 wants to spend more per student like Glencoe. All the emotion around BRAVO, etc. is related to the (calculated) D97 decision to make cuts there. I can't control that. But I can vote.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 7:39 AM

@Jassen: Since "outing" myself, I've received some interesting calls and feedback. Frankly, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone with kids at D97. I knew what I was doing, so I don't blame you or anyone directly, but you ARE the one mixing and serving the kool-aid. Just sayin'

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 7:30 AM

@Realitysux: Nicely put. At the end of the day, we don't even need to dwell on teachers' salaries or emotions at this point. The referendum asks us to set the D97 budget. That's all. And, we can look at several districts nearby who are delivering excellent schools at a per student rate less than current D97. Specifically, Elmhurst, LaGrange, Western Springs for starters. If we vote NO, we send a clear message to D97 Admin and Board that they need to figure out what these districts do well.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 1:43 AM

@DJ-The bottom line, however, is that we have not established that there is any relationship between teacher salaries and test scores. ////// Exactly why this referendum should be voted down and the board should take a tougher stance in the next salary negotiations. The arguement that the kids will suffer and the school reputation will decline if we don't pay more for the teachers is purely emotional and conjecture, not supported by any facts or evidence.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 1:07 AM

@chet21 - " it's kind of hard to keep up with all of the D97 ref cmte people who are tasked with attacking the people who raise questions" - Now we are 'tasking' people to 'attack' you? Really? Lets not get into a debate over who is behaving better. There is plenty of hyperbole going around on both sides and if you are so certain who everyone is that you are throwing out accusations, I wish you would clue me in because other than myself and Alan Reed, I haven't a clue who most posters are.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 10:11 PM

@KPost. I looked at the chart incorrectly; thought the percentages were cumulative rather than year-by-year. I immediately acknowledged the mistake when it was pointed out to me. I don't persist in refusing to admit my mistake. I am interested in accurate information, which I don't think is true of everyone on these threads.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:57 PM

You are embarrassing yourself Chet. I am not on any "ref cmte," don't even know what it is. Don't know who "Dean" is. And I have been completely civil with you, despite your sarcastic, ad hominem attacks. But you don't have the intellectual honesty to admit you were wrong about "no cuts." Contending that they were not "real" cuts, even though they represented millions of dollars in cuts, does not get you off the hook.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:52 PM

That was muddying the waters of TellinIts post. People are looking for answers not disinformation. Remember the mean salary of (lowball number here) with a Masters after 13 years? It was on both sites until questioned and then removed. More than a few posts stated the cost as $32 per 1000, not $38 and no corrections occurred. Your "misinterpretation" of 5% growth annually as 1% a year for 5 yrs was uncharacteristic of your public sector knowledge.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:44 PM

If not, then I misunderstood you. "Misrepresent" implies dishonesty. The bottom line, however, is that we have not established that there is any relationship between teacher salaries and test scores. Absent such a relationship, test scores are irrelevant to what teacher salaries should be.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:39 PM

@Telling. You said: "The RefYes website justifies high D97 teacher salaries by comparison to 11 wealthy Illinois districts. However RefYes's comps have an average of $644,000 in property tax base behind each student vs OP's $322,000." You later said: "the 12 Cook County districts which perform better in ISAT composite scores than D97 do it for an avg 11% less in instructional expenditures per pupil." I assumed you were talking about the same cohort of school districts. (cont'd)

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:35 PM

@DJ. You are CORRECT - it was your alter-ego on the ref cmte, "Dean," who misquoted me regarding "principals" - it's kind of hard to keep up with all of the D97 ref cmte people who are tasked with attacking the people who raise questions. Now, regarding your other pt, "the cuts." I contend that they weren't real "cuts" - more like ordering 2 1/2# burgers, large fries.....and a diet coke. Hardly a diet/cut for D97 - spending/eating kept increasing well beyond CPI! Next question?

R Ebert  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:16 PM

@G Siskel - Two Thumbs Up!

G Siskel from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:10 PM

@R Ebert: Hilarious. I, for one, am happy to see any District 97 schools on a "best of..." list anywhere, even the Chicago Magazine. Of course, the anti-referendum folks will think Jasen Strokoch paid off the editor to have it published before the referendum, and Chris Jascula will add it to the district's sales brochure. Burgers, schools, nightclubs...whatever...

R Ebert  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 8:45 PM

We all know the Chicago Magazine is how we should measure schools and teachers. I found the best cheeseburger in all Chicagoland this way so why shouldn't it applicable to education?


Posted: March 12th, 2011 8:24 PM

It's not uncivil to point out the difference between "the 12 Cook County districts which perform better in ISAT composite scores than D97 do it for an avg 11% less in instructional expenditures per pupil" and "districts that pay their teachers as much or more than D97 does get better test scores with 11% less in instructional expenditures". I would agree though, that this data does not support D97's high salaries.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 7:59 PM

How have I misprepresented your statement TellingIt? I don't believe I have. What I question is whether there is any relationship between teacher salaries and test scores, and I suggest that there are other variables that may explain differences in test scores among school districts. (And can we try to be civil, instead of suggesting that if others have misunderstood your positions they are "misrepresenting" them?)


Posted: March 12th, 2011 7:35 PM

@DJ: You are free to verify my numbers at iirc.niu.edu. It's quite easy. You are not free to misrepresent my statements as you have done below. I stated quite specifically "the 12 Cook County districts which perform better in ISAT composite scores than D97 do it for an avg 11% less in instructional expenditures per pupil." To be clear we are talking about large elementary districts. ISBE has provided a great tool to provide quantitative comparison of Illinois schools and districts.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 6:12 PM

I just ran across Chicago Magazines annual list of the "best" elementary (K-8) schools in the region. District 97 has 4 schools (Mann, Julian, Longfellow & Lincoln) ranked ahead of the River Forest Schools. Now you may squabble over the way the rankings are figured, but even so, Way to Go D97!


Posted: March 12th, 2011 4:29 PM

Chet. If I am wrong about you having said something about the arts, my apologies. But you clearly have been focused on M-C, and so my basic point remains fully applicable. I have NEVER accused you of disrespecting principals - I don't even know what you are talking about. I have admitted my mistake about the projected spending increases. Your continuing to harp on it is particularly disingenuous given your refusal to admit that you were mistaken about D97 not having made cuts.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 4:10 PM

@DJ - There you go again!!! Here's your quote: "Arguing against M-C and the arts." Just about every time you "quote" me you are completely wrong. Where have I EVER mentioned cutting "the arts?" Answer: NEVER!!! You accuse me of disrespecting principals - when I was doing just the opposite. You turn my 5% annual D97 spending increases (wow, they're being "frugal") in to 1%. Here's my plea - ignore me. You are a 1-person, 24/7, disassembler of everything. Is that your "job" for the YES group?


Posted: March 12th, 2011 3:20 PM

Chet. You really aren't going to get very far by arguing that entire programs that you don't value, but that others value highly (e.g., M-C), should be eliminated. If we have too many teachers, administrators, or other staff members; or are paying them all too much; or we are paying too much for equipment, materials and vendors, those are legitimate areas for cuts. Arguing against M-C and the arts is just turning this into an ideological battle rather than a discussion of frugality.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 3:02 PM

Re: values, I would include the acquisition of research skills, analytical skills, study skills, organizational skills and social skills. I would also include motivating students to learn, and expanding their experience and exposure to various aspects of humanity, including art, music, theatre, athletics, and languages, as well as to other cultures. We can't quantify those aspects of education, but we can nevertheless observe them and take them into account in assessing educational value.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 2:42 PM

@Allen. In terms of data, I would like to see some reconciliation of the claim that "comparable" districts that pay their teachers as much or more than D97 does get better test scores with 11% less in "instructional expenditures." I would also like to know more about the respective demographics of the comparable districts, the extent to which test scores improved over time, etc. Surely you will agree that there are factors other than "instructional expenditures" that affect test scores.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 2:36 PM

DJ & Marcia. No disrespect.I graded the D97 cuts as "average" because I considered them "to be a start." Keeping the M-C Dept suggests that much more could and can be done - especially when D97 spends more per student than most other districts and has seen an explosion in hiring. Expense growth thru 2016 of 5% annually is NO ONE's definition of "frugal"-even for YES voters. During this uncertain financial climate I think that more must be done - esp in OP - a town with very high prop taxes.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 1:46 PM

@JustSayNoMarcia: TAKE MY NAME OUT OF YOUR "NAME". At least I am adult enough to present FACTS in a concise, non-confrontational reasonable way. I am mature enough to use my name. Are you? I am also done responding. One one post I presented a list of 2years worth of cuts to which Chet said thank you and on another page he rated it as "C-" and as "not enough". To those leaning "NO" - do your own research. It's all in the Board minutes. Otherwise, you are just blathering and complaining. Bye.

Just Say NO Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 12:41 PM

I believe that as 4.6 million was cut from 2002-2007. The same figure was being laundered out of Buildings and Grounds thru the schemes of Jerry Malatesta(Have the bean counters found his cash stash?) I think that many more people turned a blind eye to his long running schemes. The District 97 HVAC man and others must have been involved. Cost to the taxpayers over his 20 year reign of power. Probably 10 million. How many years back did they investigate? What happened to the whistleblower?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 11:53 AM

@DJ: Well, yes, my low expectations were met. The fact that they didn't even ask for a "NO" voice or acknowledge its existence was the only thing even a little surprising. So, what other values should we be analyzing? And where will we get that information in our "hard to hold accountable" public school culture? If you can't measure it, you can't manage it...so, I'm working with the publicly-available data in the absence of something better. Truly interested in your thoughts....


Posted: March 12th, 2011 11:34 AM

lol-voting no-too funny. I was surprised by the lack of data at one of the forums as well.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 11:33 AM

@Allen/Voting. D97 is, OF COURSE, making its case at the fora. To expect otherwise is not realistic. But let's be honest, you were predisposed to being dissappointed. In any event, to use Voting's imagery, TellingIt's numbers are only the wrists and elbows. We need a lot more analysis before we can conclude from that data that D97 can achieve higher test scores with less funding. And we also have to ask whether test scores are the only educational value that matters.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 11:20 AM

@Voting. Did you ask for the information at the forum? If you are sincere about wanting the information, rather than simply posturing, you will take the effort to find it. Not everyone can attend the public fora, so if voters want to be informed, they need to make the effort to inform themselves.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 11:18 AM

@Voting NO: I was disappointed with the forum I attended as well. Frankly, it was more of a marketing presentation from D97. Luckily, I think these events are primarily "preaching to the choir", however it concerns me that within the tight little vacuum/bubble that D97 has created, it all makes sense. But, if you look at the data TellingitLikeItIs suggests, you'll see that the logic is flawed and we CAN AND SHOULD ask for better schools at the current (or less) cost to the taxpayer.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 10:55 AM

To think, I went to a forum because I thought D97 would present the important information there. Is this a tacit acknowledgement that voters who want to be informed must do their own research because the forums are all about generalities, emotional appeal and arm waving? Carolina has very pretty arms but if we're talking about raising tax dollars I'd like to see numbers, not elbows and wrists.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:33 AM

*oops, there (should also proofread first)


Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:32 AM

@Voting, the info is there if you care to look for it. No one can list everything here for you. The cuts are specific with dollar amounts attached. As far as what has been added, that info is there as well. Do some research and you will see there have been plenty of cuts. Have their been additions? Yes, but you need to look to see if you disagree with those as well. To say the info isn't there is wrong. And at the forum this week, speak up and ask for specifics.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:22 AM

@Voting. For starters, look at Marcia's posts below. Then go to the D97 site and find the $1.3 million in cuts that were made in January 2011, and that will be effective regardless of whether the referendum passes. If that is not sufficient, then perhaps you would like to do your own research, and then share it with us.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 8:53 AM

At a recent forum Noel showed a list of the cuts Dr. Collins had recommended. Each item was specific and had a dollar amount. Contrast that to the current rhetoric of "years of cuts" and the list of cuts necessary to save a lump sum. I wasn't a Collins fan but I give her credit for being specific. I'd like to see a list of the specific cuts - and specifics adds - over the last few years. I'm sure some things have been cut. But I think things have been added. Let's get the whole picture.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 6:48 PM

I'm sorry Chet. I cannot credit your response. The contention that D97 has not made cuts (and therefore has lied about it)is an objectively falsifiable proposition. It has been shown to be false. I would hope that you would have the intellectual integrity to so acknowledge, and then we can move on to what additional cuts should have been, or should in the future be, made.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 6:44 PM

@TellingIt. I'm not saying a comparison is irrelevant to the issue of the referendum, only that I had not made any obervations or claims to which the comparison had apparent relevance. To the extent a comparison is relevant to the wisdom of the referendum, I am not sure your comparisons account for all of the pertinent variables.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 6:01 PM

@DJ:I'm just providing some numbers for comparison, courtesy of iirc.niu.edu. You may not feel the high tax burden D97's high salaries place on OP'ers relative to wealthy "peer" districts is relevant, but others might. As far as paying teachers what they are worth, I'm sure we both would like to send teachers home with a bar of gold each day, but the 12 Cook County districts which perform better in ISAT composite scores than D97 do it for an avg 11% less in instructional expenditures per pupil.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 4:38 PM

@DJ. Unlike "math," the area of "cuts" is subjective to a lot of interpretations. Of course I give credit for their being made, but raising class size from 20-22 should be a slam dunk and also suggest that the "cuts" were made because enrollment declined. The other areas kind of seem to be of either the commonsensical (printing, travel stipends, reduced supplies) or non-essential. I'd give a grade of C- and ask "what took so long?" Perhaps the cost over-runs with Middle Schools prompted this?


Posted: March 11th, 2011 3:54 PM

@TellingIt. Not sure what you're responding to. I've made no claims about D97 teacher compensation compared to other school districts, nor have I referred to RefYes' data in that regard. I would need to check your data before responding to it, but consider whether it is more appropriate to pay teachers in accordance with what they are worth rather than in accordance with the size of the tax base.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 3:27 PM

@DJ: The RefYes website justifies high D97 teacher salaries by comparison to 11 wealthy Illinois districts. However RefYes's comps have an average of $644,000 in property tax base behind each student vs OP's $322,000. Thus the high salaries place a much greater relative burden on OP taxpayers. Of 46 large elementary districts in Cook County, D97 is the 19th wealthiest but 5th in instuctional spending. In short, at current levels we are paying our teachers more than we can afford to.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 2:51 PM

@Undecided. Obviously, the contract can't be renegotiated between now and April 5. Defeating the referendum on the premise that the contract WILL be renegotiated would be hihgly risky. The result of an arms-length negotiation cannot be predicted or fore-ordained. In any event, why do some of us insist that the teachers should shoulder the entire burden of closing the deficit. They are not the only beneficiaries of our school system.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 2:45 PM

@chet21. What should now be clear is that D97's claims of having made cuts are accurate and made in good faith. You may think the cuts were insufficient or made in the wrong areas, but you have no basis for implying that the board has been dishonest or claiming that it has been fiscally irresponsible. I acknowledged that I was wrong about the projected increases. Will you now acknowledge that you were incorrect on this matter? (BTW, isn't "fluff" exactly where D97 should start in making cuts?)


Posted: March 11th, 2011 1:56 PM

What about renegoiating the teachers' contract? Also, if art and music are cut, when will teachers have their planning time.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 1:31 PM

@Chet: 17 teachers were cut, most likely because we increased class size average (at the elementary level) to 20-22. I do not know if any were rehired. You could probably research the Board minutes online for more information. I do know that the District has cut down in every department to eliminate waste and keep the quality program that this community expects. They were hard decisions to make even then.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 12:59 PM

@Marcia. Thanks. Mostly what I expected. Except, though, these two: what were the 17.2 certified staff cuts and were any rehired? Classroom? This IS a significant number and "certified staff" means something, nothing and everything. What was the rationale behind the cuts of staff (looking at MS instruction cut from 33 to 30)? It is probable that my son was then at Julian and I don't recall any changes. Lower enrollment? Sorry to bother you and, again, thanks.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 12:24 PM

.) 04-05: Admin ($245,362)[cut admin in Tech Dept., eliminate Waterford supplies, reduce Director of Tech to 60%, Eliminate Consultant fees for meetings, eliminate out-sourcing for assessment analysis], Technology ($120,200)[reduced instructional, software, and network hardware upgrades], MC Dept. ($25,000), Middle School Instruction ($719,000)[reduced core staff from 33 to 30, reduced elective staff, reduced general supplies, reduced remedial support staff], FLES ($50,000)[reduced instruction time]. I hope this helps.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 12:22 PM

Chet: the MS referendum was before my time, but that was for building bonds - not for operating/education funds. I can't speak for any Board discussion about referendum after my tenure. Some cut examples: 03-04: Admin: Cut 6.5 professional staff, 3 support staff, consulting, certified staff stipends, equipment, printing, supplies and materials: $887,730; Schools/other: 17.2 certified staff, .5 language arts specialist, certified staff stipends, equipment ($935,234); (cont.)

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 11:27 AM

@Marcia. Were you on the D97 Bd for the MS referendum? Or doesn't that count? No ref in 2008, 2009 or 2010 for D97 or any one else. Why now? You do note "cuts" but could you tell me which ones were the largest? Just list 3-5 of them. I don't have your notes and Dan hasn't responded to my request regarding "specifics" - $4.6M is a lot of money. Please - prove the "skeptic" part of my brain wrong - and show me that my "fluff" or non-essential thoughts are VERY mistaken. Thanks.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 10:05 AM

In going back through my notes between 2002 and 2007 (which I still have!) , we made cuts totaling over 4.6 million to administration and staff as well as programs. I know that they have continued to make cuts after my tenure. The high school has gone for 4 referendums in that span of time while D97 did not pursue any in an attempt to live within its means. And yet, still there are people in the community who say that D97 is fiscally irresponsible. PS - Our kids LOVED the multi-age classroom

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 10:04 AM

When I was on the board, we debated heavily about pursuing a referendum but decided against it because we felt we had not made enough financial reductions and the high school and park district were already planning referendums, We knew what the tax payer response would be (the same that it is now). It amazes me how fleeting memories are as I remember sitting through many contentious board meetings with people protesting cuts and potential tax increases. (continued)

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 8:43 AM

Dan, thanks, but my 90-yr old neighbor gives me her WJ every TH! Also, FWIW, I had 2 kids at D97 until recently and I don't recall any effect of "cuts" - except when the Union decided, to obtain the money for their raises, to fire several classroom teachers and do multi-age classes. It was a disaster, but, hey, they got their raise. The originator of this now sits on the D97 Bd. Are you counting THOSE cuts, too? Can you provide specifics? Just cuts of "fluff" - and/or for raises? Can you help?


Posted: March 11th, 2011 8:16 AM

In addition to the historical cuts to which Dan Haley refers, in January 2011, D97 approved $1.3 million in cuts to be implemented whether or not the referendum passes. (See referendumyes.com.) The cuts include reducing staff positions, an admin salary freeze, and, yes, restructering of the M-C dept. Respectfully, chet21, you might have researched this issue before asserting that D97 is dishonest and irresponsible, and on that basis urging people to oppose the referendum.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal   

Posted: March 10th, 2011 9:22 PM

Dear Chet 21, Don't want to sound like a defensive publisher. But get a subscription to Wednesday Journal. We've been covering the cuts at District 97 for a decade. You can decide if the cuts were enough, if they were the right cuts, the wrong cuts, if the contracts were too rich. Don't care if you vote for or against the referendum. But they happened in a public process that we reported on regularly. It's what we do. Thanks for the traffic you drive to our site. So I'll give you a comp sub! Dan

OP Resident  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 7:23 PM

Thanks for the chuckle, Jassen!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 7:11 PM

@OPRF - We will get right on that. The use of all CAPS convinced me :-)


Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:43 PM


Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:36 PM

@DJ and Chet21 - thanks for the good discussion. I think the one things that DJ points out well is that for many of us it's not just about the numbers. Any of us could balance D97's budget but getting everyone to agree on whether the cuts are worth the cost saving or in the 'right' areas is the real hard part.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 5:08 PM

@DJ. Good question about my thoughts regarding D97 cuts. My first thought is "what cuts?" I know they SAID that they made some "cuts," but I'd need specifics about this. Second, since I'm unaware of any "cuts" that affected ANYTHING related to D97's ed mission - I wonder if what they "cut" had any genuine merit - or was just fluff? For instance, they still have the M-C Dept! And continued spending at such high %'s does concern me. Regarding the math, I agree on 2 counts - irrelevant, but fun!


Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:38 PM

Kind of silly for us to be arguing the percentage-increase point, don't you think, given that we are only a few tenths of a percentage point apart? I didn't use simple OR compounded interest. You don't need to calculate the increase year by year. The total increase is the difference ("D") between the FY2016 sum and the FY 2011 sum, right? And so the total percentage-change is D/FY2011, right?


Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:27 PM

So if D97 had not said "we're so frugal," and "we have made lots of cuts" you'd be voting FOR the referendum? :-) You don't deny as a factual matter that D97 has made cuts, do you? The data you cite, without more, does not show that D97 has been irresponsible about finances. The fact that D97 has indeed made cuts tends to show the opposite. You want to teach D97 a lesson (one you can't show is deserved). I don't want to risk losing valuable programs. Once they are lost, we won't get them back.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:13 PM

@DJ. By the way, you are mistaken on two of your points. The first is your math and the reading of "final figure ending FY 2016." The "compounding" is NOT on the statement - or else the "% change" annual figures wouldn't both increase and decrease. Also, your "Psychic powers" regarding my purported "condescension" is mistaken. I noted "compounding" because your method (simple interest) is what most people believe is germane. I'm a finance guy and experience this all the time. So, I apologize.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 4:05 PM

@DJ. My SOLE point is that I'm questioning the "we're so frugal" and "have made lots of cuts" that D97 has been touting in their quest to project responsible financial stewardship and obtain YES votes for referendum. This type of "stewardship" during the worst financial crisis in 80 years (and IMO, it's not even close to being over) - when so many OP families and businesses are struggling - can NOT be rewarded with a YES vote. OP needs to reconsider the "status quo." Won't happen if ref wins.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 3:32 PM

Notwithstanding your condescension, the "compounding" has already been done and is reflected in the final figure ending FY 2016. So the simpler way to calculate the aggregate percentage-increase is to reflect the difference between the beginning number and the ending number as a percentage of the beginning number.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 3:28 PM

If you now want to shift the discussion to historical compensation increases, I would appreciate you providing sources for your data regarding US personal income generally, and D97 wages in particular. For present purposes, I will assume your numbers are correct. And with all due respect I answer "so what?" By what principle must teacher salaries rise or fall at the national mean or average?


Posted: March 10th, 2011 3:19 PM

chet21, we were discussing projected expenditures, not historical ones. On that score, the fact that projected expenditures exceed projected revenues does not prove that the D97 board members are "spendthrifts." That depends on whether the expenditures support meritorious programs that we want or are otherwise justified. To say that the projected expenditures must match projected revenues simply begs the question. It would mean that a tax increase is never justified.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 1:47 PM

@DJ. It should be noted because USpersonal income decreased in 2009 by 1.7% and increased in 2010 by 3.0%. Blended, it is about 1.5%. One quick look at the D97 salary schedule shows that D97 wages increased by much more. Next? D97 annual revenue is projected to increase over those 5 years by 2.7%. Point? This situation exists not because of "tax caps," but because D97 are spendthrifts. BTW, I think that you added the %'s. That's incorrect - you need to multiply them. It's called "compounding."


Posted: March 10th, 2011 12:01 PM

@chet21. Actually, I calculate 25.2% by subtracting the FY 2011 amount from the FY 2016 amount and then dividing that number by the FY 2011 number. But close enough for purposes of this discussion. So let's move on. What are the sources of those projected increases, and why are they not justified? I.e., why do the represent a "spending spree"?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 11:23 AM

@DJ. Your comment made me, again, review the numbers and, oops, I DID use wrong variables. The new number is actually 24.5% for Total Expenditures, but a higher figure, 25.6% for Salary and Benefits. Since the latter category is about 80% of D97 expenses - this 25.6% increase is quite significant. Are we NOW in agreement with the figures?


Posted: March 10th, 2011 11:06 AM

Contractual increases? Projected increases in staff because of increased needs (students)? How does the agreement with the OPTA compare with collectivce bargaining agreements in comparable school districts? Even if it is relatively generous, do we WANT it to be relatively generous because we place a high value on our educators? Just citing numbers does not persuade me that it is waste.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 11:01 AM

@chet21. Well, not exactly. I concede that I read the chart incorrectly and that each percentage-change is annual rather than cumulative. But some of the annual changes are considerably less than 5%, and thus the real percentage-increase over 5 years is closer to 20% than 27%. That's still a lot more than 5%, but the difference between 20% and 27% is not immaterial. That said, before we can draw conclusions about waste, we need to drill down more. To what are the increases attributable? (contd.)

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:27 AM

@DJ - It is 5% EVERY YEAR for 5 years! NOT 1% for 5 years = 5%. Worse? Using the lower figure of 4.89%, but compounding it for 5 years.......equals 26.96%!?! You may not agree with my opinions (I'm married with 2 kids - and so I'm used to that!), but will you now agree with my math?


Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:14 AM

@chet21. But no reader would agree that 5% over 5 years is the same thing as 5% annually. My solution is not "solely" to raise taxes (though you seem to believe the only solution is cuts). If someone can show me that there has been waste, I'm all for eliminating the waste and reducing the tax increase commensurately. I do not regard compensation/benefits increases for teachers to be "waste." Perhaps that is where we really differ.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:05 AM

@OP taxpayer/D97 Parent. Assuming those figures to be accurate (do you have a source?), they don't show that expenditures exceeded need, only that they exceeded revenue. I don't know the board's thinking, but it is plausible that they used the $70MM to defer asking for a tax increase until it became necessary. If you can show me that the expenditures were wasteful, then you have an argument.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 9:13 AM

@DJ. I think that most readers will agree that 4.89% can be honestly rounded to 5%. I am unaware of any poster who has denied that D97 doesn't have serious future problems if they don't get their spending and revenue in to balance. Where I think you and I disagree is that your solution is, solely, to raise taxes. For example, if D97 held "Salary & Benefit Costs" to 2% (not 5%) thru 2016, this would almost reduce the ENTIRE deficit! Let's vote NO and take the next 6 mos to get this right.

OP tax payer/D97 parent  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 8:57 AM

@DJ, we had a $70MM fund balance a dozen years ago, from the last referendum grab. Expenses have > Revenue in EVERY published budget. A decade ago it was spending $52MM when getting $42MM in taxes, then spending ~$62MM when getting ~$50MM in taxes. The 'cuts' the district have made recently have only shrunk the deficit, never have they "balanced" the budget.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 12:00 AM

It also should be noted that, though the year-end balance will be positive for a couple of years, there will be an expenditure/revenue deficit immediately. Again, it does not strike me as responsible to ignore the revenue/expenditure deficit simply because there will be money in the bank for a couple of years before it is depleted.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 11:51 PM

Regarding the year-end fund balances, the projections show a $3.6 million deficit as of the end of 2015, and a $13.4 million deficit as of the end of 2016. It strikes me as responsible to address the issue now, rather than kicking it down the road.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 11:30 PM

Of course, it is to be expected that payroll/benefits would constitute the largest portion of the budget. The 4.82% increase is presumably the result of a negotiated contract. You may think D97 is a bad negotiator, but do you have any frame of reference for contending that the 4.82% increase over 5 years is out of line, or represents a "spending spree" on the part of D97?


Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:57 PM

@chet21. You said: "I will vote NO because annual spending increases of 5% - while D97 is proudly claiming 'we're frugal,' scares me in to believing that IF they win...the spending spree will accelerate." I took that to mean you were positing a 5% increase PER YEAR over the PAST few years. The D97 projection analysis shows a 4.89% budget increase over the next 5 years, not 5% per year. The percentage increase is actually larger for "other" costs(5.15%) than it is for salary/benefits (4.82%).


Posted: March 9th, 2011 8:52 PM

Meaning no 500 character limit. I don't know the upper limit. Maybe you can write an infinite novel.

B.Lanning from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 8:50 PM

Jeez, I mean characters. Too many distractions. Membership? I don't know. Jassen has commented on there from time to time, Chris Jasculca has sent them announcements and commented somewhat.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 8:40 PM

Thanks B. Lanning. Do you think the Live Here Oak Park site reaches as wide audience? (BTW, it is a 500 "character" limit. 500 "words" I could deal with.)

B.Lanning from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 8:16 PM

The site Live Here Oak Park http://www.livehereoakpark.com/ doesn't have a 500 word limit. You put up images, links, and start your own topics.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 7:19 PM

@DJ. I'm NOT "telling" you how to vote. It'd be more accurate to say that I'm "begging!"


Posted: March 9th, 2011 6:41 PM

Thanks Chet 21. First, as an aside, I wish that the Journal would lift its 500-character limit. It encourages sloganish, snarky and unilluminating commentary, rather than thoughtful discussion. You and I are obviously chafing under he limitation. Second, I would appreciate you not telling me how to vote, at least until after I have had the chance to analyze and perhaps respond to your data.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 5:17 PM

Pt3 @DJ. The cash-flow question is impt, but D97 has several options even if the ref fails and cash balance is too low. Like what? Tax anticipation bonds? Is there a minor cost and is it inefficient? Yes. But D97 brought this upon itself by delaying the ref (for years) and granting generous employee contracts - a perfect storm. NOW they have OP's attn and the true due diligence is occurring. Better late than never, but if they win - it'll be "business as usual" and higher taxes for all. Vote NO!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 5:06 PM

Pt. 2 @DJ. With my previous link, you see FY2010 and FY2011 YearEnd fund balances of $20.4M and $21.3M. FY2012 (next year)? $16M - but this doesn't include $1.3M from "freeze" or any other cuts. So, at least $17.3M - only $3M less than FY2010. If $3M, with no cuts, is the worst case figure - why is D97 screaming $5M in cuts if ref fails? Actually, if the bal is $17.3M - why ANY cuts? Perhaps they need to, but we need monthly cash flow figures. For instance, what if State $$ is $10M in August?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 4:55 PM

Pt1 @DJ. Here you go: http://www.op97.k12.il.us/referendum/Current Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf. This shows the spending plans thru 2016. Main area of increase? Salary and benefits. Yes, it's a generous teacher contract and I'm guessing that's why the OPTA wanted it extended for 1 year while they accepted "the kinda-freeze." Your other question regards the shortfall and it is critical. It is why I'd like to see a monthly fin'l statements and not just annual


Posted: March 9th, 2011 4:31 PM

So perhaps it would be helpful to try to assess the assertion that D97 has been on a spending spree, which would then inform an assessment of whether D97 is likely to "continue" to do so if the referendum succeeds. To start, though you have probably done so elsewhere, perhaps you could refer us the source for your statement that D97's budget has been increasing at the rate of 5%.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 4:25 PM

@chet21. Since there IS a shortfall, what "scares" ME is the prospect of valuable programs being eliminated or contracted. I'm not sure how to calculate the relative probability of either scenario (elimination/slashing of programs vs. spending spree), but I imagine the way you and I assess the respective risks may be affected by the amount of value we respectively ascribe to educational programs vs. financial frugality. We probably cannot reach agreement on that point.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 3:35 PM

@DJ. Alright, we are sort of in agreement - but we differ on what to do about it. I will vote NO because annual spending increases of 5% - while D97 is proudly claiming "we're frugal," scares me in to believing that IF they win...the spending spree will accelerate. A failed ref, though, allows OP to make the review that's truly necessary - and overdue. Did you notice that the "freeze" wasn't what was originally presented AND that it extended the current non-frugal contract for another year?


Posted: March 9th, 2011 2:35 PM

for example, and therefore regard it as "waste." So if not raising taxes means actually eliminating or shrinking valuable educational programs, then I am reluctant to let that happen.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 2:31 PM

whether the teacher's unions should be busted, whether teachers in general are overpaid, etc. As far as I know, everyone agrees that there is a shortfall. So the question is what to do about it, if anything. Railing about "tenure," for example, is for another day. If there is "waste" or "fat" in the system, then we should address that before we raise taxes. But I haven't seen anyone make the case that there is "waste," other than those who are philosophically opposed foreign language,cont'd.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 2:22 PM

Sorry to disappoint you chet21, but I am inclined to vote "yes." But that should not stop either of us from assuming that the other is approaching the matter in good faith. I do think it would advance the disussion if we were to put aside certain agendas that do not directly directly relate to the issues of the shortfall and what to do about, e.g., whether schools should be funded by local property taxes (I think they should not), whether there should be "school choice," (cont'd)

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 1:13 PM

If this goes with incorrect info, each person visiting the polls should receive a handout (in bright paper) explaining the error and the true impact of the referendum.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 1:10 PM

@DJ. We're in agreement - both sides (myself included) are occasionally guilty. Just now tell me that you're voting NO and I'll promise to agree with you for the second time today - :-)!


Posted: March 9th, 2011 12:39 PM

@chet21. I am not characterizing all "NO" posters as "demagogues." I use that term to refer to people who use distortion and emotionalism to advance their agenda. I'm sure there is plenty of that to go around on both sides of this issue. Here, I believe SOME "NO" posters have pounced on this particular instance in a way that I would characterize as demagoguery. It was inevitable, of course, and, imho, good legal advice would have taken that into account.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 12:20 PM

@ DJ. Are you referring to "NO" posters as "demagogues"?!? Here's Websters Def: 1.) a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power 2.) a leader championing the cause of the common people in ancient times. I think that the "Yes" camp falls under the first definition (and substitute "gain power" for "gain money") and the "No" camp under the second - overlooking the "ancient times" part - :-). Tom Scharre - perfect as always!

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 12:08 PM

To quote Barbie, "Math is hard."

OP Resident  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 11:14 AM

We get the real deal! Now that we know that Chris Jasculca has stepped forward; will he please go on the record? How much much has District 97 paid to Chapman & Cutler paid for their legal services, what's their hourly rate, and was the contract awarded to them following an open and competitive bidding process? Any board member is welcome to respond to what I think are fair questions.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 11:13 AM

Precisely Chris. Those who are demagoguing this situation to argue that the D97 board has been dissembling are engaging in their own form of distortion. The $38/$1000 has been the consistent message and is not in dispute. However, I do not understand Chapman's advice. Even if the calculation used was "legal," it nevertheless results in a misrepresentation, one that does not help the D97's ojectives, but undermines them by giving the demogogues an opportunity to pounce.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:56 AM

However, what all parties involved in this matter 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. This is the figure the Board of Education has been communicating since it adopted the referendum resolution on January 18, 2011. It is also the one that was verified by Oak Park Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar on January 19, 2011.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:55 AM

Please note that the comment attributed to Chris Jasculca on this thread was not posted by me, but rather someone impersonating me. I have made the publisher of the newspaper aware of this situation. The official statement from the District 97 Board of Education regarding this issue is as follows: The wording of District 97's referendum ballot question has recently sparked debate among tax legislation experts. cont.

DS from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:31 AM

The ballot will stand. The ballot will stand and it will be in D97 favor. The uninformed voter will look at the ballot as written and assume D97 is not looking for as much as they have been told over and over, so "hey, whats a few extra bucks for the schools?" But when the Fall tax bill arrives with the true full year's increase on it - look out, it's too late. Yet another reason to just say no.

Take Back Your Community Oak Parkers  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:20 AM

Times are changin'. The money tide has receded, exposing all the naked tax and spend crowd. Time to put some accountability back and become more responsible citizens. Do your part and make our community an affordable & diverse place to live. VOTE NO.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:17 AM

Is Chris Jasculca willing to share with residents information on the amount Chapman and Cutler were paid for their "satisfactory" work? Or does someone need to file a FOIA request? We also should be told if the contract awarded to this well-connected firm was "no-bid". I know Chapman & Cutler have close ties to Don Harmon. That has me concerned District 97 is following the lead of Village Hall and does not hold a competitive bidding process for legal services.

South OP Grandparents from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:05 AM

Have been following the discussions for weeks. Thanks to all for the the input and perspectives. Speaking from 2 generations of living in OP, I hope that D97 gets the message and will tap into creativity of/suggestions from "marketplace." But my wife and I think that the mold will have to be broken to repair the problems; more money is not the solution. Put us down for 2 NO votes. South OP Grandparents

JC from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:02 AM

This whole process strikes me as rushed, poorly organized and somewhat of a cramdown. Why don't they delay the vote until the next election cycle, get their ducks in a row, and make an effort to have an informed electorate vote on this?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:45 AM

Dear Wed Journal, OP needs your help. I request that you consider opposing the D97 ref. Why? Because their claims of "thrift," "poverty" and "pay freeze", etc are not supported by reality - & they are the basis of their ref campaign. Projected, thru 2016, spending increases of 5% must be addressed, but they won't unless this ref fails. If it does fail, then, like others have written, a zero-based budget analysis must be undertaken. OP needs your assistance to get this right!

OP Resident  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:44 AM

I've read it and still cannot believe the Wednesday Journal is calling confusion regarding the school referendum "a screw-up". That could almost be interpreted as a bit of a dig at Don Harmon. Wow! Harmon has always been able to count on the Wednesday Journal to be in his corner. There's been never any questioning of Harmon's close ties to the corrupt Madigan machine or how our own state senator has worked tirelessly to block any reforms of the TIF laws. Is the honeymoon over?


Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:38 AM

Why doesn't the board just sue the law firm for $48 million and avoid the limiting tax increase! Law firms are sued all the time for malpractice and they have insurance. This could be their get out of jail free card before the voters of Oak Parks throw them out.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:35 AM

First it was a cash bond and then they told us that it was the best way. Then at the last minute they told us a limiting rate inc was better. Now this screw up. Why would anyone believe the flawed forecasts of structural deficits? Why should we believe the current cuts are the only way to reduce bad inefficient, unaccountable spending behavior?


Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:34 AM

@Johnson: Sorry if I misinterpreted your question. You said to "With all due respect Jassen, that is not what the editorial states" I thought you where somehow saying the editorial was authoritative in some way.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:25 AM

@Really? Um Really-I know that it is an editorial. That is why I am asking for clarification. What is the problem with my post exactly? I am asking for more info based on the editors deductions. Really!!

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:24 AM

This is yet another reason to vote NO and reset the process. When the referendum does not pass, we need the Board to create a zero based budget and THEN make budget cuts based on FACTUAL information, which can be verified and audited. This will allow us to focus and cut the fat out surgically. IF there is still a short fall then we can ask for a MUCH smaller amount $5=$10Million range along with SMART measures that will allow us to hold the board and the admin accountable. www.referendumno.com


Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:14 AM

@Johnson: It's an editorial. That means it an opinion. You have yours, others have their own. I dont know anything about tax law but it sounds like this is how they ballot has to be written. D97 is in an impossible situation. They either use a number that is confusing or go against legal counsel and precedent. They are going to get blamed no matter what they choose.

really@gmail.com from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:08 AM

@No on REFERNDUM - So to be clear, you would have supported the Board had they decided to ignore their legal counsel and years of precedents? Interesting.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:06 AM

Law firms are contractors, not elected officials, and it is the responsibility of elected officials and the bureaucrats they hire to ensure that the contractors' work is solid. Did the officials involved carefully review the work that we the taxpayers paid for. Or are they merely hiding behind the opinion to protect themselves. Comments to the effect that "the prestigious (law firm)said" suggest the latter. If we are paying for law firms to make the decision, why do we need the officials?


Posted: March 9th, 2011 7:57 AM

With all due respect Jassen, that is not what the editorial states. It says that the firm found a loophole, the bd questioned it and buckled when firnm told them it wa standard operating procedure not that is was illegal. So, did the firm lie to the bd about the illegality of including the equalizer info? If so, then we have another set of problems!! Is it againsst state staute or not?

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 7:40 AM

@Jassen: I believe that YOU believe that math...but now I and many others doubt what the increase will actually be if this poorly thought through referendum passes. And blaming it on the attorney/consultant when the fiduciary duty belongs to the Board and the district is both predictable and deplorable...and gets to the real issue which is accountability and transparency of D97actions and finances to its taxpayer owners.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 7:28 AM

@Johnson - Keep in mind that the premier Bond law firm in Illinois, who does the ballot writing for nearly every school district in the Chicagoland area, told the Board it was against State statute to include the equalizer. And by all accounts, minus one local politician named Ali, everyone agrees with this interpretation of the statute, including every school district in Cook county going back to around 2008 that has put a referendum on the ballot. Look at the real issue, a bad statute.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 7:24 AM

@what now - actually, the $38/$1000 figure is still accurate.


Posted: March 9th, 2011 7:21 AM

What bothers me is that the Bd knew about the equalizer but chose not to deciminate this info at all. I'm sorry, but they don't get pass from me because they were, "told this was standard procedure." They are professionals and their duty is to the citizens of "Oak "Park and should have insisted on being as transparent as possible. I will give Carolina and Jason the benefit of the doubt. I don't beliee they were complicit. But I am so disappointed in the bd.

What now?  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 5:54 AM

Chris Jascula-is the district going to reach out to every taxpayer in Oak Park and let them know about this discrepency? For months the district has been telling us/$38/$1000 and now we find out that this is inaccurate? Jassen-will you update your website to reflect this new info. It is really difficult not be cynical about this whole process.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 5:41 AM

I was in agreement with everything you stated until the very end. Relying on District 97 to fairly, objectively and accurately communicate about this referendum continues to be a problem. Based on the rhetoric District 97 and their supporters have generated to-date, I have no faith that they are able to act in the best interest of Oak Park voters and taxpayers. They act ONLY in their own selfish interests...the confusing and incorrect referendum language is the latest data point.

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