Say no to D200 debt certificates

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Acknowledging that the community lacks trust in the District 200 school board, and it needs to work on rebuilding it, the OPRF board decided not to bypass voters and borrow money for Project 1 at its May Committee of the Whole meeting. The board's decision not to issue debt certificates shifts the funding back to its original plan to pay the $32.6 million fully from the cash reserve. 

At its April general meeting, the board pivoted sharply and reached an apparent consensus to take on debt to partially fund the construction of the academic and special education facility-needs project scheduled to begin construction in June. The board cited low-interest rates and the district's lack of debt as reasons to borrow money for the project. The board's pivot raised questions regarding its transparency and accountability to taxpayers. 

Generally, taxpayers would disapprove of D200 issuing debt now, given its nearly $100 million cash reserve, which includes the $20 million the board has earmarked for "urgent needs" in Project 2, namely a massive pool and 600-seat natatorium. While major capital projects should be fully bonded, approved and paid for by the voters who will benefit from them, D200's mountainous cash reserve, amassed unethically via a loophole, continues to skew this funding dynamic. 

Debt certificates are a funding tool available to Illinois school districts, which allows them to avoid referendums, bypassing voters. Because debt certificates are not backed by the taxing power of a district, they command a higher interest rate and cost the school district/taxpayers more than bonds. 

There are a variety of bond options, including Life Safety which address critical building needs outlined in an approved safety survey report. As such, there is no justifiable reason for D200 to ever issue debt certificates. 

Monica Sheehan

Oak Park

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Reader Comments

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Kitty Conklin from Ex-OP  

Posted: May 31st, 2020 6:24 PM

All aspects of Project Phase 1 should be open to resident question and comment. The estimated cost for this phase has increased from about $32 to $47 million. D200 has nearly $100 million of taxpayer funds set aside as reserves. There is NO reason at all that debt should be issued for Project 1 and, thankfully, the D200 board voted that way. Finally, debt certificates should NEVER be considered as the preferred borrowing option. They cost the community a higher rate of interest. They do not rely on the general property taxing ability of D200. Debt certificates are less secure for investors - thus the higher rate of interest. Residents like Monica and others are a godsend in OP. Until the OP community has a reason to trust the D200 board and administration - sadly, citizens MUST continue being vigilant.

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: May 31st, 2020 6:05 PM

With almost $100 million in the bank there's no need to issue debt certificates, period. As you said, Monica, this is just another way to bypass voters. So much for their new 'transparency'. And where's your '10 Year Maintenance Plan' you keep talking about but don't actually have written down. Why would you borrow anything when your 'Plan' isn't even a plan yet.

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