D200's $20 million question

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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In a sharp pivot at the April 23 District 200 school board meeting, members discussed and appeared to reach a consensus on issuing bonds to partially fund Project 1, scheduled to begin construction in a few weeks, rather than fully paying for the $32.6 million academic and special education facility needs project from the school's nearly $100 million cash reserve as planned. Meantime, $20 million of the reserve remains earmarked for "urgent needs" in Project 2, namely a massive pool and 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. The board's apparent decision to take on debt, without voter approval, to finance Project 1 while still retaining $20 million of the cash reserve for a 37-meter x 25-yard pool and 600-seat natatorium in Project 2 raises questions regarding the board's transparency and accountability to taxpayers.

Here's the $20 million question: Why is the board planning to issue bonds for academic and special education facility needs in Project 1 when it could use the $20 million it has set aside for a pool and natatorium in Project 2?

If you would like to ask D200 this question, email the board at BoE@oprfhs.org.

Monica Sheehan

Oak Park

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Reader Comments

13 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Mikhail Ivanov  

Posted: May 14th, 2020 8:24 AM

OPRF Board and Admin lies about everything so often that they don't even know that they're doing it anymore. "It's all for the kids"....until you actually have to teach them, give them a graduation, make sure that they've achieved basic requirements. This is another proof point that they enjoy spending money and don't give a fig about any educational outcome. Monica Sheehan is right to raise the question, as usual. Predictably, the Board and Admin of D200 will provide no answer, but operate in the darkness and do whatever they think they can get away with. Despicable!

Dave Slade from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2020 9:18 PM

Tom - with all due respect, does anyone think the board cares that the referendum was defeated and won't continue to try and get one built as part of any OPRF reconstruction? Sleazy it is, but no surprise at all. Plenty of people still showed up to let the board know that the referendum was defeated during the Imagine meetings, but if they can get around financing this project without going to the voters, they'll do it. And with an unmanageable pension debt over their heads. Please - keep arguing over this until at least June 2024.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: May 13th, 2020 6:20 PM

Manning Peterson: Monica's "monomania"? Her only obsession has been to return D200 to its fundamental mission: Academic instruction. It is the Board and Administration who are obsessed with trying to be all things to all people and thereby serving no one well.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2020 10:10 PM

Implying that it is a good thing for the school board to nullify the results of the referendum by the voters is just sleazy. This board is not earning trust or respect.

Manning Peterson  

Posted: May 11th, 2020 4:24 PM

The good thing is the people of Oak Park and River Forest elected this board, not the Wednesday Journal comments section. Candidates affiliated with this letter writer's antipool monomania were all defeated. I trust this board to make the right decisions for our students. I was just thinking this would be a unique opportunity to make these planned infrastructure changes, given that the campus will likely be empty of students and activities until at least this fall

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: May 10th, 2020 10:59 PM

Bruce; Debt certificates are borrowing against our own money as collateral. Yes, they are stupid enough to do that.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: May 10th, 2020 8:41 PM

Neal Buer if Monica Sheenan and the group she worked with got back to working hard again, they may be able to keep this from happening until a completely new board was elected although the work may be wasted since this board and the people behind it know that people really would end up voting the same people back in, so you are right. That pool is going to bring racial harmony and excellence in all students

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2020 7:42 PM

The sad thing is the people of Oak Park and River Forest elected this board. You can't fix stupid.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: May 10th, 2020 5:18 PM

For whatever odd reason, the board wants a large pool. Monica Sheehan did a good job at delaying it although the pool was never going to go away. As for the 100 million in reserve money, why would they spend that, because if they did, then they would have less money. Let the citizens who it seems the majority do not want find out it is going to happen regardless. This is the best time since people have other things they are concerned about. After all of the building is completed, you are going to find out that nothing has changed the bottom line which is the majority of students scoring higher than they previously did so it was never about the students

Bruce Kline  

Posted: May 10th, 2020 3:17 PM

So Kevin you really believe this board would stoop so low as to challenge the citizens to force a back door referendum in these singular catastrophic times ... when folks are scared out of their minds and sheltered in and prefer no up close contact ... least of all with strangers? You really think this board would take advantage of such a crisis? I'm betting this board issues debt certificates instead. At least I hope so.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: May 10th, 2020 2:06 PM

Bruce: The Board can issue bonds if they give a 30 day notice, subject to citizens getting 10% of the registered voters to force a referendum if signing within that time. That's an almost impossible task, but it has been done twice before. Theresa Tedesso accomplished that in 1988 re D97. Monica Sheehan did it in 2015 re D200 with 4,300 signers. It was perhaps the bitterest fight in Oak Park electoral history. D200's lackeys filed a complaint where they lost both stages. The Board pulled the bond issue off the ballot, only to pull a switcheroo with a modified megapool disguised as part of a general facilities plan. Monica beat that by 28 votes out of 36,000. I know, I helped her out, as did about 50 hardcore others. Now it's time for us to shine that Batman signal off the clouds in the night sky again. We're ready, willing and able. D200, make our day.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: May 9th, 2020 2:21 PM

My question is what legal mechanism is the board going to use so as to issue bonds in the absence of a referendum?

Kitty Conklin  

Posted: May 8th, 2020 9:04 PM

Monica Sheehan is absolutely right to question why D200 is not using the already built up cash reserve to fund the entirety of Project 1, even if that means taking $12+million of the money set aside for the Project 2 pool. Ask that board. They owe the community an answer.

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