Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren addressed a small group of interested persons Tuesday on the need for an operating referendum to benefit the district’s schools in the upcoming April election.

Using many of the same visuals he employed in a similar presentation Monday night at the regular monthly meeting of the district board’s Finance Committee, Goren emphasized that the decision to put the issue on the ballot is not only wise, but essential.

“This is the only election scheduled for 2017 when we can ask the community to vote on this issue,” he said. “To delay it for another year would not be good.”

While details of such a referendum have not been approved yet by the District 65 Board of Education, the issue has been discussed many times over the past year by its Finance Committee as a way to deal with what Goren called “structural deficits” facing the district.

He expressed the view that the appropriate amount to request in the referendum is an additional $13.5 million, which translates to an additional $438 on the property tax bill of the average home in the district.

Most of the dozen or so members of the audience appeared to be mainly parents of elementary and middle school students who were sympathetic to his cause, and a couple of them urged him to seek additional support from such community groups as Northwestern University and even from Evanston Township High School District 202.

It was noted, for example, that the high school raises enough revenue to finance an annual per-pupil expenditure of about $21,000, compared with $14,000 for District 65.

“Don’t be afraid to make the Big Ask,” one attendee said.

Goren will be making a similar presentation tonight, from 7 p.m. to 9  p.m., at the Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St.

Related story:

Pressure builds for school tax referendum

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Examine how the district has tried to rein in costs

    Could save a lot of money by combining District 65 and 202 and it would be better for continuity of education. I am sure there are lots of other places where cost savings could be realized. I would want to see extensive data on how the district has tried to reign in costs before I would vote yes on a referendum.

    1. It’s time…
      I sat on a D65 Citizen Budget Committee four years ago. We had access to the details you’re talking about. Even as of then, they had done a lot. My reading of the Roundtable since says they have continued to do everything they can and then more. The structural problem is simple: labor costs (especially benefits component) are outpacing local property tax revenues while federal and state support is melting away. Labor is the biggest cost by far. Property tax is biggest income by far. So we have a simple choice: A) play hardball with our teachers, cutting their pay and benefits and further demoralizing and degrading the very people we entrust our children to each day, trashing the reputation of our schools and destroying property value; or B) raise property taxes. I agree that it will be best if they can clearly communicate the rationale. And also I hope we can in the process also articulate a vision for the quality of schools we intend to have (…so not just “we need more money to do the same thing”…but “if we have more money, we can do more.”)

      – Tom Mulhern, 8th Ward (I don’t believe in anonymous comment sections)

      1. You did not mention the

        You did not mention the savings and benefits that having a single school district would bring. This should be front and center before any new taxes. Also it is going to be essential to deal with the benefits component going forward. It might be easier to sweep it under the table for now and go for a tax increase instead but it is not responsible governance. I doubt the rererendum will pass, and with the info that has been provided thus far it absolutely should fail.


        1. Why would you expect savings by combining school districts?
          The only possible savings of one district would be in the district level administration.
          Combining would be more likely to require a new district headquarters and extra levels of administration to coalesce the new unified structure. (examples: K-12 literacy coordinator, etc.)

          1. you could cut numerous admin

            you could cut numerous admin positions and better use those funds. Just as one example: District 202 has a highly paid superintendent and a principle in the same building for a single school – a crazy waste of money and there are many other duplicated positions.


        2. Consolidation costs
          On its surface, it would seem that consolidation would save $$. In reality, if consolidation occurred teachers from D65 could opt into the D202 teacher contract, which would increase overall costs by several millions of $$, more than offsetting any potential savings.

          1. Why does Evanston pay its

            Why does Evanston pay its high school teachers more than its K-8 teachers in the first place?Kindergarten is arguably the hardest grade level to teach, although I could make a case that all levels are equally challenging. (I taught MS/HS myself.)

      2. The districts could cut
        The districts could cut administrative positions instead of paying teachers less or increasing classroom sizes.

        1. Administrative cuts

          The district has reduced Administrative costs (~3%) over the last several years and has detailed where these cuts have ocurred at Finance Committee meetings.  This has occurred at the same time that our student population has grown by more than 1400, resulting in increasd costs in other areas.  Our Adminstrative costs currently place us in the lowest (best) quartile in the state.  While some smaller cuts may still be found, they are not anywhere close to the level of the projected deficits.

          1. Prove It

            Prove that you need more money. Lay out all the details and budgets for the last 5 years, side by side. Include the peanuts and drinks for the teacher's rest area. Do wereally need the theacher's assistents with such small classrooms?

            Show the taxpayers the proof and don't just talk about it. Look at many states that spend less per student than us and have higher ratings for their school. It has been proven over and over again that more money doesn't make better schools.

  2. Easy cuts
    If the intra-mural sports were cut, a lot of money would be saved.
    The savings could be used for inter-mural [opened and focused to ALL students] and other activities that would improve the physical fitness of all students. There would be money left to spend on teaching—long forgot as the reason for schools.

  3. Aside from the nuclear

    Aside from the nuclear options to cost reductions included in this and other like articles, the one not mentioned was addressing the union pension scheme.  This is the core spend issue, not the spend on peanuts in break rooms. 

    As has been pointed out many times over the past several years, defined benefit retirement plans — with guaranteed COLA raises and guaranteed income until death — are simply unsustainable in our economy.

    Until the district has shown its willingness to address such costs in meaningful and sustainable ways, it is rather presumptuous to ask a tax base — already shocked by double digit increases to their Cook County real estate taxes — to contribute even more.

    Evanston will continue to be a very desirable place to live, with or without this increase.  Tangible proof is the robust tax base next door:  we have yet to see a rush of Evanstonians moving across to the tax-rich Skokie districts.

    1. Well said. I will oppose any
      Well said. I will oppose any referendum that does not address the fact that benefits are outpacing property tax revenue.

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