D65 Board votes to put referendum on April ballot

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education Tuesday night voted unanimously, 6-0, to ask the taxpayers of the district for an additional $14.5 million a year in operating funds for the next eight years.

The vote came after several months of discussion and followed a unanimous recommendation of its Finance Committee to seek the additional funds.

At the meeting, the vote followed a lengthy recap by Superintendent Paul Goren of points he has made to community groups in recent months that left no doubt that the increased taxes would be essential to avert catastrophic cuts that, as one parent pointed out, could result in lower property values for residential property In the district if it were not approved.

The exact language of the proposition, as it will appear on the April 4 ballot, reads as follows:

“Shall the limiting rate under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for Evanston/Skokie Community Consolidated School District Number 65, Cook County, Illinois, be increased by an additional amount equal to to 0.595% above the limiting rate for school purposes for levy year 2015 and be equal to 4.166% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property therein for levy year 2016?”

At the beginning of Tuesday night’s meeting, two parents of students in the district spoke in favor of the referendum and pledged their support to helping to educate the community on the necessity for its approval.

Following the vote, board members made farewell speeches to Richard Rykhus on the occasion of his departure from the board, effective Wednesday, due to time requirements of a new job.

Rykhus was the board’s vice president and chair of its Finance Committee and an outspoken supporter of the operating referendum that the board approved Tuesday night.

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Comments

Too Expensive

This property tax increase would hurt most Evanston taxpayers and renters would see this increase passed on to them. There are other large increases that will coming out soon, as taxpayers are looking at 20 - 30 percent increases in home values. Tax increases for schools have far exceeded all other increases by mega-factors for years.

I don't think this will come close to passing. It is just not affordable.

Goren's operating fund

Ever since Goren got in, the district has spent more on his assistants, giving raises to all his administrators and cutting back programs in the schools. Just go through their operating budget, it's right there. He pays more in consultants and has hired more positions than Murphy. Now he wants to ask for taxes to be raised when 2 years ago he knew the funds wasn't going to be there and still gave raises to the people in the administration building. 

The majority of folks in D65

The majority of folks in D65 fully support the hard working and dedicated teachers, no question.  However, throwing more money at the district's out of control pension situation, without seeing any meaningful change to the system in the meantime, is simply working to kick this rusty can further down the road.  Tax increases without change is sending the wrong message.  As parents are fully aware, tough love is, at times, the best path to a successful future. 

Your "tough love" in the case

Your "tough love" in the case of D65 schools, without miraculous intervention from Washington D.C. Springfield, or Northwestern, will end the neighborhood school system as we know it. Thirty kids in a classroom will only be the beginning. D65 will be forced to do what many districts across the country have done: close some schools and dedicate others to specific grades. Imagine something like kindergarten and first grade at one school, second and third grade at another school, and fourth and fifth grade at a third school. Those are the types of changes we are facing if the referendum does not pass.

Evanston shoulders the whole burden?

Why is this increase something Evanston taxpayers need to shoulder entirely? I thought D65 was Skokie/Evanston, but I can't find anything about additional budget contributions from Skokie?

I don't really know how this works. Can somebody explain to me why this is Evanston's financial burden?

The burden

... is shared by all property owners within the district's boundaries. Those boundaries include all of Evanston ... but only a small portion of Skokie.

The rest of Skokie, as I recall, is divided among four other elementary school districts.

It's one of the examples of how Illinois ends up with far more units of local government than any other state in the nation.

-- Bill

That makes a bit more sense.

That makes a bit more sense. Thanks for the explanation, Bill!

Really?

At the same time our state legislators are proposing a property tax freeze, District 65 is proposing a big tax increase? Really?

After failing to rein in teacher wages and benefits 30% above the state average by caving to the teacher's union during the last contract negotiation, District 65 is proposing a big tax increase? Really?

 After a decade of failing to navigate the financial challenges of a predictably rising student population with increasing needs, District 65 is proposing a big tax increase? Really?

Asking for those with skin in the real estate game to cross subsidize those who are asking for more while contributing less? Really?

I can see why people are leaving Illinois at an alarming rate. I may be next.

Don't be led to look astray, Evanston... This is not a token increase needed to plug a hole created by an unforeseeable catastrophic event. By operating referendum standards, this is a big kahuna.

This is a school district trying to reset the community financial equation to support its old school educational ways, after a decade of misidentifying and mismanaging its new fiscal reality.

 This is a school district asking for a bail out after turning a blind eye to its issues, and kicking the can down the road for years.

This is a district operating directly out of the State of Illinois' failed fiscal play book.

I don't buy the BS that low CPI and a rising student population left you without options. You failed to adapt the enterprise to a set of predictable and identifiable economic and social factors.

How dare you stand in front of the taxpayers in this fiscal climate with hat in hand!

If District 65 ever hopes to pass any referendum, it needs to show the taxpayers that it made dramatic, systemic changes that place it on a sustainable pathway within its new fiscal reality.

We all support a solid school system under insightful and proactive management.

Only the misinformed few support a school district that demands a taxpayer bailout without a new pathway to sustainability.

It appears that you

It appears that you understand that there's a meaningful increase in the student population and that obviously more students = more expense.  

Perhaps you are not aware of the $10M in cuts that the current administration has enacted since they have taken the reigns a few short years ago.

With nothing left to cut, there are 2 choices.  1.  Fund our schools so that Evanston continues to be place where people want to live.  2.  Enact cuts so severe that schools will close,  classrooms will be overcrowded, and the people who will suffer the most will be children, especially those with special needs.  

 

This mentality is the exact

This mentality is the exact problem. 

I don't believe the only options are to cut services or to increase taxes.. 

And, by the way, $10M in cuts over several years on a $120M annual operating budget is not exactly earthshattering.     

First, let me address your position. 

Didn't the increase in student population come with increased funds?  Let's look at your general state aid numbers for the answer.

Was the district surprised by this 10 year trend, and frozen in its ability to adapt?

Hasn't the district set its tax levy at the maximum legal limit every year by tax cap laws, at a rate reflecting the consumer price increase + new growth?

Hasn't the district payroll been allowed to increase at a level well above the consumer price index, when the union contract was on the table for renegotiation?

The fiscal struggles faced by families and school districts are not new.  The district has to adapt to a new fiscal reality.  Families have been forced to. 

Where is the district's fiscal discipline?  Other than pointing out an obvious pending disconnect between planned revenues and expenses, the district has not made the case that it has explored all options before asking for a big increase.

Don't you get paid by school

Don't you get paid by school districts?  So districts should pay you to professionally develop teachers but not pay for their benefits?  

Really

Good luck selling your home, Charlotte, if this referendum doesn't pass. Evanston is a family-first community. What I'm seeing is that you are advocating policies & positions that work against the future quality of education for our children. I'd invite you to get more involved with D65 if you want it to change. Sounds like you've got some opinions regarding how D65 is managed. Great. Make a difference & an impact by your involvement. If not, I'd recommend that you list your residence now, because your property values are heading down if Evanston fails to fund our schools adequately.

How much?

So let me get this right... the elementary school district is asking the taxpayers to authorize $14.5M x 8 years = $116M in new property taxes? An instantaneous 15% shot in the arm to your operating budget? How did you manage before? Will the taxes go back down after year 8? Hint: answer = No. The Evanston property owner is not an unlimited ATM. You have to live within your means.

D65 Referendum

Would like to know increases go straight to schools, including teachers and not appropriated elsewhere.  Would prefer a one time fee per student with reductions for those who are struggling. Don't want this on a tax bill, only property owners pay and not confident this will be removed later or grabbed for other uses.

 

Referendum

Is there any reliable source for documenting the NET increase in new students in 65? The # 1500 seems high and is being used to justify throwing (wasting) more money on the problem instead of looking at new ways to solve it.

Referendum

Our daughter went to Lincoln, and we saw an enormous increase of students from the time she started to the time she left.   Evanston is a very attractive location for a number of reasons.  On the plus side, property values in our neighborhood have increased as a result - and they more than offset this referendum.   The average house saw its value go up by 3.8%, and this is about $400 a year in spending.  Without it, I think we'll see property values plummet.   Parents shop for houses based on schools.  Easier to move to Wilmette or Oak Park if Evanston's aren't up to par.  

stats

The stats can be compiled from prior D65 annual reports.  While student headcount has increased at nearly the amount D65 materials claim, what is left out of the equation is that funding has already increased over the last 10 years to keep pace.  The per-student spending is nearly the same now, post student population boom, as 10 years ago.  Under the proposed tax hike, the per-student spending would increase substantially.  Less fear mongering and more actual reasoned basis for the budget increase might win over some votes.  

So you're for or against

So you're for or against spending more per student? I'm not seeing any strong argument, save that one wishes to keep around $40/month for themselves vs spending on children who live amid & among us here in Evanston. I'm happy to pay the $40/month to make sure D65 continues to provide a quality education for our kids & will keep my property value intact.

D 65 Referendum

We couldn't save money eliminating adminstrative staff?  We couldn't save money adjusting the health insurance benefits?  We couldn't save money having a hiring freeze?  I like the idea of an activity fee to help offset the costs.  Knowing that we are on the cusp of a 33% increase in income taxes, the hard decisions weren't made.  The amount requested is overstated by at least 50%.

D65 Referendum

Those are all valid points & worth discussing at a time and place where increased class sizes, eliminating elementary orchestra, & cutting staff directly involved in teaching children is what will happen as a result if the referendum isn't passed.  I get that some on this post feel that smarter cuts can & should be made elsewhere.  However, the reality is that you're proposing that the referendum fail & then the changes you'd like to see happen might actually happen.  You're willing to risk that the kids in D65 will pay the price of a lower quality education & then change may possibly occur.  I'm not willing to sacrifice the kids to make a point about taxation.  There are a lot of things that may happen if the referendum fails- most of them may not be pleasant.  It's worth the $40/month to ensure kids get a good education & the value of my property remains stable.  How about voting yes on the referendum & then actively joining the debate about how to streamline D65's costs (e.g. why 2 school districts in Evanston)?  That is less risky than seeing what may happen to the kids in D65 if the referendum fails.

If the reerendum passes then

If the reerendum passes then there will be no dicussion it will be business as usual. It needs to fail in order to force a conversation about hard choices. Those hard choices need to involve not only merging the districts but also getting pension and benefit costs under control, otherwise even the tax increase would be only a bandaid.  I want the school to be in good shape long term - the referendum is a short term "fix" that will cause real pain to many families.

The referendum is not linked

The referendum is not linked to pension issues. Although that would be great, it's a fantasy to assume a no vote leads directly to pension reform. The pain will be offloaded immediately & directly onto the kids. Your hopes for pension reform are shared, but that is a separate debate no matter how much you or I may wish it to be linked. No sports, no orchestra, 30+ children in a class, fewer teachers, & cuts to funding for STEM are cuts which will occur. The long term effects hurt all of us as our kids are the future revenue generators that will pay for programs and services you value. Please view them as your future caregivers & providers of the funding & services you'll need in the future. $40/month seems like a bargain if it helps our kids learn, grow & develop. If you reject their needs today, please don't complain if they reject yours tomorrow.


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