D97 referendum 'question' in question

Ballot language misstates impact of tax hike: Oak Park Township assessor


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

A question has been raised by an Oak Park resident, as well as the township assessor, about the accuracy of District 97's April 5 referendum ballot question and whether it underestimates how much property owners will actually pay in added taxes if it passes.

Oak Park Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar insists that it does underestimate the impact, because the question does not factor in the state equalizer, a number used by the Cook County Assessor each year to help calculate local tax bills. The law firm that helped draft District 97's ballot question, however, said it followed state law that dictates how such ballot measures should be written. The law, the firm says, does not specify using the equalizer.

The Oak Park elementary school district is seeking a $6 million increase April 5 which will bring its total levy to $48 million if it is approved. The district estimates the cost will be an additional $38 for every $1,000 in property taxes currently paid by property owners. The district is actively using that formulation to explain its request for a tax hike to voters. All sides agree that is a fair representation of the impact to a local taxpayer. The problem is that it is not the formulation that appears on the ballot question.

By not factoring in the state equalizer, ElSaffar insists that Dist. 97's ballot question is inaccurate. Oak Park schools though are not alone in this situation. In at least nine other municipalities or school districts with referendum ballot questions on April 5, the same formula was used, ElSaffar says.

Chicago-based law firm Chapman and Cutler, which specializes in this field of financial law, helped Dist. 97 and many of those other municipalities draft their ballot questions.

Lynda Given, a partner with the law firm, maintained that her firm followed existing statute in each instance. She stressed that the statute does not include the equalizer.

ElSaffar acknowledged that point. But he said the statute, which was amended in 2006, does not state that the equalizer should be ignored altogether. In addition, it also doesn't specify using any kind of tax rate, he says, yet, the firm does use a tax rate in drafting the question. As such, there's nothing stopping the firm from calculating the equalizer as well, ElSaffar argues. Not doing so, he says, is wrong with respect to accurately estimating one's taxes.

"If a taxpayer called me and I did not include the equalizer, they'd be furious with me; because if we forget the equalizer, the bill would be a third of what they'll actually have," ElSaffar said. "They'd be justifiably upset with me because I would have given them some bad information."

ElSaffar doesn't think Dist. 97 is intentionally trying to mislead voters. In fact, he says the district has been accurate in its public campaign but thinks its law firm misinterpreted the statute. He also sees no other problem with the ballot question as written.

Given, however, insists that her firm did not make any interpretation but simply followed the law explicitly.

District 97 board President Peter Traczyk said the district stands by the law firm, adding that the board did question the wording and numbers but ultimately accepted the firm's counsel.

Since the board began deliberating last fall on the referendum and what form it should take—the board eventually settled on a rate hike option on Jan. 18—members insisted on having a clear message to voters. Members believed that the $38 per $1,000 in property taxes figure was the clearest way to state the impact on voters.

Traczyk added that the board vetted their numbers with their financial consultant, PMA Financial Network, and ElSaffar before drafting the ballot question. Traczyk said his board always felt that the actual ballot question would be confusing to voters no matter what numbers they used. That's why the board has focused their campaign around explaining the actual impact, he said, and not relying just on the ballot question.

Kevin Peppard, an Oak Park resident, first contacted Wednesday Journal about the ballot question, threatening to sue the district if it passes. He's since backed off that threat but still thinks it could face a legal challenge. Peppard, who opposed the district's 1988 rate hike referendum (it failed that year but later passed in 1989), believes the district was given bad legal advice.

ElSaffar, himself a lawyer, thinks someone could potentially challenge the referendum in court, but referred back to language in the statute concerning "errors" within the question—"Any error, miscalculation, or inaccuracy in computing any amount set forth on the ballot and in the notice that is not deliberate shall not invalidate or affect the validity of any proposition approved."

ElSaffar doesn't think Dist. 97 deliberately made an error.

Speaking to Wednesday Journal Monday, state Sen. Don Harmon, who co-sponsored the 2006 law, maintained that the statute is clear and unambiguous as to how to calculate the impact on voters. He also noted that Dist. 97 has been accurate in its public campaign concerning the referendum.

"The law requires a taxing body to state the expected increase in taxes for a single family home with $100,000 of fair market value," he said. "So if I have a home worth $300,000, and this referendum passes, how much am I going to pay in taxes?"

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy


Posted: March 11th, 2011 10:14 PM

Carolina, I'm glad we agree on the importance of educating all children. With that in mind I fully expect that in discussing the referrendum there will not be any more focus on the District's responsibilty to educate students with disabilities that there is on any other group of children. Surely you understand that targeting the cost of educating any one specific group of students runs the risk of creating an impression that those students are a reason for trying to raise taxes.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 4:19 PM

@KWerner-"Public schools have the moral and legal obligation to educate all of our children." That is what I said. I would like to point out that I am not the one advocating that the 20% of households in OP that have children in D97 bear 80% of the costs. You and I both share the foundational belief that D97 must meet its commitment to children with special needs. This is part of the problem I have with monetizing ROI as the sole measure of what is worth doing w/in the context of public ed.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 4:08 PM

@DJ: I assure you that no disparagement was intended. My sincere apologies if it appeared otherwise. As for "persuading to adopt my viewpoint", that's never really been my intent. Venting, learning, debating, understanding how others see the issue...yes. But I never expected to convince in this small space, forum.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 10:53 AM

The issue whether there was actually a conflict of interest has yet to be resolved. Gail Moran called claims "hogwash" while others imply Tucker used his influence as committee chair to steer business to his law firm. I think we need a critical examination of the facts before determining if Tucker violated a public trust. To my knowledge, Tucker has yet to address the question. It's time for him to set the record straight. Continuing to stonewall is troubling and unacceptable.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 10:17 AM

Bob Tucker was chair of the Downtown Sub Area Plan Steering Committee in 2005, which oversaw the master plan process for the proposed Taxman development. At the same time, Tucker was municipal finance attorney and partner with Chapman and Cutler, with expertise in municipal finance transactions. Chapman and Cutler, a firm with expertise in public debt obligations (bonds, TIFs) was listed as a vendor in the 2004 & 2005 Village budget reports. This conflict of interest was not publicly disclosed.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 9:01 AM

In addition, according to Mr. ElSaffar's comment in this article, it looks like there is a fail safe built into the statute in case there is an error. "Any error, miscalculation, or inaccuracy in computing any amount set forth on the ballot and in the notice that is not deliberate shall not invalidate or affect the validity of any proposition approved."

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 8:59 AM

To build on what DJ said, the board invited a rep from their legal counsel (Chapman apparently is just the district's bond counsel) to its meeting on Tuesday night to provide an update on this issue. This individual said that he does not believe what Chapman did violates the statute. He also said that he checked with the County Clerk and the ballot cannot be changed because of early and absentee voting.

Captian Crook from Fairy Land  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 7:36 AM

Did the VMA take the money or not? Was Bob Tucker getting paid from Chapman & Cutler getting no bid contracts from D97 and Village hall or nor? Can the public see the candidates tax returns? Can the public see the lawyer bills of D97 and Village Hall? Just the facts please. Gail will you meet me for tea in never never land?


Posted: March 11th, 2011 6:11 AM

@Mr. Lotus. Apparently Chapman and Cutler did the research, and insisted the results of their research was correct, even when it was seriously questioned by the client (D97). But I don't understand Chapman's advice. Even if the statute does not require using a calculation that results in an accurate depiction of the economic impact, it surely does not prohibit using the correct formula to calculate the impact. You're a lawyer. Perhaps you would like to get us started with some research yourself.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 6:01 AM

Well, you certainly are entilted to have made up your mind Allen, but it appeared you were speaking disparagingly of others who have made up their minds -- meaning people you have been unable to persuade to adopt your viewpoint.

Michael Lotus, Lawyer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:31 PM

"...potentially challenge the referendum in court..." Has anyone done the research? Is it unlawful the way it is currently written? If it is, why isn't anyone talking about withdrawing it and fixing it? And if no one with responsibility for it is willing to do that, why is no one talking about getting an injunction BEFORE the vote so that the voters of Oak Park have an accurate ballot to vote on?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:25 PM

@DJ: Oh, I made up my mind when I got my last tax bill...ouch!

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:22 PM

@Jassen: Yes, I agree that Jim O'Connor seems great and as though he will bring much-needed insight and new ideas. He was the one hopeful sign in an otherwise status quo evening. I appreciate your cordial invitation and respect your efforts though I fundamentally disagree. Best of luck.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:21 PM

Of course, you haven't made up YOUR mind, right?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:17 PM

@DJ: Actually DJ, I'm going to do something I swore I'd never do and take some advice from Dan Haley. I'm going to stop "blathering" and debating issues with people who have already made up their minds and instead get out the vote for NO voters. Thanks to all for the interesting conversations and information.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:09 PM

@Alan Reed - Glad you came out to buzz. I am sorry that was the impression you walked away with. I missed most of it so I can't comment on the content myself. I really like the new board candidates, Jim O'Connor in particular has a great background in education reform. I don't know him that well but he seems to have some good ideas for effective change. Thanks again for showing up though.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:05 PM

"your" post some content?


Posted: March 10th, 2011 10:03 PM

Allen Reed, care to give you post some content?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 9:58 PM

@Jassen: RE: Transparency. Done. I also just attended the Buzz Forum as I committed to you that I would. Interesting. I discovered that if you create a vacuum and don't recognize that there's a whole world happening outside of District 97, and preach to the choir, you can actually convince yourself that you're right. If only D97 were comparing themselves to "Best in Class" we'd have a chance of our schools not being the tallest dwarf. But otherwise, nice show, Ringmaster.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 9:50 PM

Gail is challenging Capt. Hook to back up his claims against Mr. Tucker with some proof. I don't expect we'll see Tucker step forward and defend/explain himself but if Capt. Hook is right about a conflict of interest; that may be enough to give some voters pause. Someone must know if Tucker was being paid by Chapman & Cutler while he chaired the DTOP committee. Gail says "that's hogwash'. Who knows?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 7:25 PM

@just wondering.... "are you billing your time" Every person working on the referendum committee, myself included, is working as a volunteer.

just wondering...  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 7:19 PM

@ Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois - are you billing for your time???? @Kwerner - applause to you!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:52 PM

@KWerner - "Otherwise enough with the implication that it is "those kids" who are to blame." Lets be super clear, nobody associated with the committee that Carollina and I co-chair said anything of the sort online or otherwise, nor will we.

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:52 PM

I will be voting yes for the referendum, because if it doesn't pass, our children will suffer. The proposed changes, especially to the arts, are frightening to me. Our children and our teachers deserve our support. However, the D97 board and administrators have brought any controversy about this on themselves by regularly denying the existence of any bad teachers, and repeatedly showing a complete disinterest in and disregard of legitimate concerns when they are raised.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:42 PM

Jassen - my recollection was that she had also made this comment on-line (which is admittedly written not spoken word). If I am wrong I certainly apologize. However, my point stands - if she (or anyone else making this kind of statement) can identify the "new special education regulation" they should. Otherwise enough with the implication that it is "those kids" who are to blame.

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:36 PM

@Captain Hook: Your insinuations are hogwash - plain and simple. I think if you actually talked to Bob Tucker, you would like him and vote for him. That is, if you can get out of your own way in all those conspiracy theories. Who are you, BTW?


Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:30 PM

According to ISBE, in 1998 D97 had 5,351 students (that's as far back as the on-line reports go). In 2010 ISBE lists D97's enrollment as 5,421. Of course the 2011 enrollment is probably higher due to all-day kindergarten, but according to Peter T, all day kindergarten has actually been a money maker for D97 due to the way the state provides funding.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:25 PM

@KWerner - "I keep hearing Carolina talk about "new special education regulations" that cost money but are not funded." By keep hearing you mean...? Secondly, her only mention of special ed last night (the only forum she has spoken at) was in the context of it being an area that couldn't be cut and in the context of pointing out the flaws of analyzing education like a business. You can't choose students based on their cost or profitability. Everyone gets educated.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 6:17 PM

I keep hearing Carolina talk about "new special education regulations" that cost money but are not funded. I would like to know the specific regulations to which she is referring. As the parent of a student with a disability I am not aware of any new regulations. I am aware that there seems to be an effort in D97 to (finally) improve compliance with long-existing regulations. Also, state and federal dollars pay for many, although not all, of special ed expenses.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 5:39 PM

@No on REFERENDUM: "Jassen, Carolina...stop repeating talking points in favor of the referendum that are not fully transparent" 1) I find it interesting that Carollina and myself use our full names in our roles as volunteers on the campaign and always comment as such on this website and yet you use a pseudonym and demand transparency. 2) "..don't recognize that there are other solutions beyond a tax hike" On the record as recognizing they exist, just don't agree with any I have heard proposed.


Posted: March 10th, 2011 5:07 PM

@Zippy: You said "District 97's administration needs to figure out how to work with the existing tax revenue increases of 2-3%/year." Since property tax caps came into effect in Cook county 18 years ago, the annual tax increase has only reflected the CPI and it has averaged 2.3% per year. D97 has managed to live within those increases. But there's been a 20% increase in enrollment over that time, there have been unfunded mandates like NCLB, and healthcare costs have outrun the CPI.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 7:16 PM

Captain Hook provides a troubling tale.. This well-connected law firm gets a big contract thanks to knowing how to write up a deal. No one will disclose the payments or how the firm was selected. I watched the VOP budget discussions on TV6 and was stunned that all the trustees were satisfied that legal services for the Village do not require an honest review as to whether Oak Park is actually getting the best bang for our buck. It's all who you know when it comes to hiring lawyers and consultant

Captain Hook from Peter Pan  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 7:01 PM

VMA NO BID LAWYERS NEED $$$$$! The D97 board supported the VMA interpretation of TIF fund allocation (which caused the D200 lawsuit) and then later admitted to losing the TIF allocation formula files. The NO BID law firm Chapman & Cutler hired by D97 to draft the referendum ballot question, is the same firm which employed VMA candidate Bob Tucker while he chaired the DTOP Master Plan Steering Committee, while they were providing municipal financial consulting for the village.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 5:49 PM

FYI - the NYTimes story talks about the school district in NY developing 3 scenarios for how to address the need to maintian good education and manage the budget responsibly. This is a far cry from D97's "Doomsday is the only scenario" approach. I'm with Chet - vote no and ask (demand) that our distict do some rational thinking about options - as in multiple options - for how to handle the educational and financial challenges.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 4:02 PM

Today's NYTimes has an article on how a wealthy community in NY is saying enough to raising taxes as a "solution". See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/business/09bronxville.html?_r=1&ref=nyregion One point made in this article is that raising taxes drives a trend of older couples with grown children selling their homes to young couples with young children. Repeat this cycle enough times and you really do need to raise taxes because you have so many households with young children!

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 3:36 PM

@Really?: I'll be happy to stop posting reasons to vote NO as soon as you, Jassen, Carolina, and others stop repeating talking points in favor of the referendum that are not fully transparent and don't recognize that there are other solutions beyond a tax hike. Deal?

take take take from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 2:55 PM

We've been in Oak Park for five years now, and are considering moving to Elmhurst or another nearby suburb. I guarantee, we won't be the only ones. Go ahead Village and approve the Comcast debacle and if this referendum passes, you'll have a lot of upset citizens looking elsewhere.

Zippy from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 2:03 PM

We really should vote NO. It's not sustainable to grow 5% per year, faster than the local economy. District 97's administration needs to figure out how to work with the existing tax revenue increases of 2-3%/year and maybe more if the economy improves. That doesn't sound too hard and that's their job to figure out.

Really? from Oak Park - Voting YES  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:21 AM

A confusing issue made more confusing by a story that doesn't do much to clear things up. I can't wait until the dust settles and we can talk about this like adults again. @No on Ref/@CAOP - yeah we get it, no matter what appears on this site, it is a reason that D97 has done something awful, lied to you or wasted our tax money. Maybe just start typing Ditto on every story and save the screen space.

KathyW from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 8:25 AM

@KellyPollock: Couldn't agree with you more! Regardless of where anyone stands on the referendum, Steve's hit-and-run hearsay comment is a good argument for disallowing anonymous postings on sites like this. "My friend's neighbor's sister-in-law's kid LOVED/HATED his teacher at XYZ school" adds nothing to this dialogue. (FWIW, the Beye parents I happen to know all love the school, but OP'ers are an opinionated lot, so of course assessments will vary.)

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 8:17 AM

Maybe I am just underestimating the importance of this story, but if the district and the Oak Park Township Assessor are telling me the cost is $38 per $1000, I am going to take them at their word...especially since trying to interpret the language in that ballot question is giving me a migraine.

kc from oak park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 6:58 AM

Two more NO votes from our household. In addition to the equalizer question, I believe that Pat Quinn's early stage move to reduce the number of school districts in this state should be considered. If Oak Park seriously wants to be on the cutting edge, let's consolidate school districts and cut overhead...beat the rush.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 5:29 AM

This is just one more proof point that District 97 just wants its tax hike, and has little or no regard for the voters and taxpayers it impacts. Apparently, they don't care that the language isn't clear so that voters can make a good decision. And I'm going on record now predicting the tax hike will end up costing more than the $38/1000 stated. Why? Because it's a talking point designed to obscure the complete story...just like the "salary freezes" that really aren't...SHAMEFUL.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Not Voting  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 1:45 AM

Teachers should be paid a competitive salary and any increases should be based on merit. For the last three years, inflation has been non-existent, yet teachers received increases based on some CPI index. While the economy was tanking into the Great Recession, teachers of D97 received RELATIVELY large increases in pay, without a corresponding increase in value add. In the private sector total comp is based on base perf based pay. D97 is stuck in the 20th century while advocating a 21st sys.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 1:36 AM

We need to dig beyond the average numbers quoted by D97 & the teachers union. Here is an analysis that CAOP performed on salary data for a subset of employees (those that have been continuously employed for 10 yrs since 2010. https://sites.google.com/site/referendumno/news/Large-Pay-Increases# We will be posting additional analysis as part of the upcoming referendum meetings. Visit www.referendumno.com to get our point of view.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 1:29 AM

@Paddy Boy: Well said. Put me down in the ditto column.

Kelly Pollock from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 12:29 AM

@Steve, As a parent of a Beye 1st grader, I am APPALLED that you would make negative comments about our school, when your kids DON'T EVEN GO TO BEYE! I am thrilled by my son's teacher and have heard nothing but excellent things about the other 1st/2nd grade teachers. (Beye has a 1st/2nd grade loop.) By what right do you attack our school and our teachers? If you have a personal concern about your children and their teachers, then voice it, but leave my kid's teacher and my kid's school alone.

Huh? from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:20 PM

@another OP resident: are you suggesting that what teachers get paid should be indexed to what you get paid? If a teacher is better compensated than you are, then that teacher is over-paid?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:51 PM

This should be an easy one for District 97 to answer. How much was Chapman & Cutler paid for their questionable counsel and to compose the wording for the referendum? Any chance for a refund from these "experts"? The school board president is pleased as punch with their work but perhaps a board member will question this lack of competence. I'd still like to know how District 97 awards contracts and if any are no-bid? Let's hope this is last time Chapman & Cutler are paid by Oak Park taxpayers.

another OP resident  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:44 PM

Hmm: that 4% increase for about 5 teachers is actually a 6% increase for each of the last 4 years a teacher works. Last year there were over 30 teachers making over $100,000 - several of them were making $130,000 A little 4% bump doesn't sound like too much, but $130,000 looks like a lot of money to me. My private sector job certainly isn't going to give me this kind of retirement bump.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:35 PM

D97 has set up a false dichotomy: higher taxes or bad schools. Instead they should be focusing on improving our schools AND staying within the current budget. It can be done. It might take some work and they might have to address the issue of holding teachers accountable but it can be done.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 9:32 PM

Does District 97 follow the lead of the Village of Oak Park & award no-bid contracts for it's legal services? There appears to be much too cozy a relationship between some Village officials and a few favored law firms. For all of the talk about open government, why are these very lucrative contracts just handed out without any competive bids that could & should be used to compare prices? Some firms have received millions of our tax dollars over the years. What's the story @ District 97? Anyone?

CTT from OP  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 9:19 PM

Ali what a good guy you are. Chapman and Cutler "erred"??? They are the #1 counsel for bonds for govts particularly schools in the state. They know full well what they do and they know every nuance of the law. They are the ones who give big campaign cash to people like Don Harmon to ease the laws to guarantee them big buck contracts from govts. Dealing with them is like consorting with women of the night, but I guess that is Traczyks choice.

Bill Strong from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 9:14 PM

@Another former Beye parent: Just curious, where did you go for better educational outcomes in K-8? No judgment in asking; just curious. But please don't cite test scores.

Another former Beye parent.  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 9:05 PM

@Bill Strong. Yes indeed, D97 is better than Chicago. And many leave OP after a few years in D97 because saying "good schools" over and over isn't enough. The revolving door is great for collecting transfer taxes. Parents are required to do much of the teaching. The property value may be your priority, but as one who values their kids' education, leaving was best for us. For those who stay: how about accountability? who is hiring and evaluating the teachers? Private schools must love this.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 8:05 PM

@Bill Strong: In general, I agree with you. However, another key factor in families deciding where they live is the tax rate and OP has the highest in Cook County. Also, I don't believe that our currently above avg schools funded at $42 million/yr will suddenly be so weak if they don't get to $48million/yr that our property values will drop and all those families will move elsewhere. I mean, D97 isn't even saying that the ref will provide for better schools...it's not even a stated goal!

Bill Strong from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 7:47 PM

This is a complete non-story. As one whose kids are long past District 97, this is still a fairly easy YES vote. To me, it's all about property values. A younger couple moved next door last year from Chicago because their 5-year-old was ready to enter school. They chose Oak Park. Familiar story. That keeps the housing market humming. Obviously there are educational reasons to support the referendum, esp. technology upgrades, but the property value argument alone does it for me.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 7:41 PM

@rooted to the rock: wow, I'm not sure if you're right, but what you said does seem to make sense. So, will Jassen Strokosch and Carolina Song personally guarantee that our taxes won't increase more than $38/1000? I think they should offer a "double the difference back" guarantee. If they can't, then they need to change their rhetoric to say "the average taxpayer"... I'm sure that it's just an oversight and not a direct lie.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 6:36 PM

@hm. I obviously have your attention and I'm guessing that I have a lot more. I'm guessing that I'm a lot more effective than you're willing to admit, too. I counted less than 20 "CAPS" and "EXCLAMATION MARKS" in my last two posts - out of 1000characters. That's excessive to you? With the exception of Jassen, E. Jackson and a few others, the YES side has been personalizing their remarks from the beginning. Forums? "Truth" will be presented there?!? Not a "dog & pony" show? We'll see. Peace.

rooted to the rock  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 6:34 PM

only in theory will a property owner pay $38/$1000. Some will pay more and some less. If you have a homeowners exemption, you'll pay less. If you have a senior exemption, you'll pay less. The cost of the exemptions will be added on to the tax bills of all the other property owners. No exemptions? you'll pay more than the $38/$1000


Posted: March 8th, 2011 6:29 PM

And chet, I don't know if you read that article. I don't begrudge a handful (trans, five or less) of 20-year veteran a 4% bump before they leave the district. I know I am in the minority here.


Posted: March 8th, 2011 6:21 PM

chet, afaics your questions have been addressed, and if they haven't, I am sure you can have them addressed at the upcoming forums. You clearly enjoy being the belle of the discussion thread ball, so I am not going to hold my breath. I hope I am wrong. I am, however, amused at how you were all hurt by what you saw as a threat to civility (which honestly I didn't see, but maybe I am a big meanie) and now you're all back with your ALL CAPS!! AND EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 6:07 PM

Pt. 2. Hm, please include the rationale for the "Yes" cmte to repeat and repeat, "no ref in 20yrs" - while D97 Bd (and them) overlook massive increases in state aid and annual prop tax increases during that period (from CPI, new development, TIF carve-outs, etc). And all the while they are SHOUTING out $5M in cuts to "scare the parents!" This is a deliberate strategy. How would YOU write about this? I'm serious - my experience in misrepresentations is limited.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 6:02 PM

Pt. 1. @hm. Good point. How would YOU write a 500letter post describing how OPTA shouted out "freeze" and then, oops, "not exactly." Don't forget to address the braggings of D97 Bd regarding "tough decisions" and "frugal budget" - while spending increases 5% per year. More? How about their unveiled threats to CUT Art/CAST/BRAVO and more - for $5M if it doesn't pass. All I insulted, personally, were "drunken sailors." I apologize for that. MANY in OP are hurting fin'ly. Any "yes" voters care?


Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:49 PM

chet, wasn't it you just the other day who had your feelings all hurt from the lack of civility on one of the threads? Ah, what a difference a headline makes.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:47 PM

This is only a "freeze" in Bizarro World. Should I just accept that "this is for the children"? And it's BS that it has NOTHING to do with pensions - it has EVERYTHING to do with pensions!?! I now take back my "Drunken Sailors" comment in describing financial acumen of D97 Bd - because it is an insult to Drunken Sailors! Remember, this is a Bd that is emphasizing how they've made "hard choices" and are "frugal"! What will they be like if they get more of our $$$? Voting NO is only sane choice


Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:45 PM

Wow-some of you called this on another thread. I'm impressed.

Ted from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:42 PM

@Chet21 an K2: As a drunken sailor, I take great offense at being compared to D97 administration.

Monica Madan from OPTAA  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:10 PM


DJW from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:06 PM

Tony, in what US municipality does a prop. tax system based on parental status exist? Public funding for public education is fundamental to our country.Puritans started the 1st public school in 1635;B.Franklin (graduated from same)was instrumental in establishing such schools in PA; & from the mid-late 1800's Horace Mann's notion of common schools spread from MA across the USA.You are likely a "judicious republican citizen" because of a public school education. Good luck starting your movement.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 5:05 PM

How about we just all vote NO on this $6 million tax hike until they can write it in language that actual human beings can understand? Join "No on Oak Park Referendum" page on facebook.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 4:33 PM

@DS - I would agree that the Illinois statute in question does make it impossible to put an accurate referendum number on the ballot in Cook County.

DS from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 4:06 PM

@Jassen - if that is the understanding by all parties, then what's on the ballot is misleading the voter. That's inexcusable.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 3:59 PM

@DS - there might be confusion about why the numbers are different, but all parties involved are in complete agreement, and have been all along, that the increase in the limiting rate that the district is seeking on April 5 will cost taxpayers $38 per $1000 on a property tax bill. That has not changed and won't change.

DS from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 3:52 PM

Well, actually there is confusion on the number, DJ. "The District estimates it will cost an additional $38 for every $1000 in property taxes..." While the ballot is saying the number is estimated to be $37.40 per $100,000 fair market value. If I have a $500k house FMV with a $10k annual tax bill (for ease of calc) then the District is telling me my tax bill will increase $380 (38x10) per year. the ballot says my annual tax bill will increase $187 (37.4x5) per year.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 3:45 PM

@Terry Dean - Thank you for making a correction to the the size of the referendum in your story. The incorrect figure you used originally has been repeated often and is a source of confusion for many people. The referendum is $6M, not $48M.


Posted: March 8th, 2011 2:47 PM

I WILL say that the article is fairly opaque about that the problem actually is -- except to those conversant in property tax law and lingo. Mr. Dean, can you explain to us precisely what is inaccurate about the ballot box question?


Posted: March 8th, 2011 2:37 PM

There is no dispute or confusion about the number DS. As the article reports, "The district estimates it will cost an additional $38 for every $1,000 in property taxes currently paid by property owners. ... All sides agree that is a fair representationof the impact to a local taxpayer."

Bill from Oak Park   

Posted: March 8th, 2011 2:36 PM

Fun facts - the number of teachers in district 97 has increased from 302 EFT( full time equivalent) in 1990 to 465 EFT for the current school years or 55%( D97 Personnel and student Data Report 2010) In addition to the EFT , 101 teaching assistants are currently on staff - The student to class room staff ratio is 10 to 1. The student to full time D97 employees is 7.3 to 1 Enrollment during the same period has increased by only 15% (4797 in 1990 ,5506 in 2010)

DS from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:59 PM

People. This is insane. What IS the number? If you can't tell me, then you can't ask me to pay. Get your sh@! together and come up with a real budget and a real plan to cut back expenditures without the scare tactics, then we can talk again, but not now.

K2 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:48 PM

Raise taxes to fund the Great iPad Purchase? That surely came out of the "Drunken Sailors" school. Get your spending under control D97.

Jason Malley  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:44 PM

I have been looking for an old tax bill, to no avail. I understand everyone's frustration with our high taxes, and this will be off the topic of the schools, I apologize in advance: I wonder if there are other things that could be removed from our tax bill and move that funding to not only the schools but the village itself? If anyone has a tax bill handy I sure would appreciate knowing what the breakdown of what we pay for is.

Annoyed from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:44 PM

@Chet21 -- I have to agree with everything you have stated today. Frankly we should CUT their funding -- they will find a way to make it work... Additional monies will not make your kids smarter.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:43 PM

Brent, I'm requesting that OP vote NO on the ref and then use the the next 6 mos to "re-think" the D97 status quo. If a smaller tax increase is then determined necessary - then I'll support it (next election is 2012 Primary). But if you don't now vote "NO" there will be no leverage for reform and they'll return to "business as usual." How do you think we got in to this mess in the first place? Today? We need a monthly cash-flow budget analysis.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:36 PM

Zippy, couldn't agree more with your 1:20 post. Couldn't agree less with your "prostitution" proposal - :-). D97 needs to get their spending under control. Their revenue is increasing at 2.7% annually and so that is NOT the problem. To ask struggling businesses and residents to pay more for massive spending increases is heartless, audacious AND NOT NECESSARY!!! Did the D97 Bd receive their financial training from the "Drunken Sailors" school? Having teachers' union prez on Bd doesn't help. NO!

Brent Borgerson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:35 PM

I am totally in favor of quality education,but have a question: If a tax-hike referendum fails, then there are new ones shortly until it passes. If it passes then no re-vote,why even vote?

Zippy from Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:20 PM

Hey fellow OPers - our school quality and test scores are fine. My kids went to Hatch. Hatch was a good school then and still is now. No problem there. Our real problem is that District 97 has costs that are rising by 5%/year, more than inflation, general wages, or tax revenues. We need to tell the administration to go figure this problem out without increasing local taxes. That's their job, and a NO vote is the way to communicate that

Paddy Boy  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 1:02 PM

Tax increases do not make our kids smarter. Please - we have to print the directions to their schools on the sidewalks otherwise they probably couldn't make it around the block by themselves. Many cities out perform us with much lower taxes. We should pay for performance. After all it works for the Cubs.

No longer Beye parent  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:56 PM

My kids don't go to Beye either - not anymore. When they did it was clear that Beye has a image of the kind of student they want. If you fit in you can get a great education. If you don't, too bad. Find a reason to transfer to another D97 school, pay for private, or suffer along in misery. This is not the kind of school that motivates me to pay more taxes. Everybody pays taxes (directly or indirectly). Everybody should benefit.


Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:55 PM

Steve, what problem with Beye is so "glaring"? Looking at the first (or second-grade, since they loop) teachers, there are only two there who have been there more than one year. Is that the problem you are talking about? Hardly "glaring."

Voting NO  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:49 PM

From today's NYT - a letter from a teacher includes the following "Pay respected teachers a fair wage and have a fair system of evaluation . . . Have a systematic method of weeding out ones who are not really doing the job." In D97 our teachers are well paid. We have no system to weed out those who are not really doing their job. The threat to art, etc is not because there's not enough money - its because the money is not being used wisely. We can have quality schools without new taxes.

Taxpayer Supporting Referendum  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:41 PM

From what I can see, E. Jackson, the Sun Times listing is based purely on test scores. That alone should not make a school "great."

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:41 PM

@Steve from OP, etc. You (and others) are doing a superb job of getting information to OP voters. Will I agree with everything that you write? Not necessarily, but we ARE in agreement that there are MAJOR ISSUES that D97 needs to address and this is only happening because they're saying "we're frugal & great, but we need more money - and if you vote no - your children will be harmed!" When we question some of their arguments - the 'mad parents' come out with their knives! Vote NO for reform!

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:34 PM

First, since when is the Sun-Times the ultimate authority in determining high-quality schools? Second, aren't schoolyards one of the items the district plans to invest in if the referendum passes?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:29 PM

"Chet21" is, well, confused!?! I have written extensively how my kids have performed well in OP and linked that to parental expectations, GOOD TEACHERS, and their social groups. How do those words translate in to D97 bashing? I am NOT confused, however, about the spending practices of D97. They SCREAM about how frugal they are, but annual spending increases of 5% - during a period of high un/underemployment - ain't "frugal!" On what planet is that true? Prop taxes are killing OP - vote NO!

Secondary Educator Resident Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:29 PM

Taxes, taxes, taxes - I'm tired of taxes. Public schools by design do not teach children how to think and reason for themselves. Public schools teach children how to live between the lines and become good taxpayers. These institutions shouldn't need more money. Bah, grumpy.

Steve from OP  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:22 PM

@whaa? - I used the Beye example because it is glaring to me given how many people have had problems there. And anyone who works there should know what I am referring to. Yet, D97 does nothing to deal with this recurring problem. Bottom line is the schools need to rethink things before asking for more money. I can't believe people think that D97 are good stewards of our money. Just look at the play grounds. They are in horrible shape. And yes play grounds do matter.


Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:20 PM

Steve, negligent? criminal? hyperbole much?

Steve from OP  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:18 PM

@whaa? - Facts are facts. The schools are not that good and they spend a whole lot more money then comparable school districts in Cook County. Here is a link to the Sun Times top 100 Elementary Schools in Illinois. Most are from Cook County. NOT 1 Oak Park School. D97 is negligent at best, more likely criminal given these numbers. http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/3973522-418/top-100-elementary-schools-in-illinois.html


Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:15 PM

Nice, Steve. Your kids don't go to Beye, but you feel comfortable slandering the teachers and administration. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.


Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:15 PM

Added to May's posting, those of us who have never, and will never, have children should not have to pay massive taxes toward the school system. How about a 'fair share system' for those with children in the system?

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:13 PM

Yes, we need to attract new, young families but those families have to consider many factors (if they decide to buy at all-renting is becoming more fashionable). They have to balance out housing costs, our exceptionally high property taxes and school quality and compare the results with other communities. Continuing to chase having the highest property taxes in the state, which seems to be the goal of many, is not necessarily going to result in better schools or an influx of affluent residents.

Zippy from Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:13 PM

@chet21. Here's some more ideas to handle 5% budget growth, besides a casino and a toll booth on the Ike 1) issue a really big bond , then let it default 2) Get Illinois to allow legal prostitution & maybe narcotics, etc, and sell some franchises, maybe at the Harlem on-ramp This might sound nuts, but local taxes won't fix this problem. One more thing - it really is unfair to call our schools bad. My kids went to school here - District 97 is at least ok, and the high school (200) is great.


Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:12 PM

I wonder what school your kids went to, Chet. Our school has children from a fairly broad demographic base, with involved and less involved parents. And, quite frankly, as a working parent, it is more and more difficult to be "involved." Still, I have seen amazing dedication on the part of district 97 teachers, and, yes, I have seen them make a big difference in kids' lives. The slam on the teachers and administration is unfounded, malicious gossip, beneath this discussion.


Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:10 PM

It boils down to the Village needs to become fiscally responsible & stop increasing our taxes. Taxpayers have had to decrease personal spending all the while the market values have plummeted. When the real estate taxes soared several years ago, the alleged reason was because the market values increased. So then the same logic should apply: DECREASE the taxes because the market values have decreased! Quit wasting OUR money!

Steve from OP  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:08 PM

@Jassen and @whaa? - Not a single Oak Park school ranks in the top 20 in cook county. Yet our D97 is the highest tax rate in all of Cook County. Also, I have had good and bad experiences with OP D97 teachers. My daughters do well there, but we have had bad univolved teachers for sure. I just didn't want to refernence just my own personal stories. Also my kids don't go to Beye. Bottom line, you can keep telling yourself the schools are great, but look at the numbers. They are kinda poor.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:07 PM

@Steve from OP. I agree and disagree - and would like to make an addition. My children have performed very well because of parental involvement, that most teachers (certainly not all) were very good, AND most of their social peers have the same environment (involved parents and good teachers). Translated: the success of my kids has primarily been due to the parental and peer expectations/collabarations of the Oak Park community. If the cohort moved to Mars - we'd have a similar result.

Born here, raised here, still here  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:02 PM

Steve from OP....if the schools in OP are so terrible....then why do the students score higher on the ACT than 95 percent of the schools in the state? Don't let the facts get in the way of a good response..waiting

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 12:01 PM

@Steve - You obviously have some strong feelings about D97 staff. As someone who isn't relying on having "been told by parents" or "I hear stories all the time" but has first hand experience, I am extremely happy with nearly all the teachers that I have had experience with in the district. I also don't think our "schools perform badly" nor does any other agency or organizations that looks at school district performance. Can we do better, absolutely but that does't mean our schools are "bad."

Teri Svehla from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:59 AM

Ummm, who is this Given that the reporter refers too in the sentence "Given, however, insists that her firm...." It's hard to comment on a story that is so poorly put together.

Zippy from Oak Park from oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:59 AM

@chet21. Thanks, that budget link explains a lot. The revenue numbers look pretty unrealistic, given the poor Illinois economy. But with those 5% annual cost increases, District 97 needs to go way beyond property taxes, there's no way local people can fund this for long. How about a casino, or put a toll booth on the Ike? (http://www.op97.k12.il.us/referendum/Current Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf)


Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:57 AM

Steve, again with the slamming of OP schools as "mediocre" and "Perform(ing) badly." I wish the No people would stop with the undeserved slamming of a wonderful school system. Also: "The parents and residents involvement in Oak Park schools are what make the good places. Definitely not the administration or teachers. ... The teachers are largely indifferent." You must not spend much time in the OP schools, is all I have to say. Shame on you.

Steve from OP  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:52 AM

@chet21 right on! The parents and residents involvement in Oak Park schools are what make the good places. Definitely not the administration or teachers. The class ratios are high. The teachers are largely indifferent. It is the parents that save the system. I have been told by many parents that you have to be a constant advocate for your children in OP schools if you want your children to get the most out of it. Without an involved parent, good luck getting a good education here.

new board  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:49 AM

Bottom line-we need a new Board-nothing will change until new members are elected. The race went uncontested this year, so we are in for more of the same.

Steve from OP  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:46 AM

@Jassen you just must love paying way high taxes for mediocre schools. Oak Park schools taxe us disproportionally to other comparable Cook County school districts, yet the schools perform badly. Also, I hear stories all the time of un-involved bad teachers who parents complain about yearly, yet no changes are made. Specifically look at Beye's 1st grade teachers. Numerous problems year after year and the principles answer is file a complaint with D97. Useless. They need to watch Wisconsin.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:46 AM

TO REPEAT: D97 financial problem simplified? Even with annual revenues increasing 2.68% - their spending is increasing by 4.9%. They are NOT "frugal" or "revenue-starved" - they are spendthrifts. Source? Here: http://www.op97.k12.il.us/referendum/Current Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf. Please vote NO and send a message that overspending and scaring of parents and Oak Parkers must stop - they are receiving ample tax money!!!

Jon Donohue from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:42 AM

It is interesting to see the D97 is willing to follow the letter of the law when it comes to the referendum, but they don't want to follow the letter of the law when it comes to their share of TIF funds. Oak Parkers will see their property taxes increase by more than 3.8% because Village Hall increased property taxes this year, IL increased the income tax rate by 66%, and our property values are falling. Continually raising property taxes will further depress property values.

Zippy from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:41 AM

District 97 automatically gets an increase every three years so I don't see why they need another boost on top of that. I've been here since 1997 and my property taxes went from $3750 to about $7,700. That's more than $2,000 above the inflation rate and they got a big portion of that increase. They should be fine without any additional property tax money.

Dale Fitschen from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:40 AM

Totally Support the Referendum. There is a need to maintain property values by attracting new young families. That alone is reason to support the referendum. Of course the need to great improve the technology offerings of the lower schools and try to bring Oak Park schools up to the level of River Forest and North Shore schools that compete for new residents. And not least, fair compensation to maintain and attract high quality teachers.

Annoyed from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:38 AM

Plain and simple I am tired of taxes. Businesses have to make due with a drop in revenue, all forms of government need to do the same. It will never end - cut costs somewhere.

al rossell from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:36 AM

we need good schools as they help attract purchasers of homes to Oak Park. But, what will the real amount be to taxpayers once we have the reassessment. It seems these referendums always come before the reassessments at an increased cost to the taxpayer. It never gets mentioned in the politicking for approval.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:31 AM

@E. Jackson - Yep, that about sums it up.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:27 AM

And let's not forget that it's not just property owners who will be impacted - those who rent in Oak Park will see raises as well. Of course D97 does not control the formula for how apartment owners will get the money for the tax increase but maybe someone can estimate the per $100 dollars of rent a month increase so those families can get an idea of what it will mean to them.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:25 AM

So, basically - a.)the $38 per $1000 figure in terms of the cost to the taxpayer is correct, b.) this article is addressing some technical issue with the ballot language, c.) that technical issue is more or less negated by the part of the statute that says "Any error, miscalculation, or inaccuracy in computing any amount set forth on the ballot and in the notice that is not deliberate shall not invalidate or affect the validity of any proposition approved." Is that the gist of all this?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:11 AM

@Trying to be clear - The $38/$1000 is correct. The law firm advised against using the equalizer, which resulted in the $37.40 figure, because that is what the state statute requires them to do. This story doesn't mention that not only are 9 other districts are doing the same thing on this ballot but that the interpretation of the statute the firm used has been used on ballots going back a number of years. This is not some new problem.

Trying to be clear  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:05 AM

So the $38/$1,000 calculation that has been discussed is correct because it factors in the equalizer, but a calculation solely and stictly based on the referendum language itself would not match the $38/$1,000 result because the lawyers advised against including the equalizer in the actual referendum language?

connecting the dots from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:54 AM

For those keeping score, this is the same D97 board which supported the village's interpretation of TIF fund allocation (which caused the D200 lawsuit) and then later admitted to losing the TIF allocation formula files. The law firm Chapman & Cutler hired by D97 to draft the referendum ballot question, is the same firm which employed VMA candidate Bob Tucker while he chaired the DTOP Master Plan Steering Committee, while they were providing municipal financial consulting for the village.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:48 AM

@Mary Ellen Eads - What part of this article suggest in any way that we are dishonest or fools? Had D97 ignored legal counsel from the premier bond law firm in Illinois, and used a number that goes against the state statute, what names would you be calling us then Mary Ellen? Oh, and thanks for the insults.

Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:47 AM

What will be the impact of this self serving error? Has any one considered what the lower assessment level for multi-family properties will do to the average home owner tax bill. There will be a smaller base to spread this proposed tax increase. Just say NO!

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:38 AM

So....are the Dist. 97 folks and their referendum advocates knaves or fools?

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 10:37 AM

D97 is NOT seeking an operating rate hike of $48 million. The figure in the article refers to the total amount of the levy should the referendum pass. The current amount (without the referendum) of the levy is approximately $41-$42 million.

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