Fewer than a half-dozen non-school personnel turned out at Chute Middle School Tuesday night for the first of three informational presentations to the public about the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 budget.
Undaunted, Superintendent Paul Goren expressed his gratitude to the district’s voters who approved a budget referendum in April that is expected to maintain the district’s financial viability for at least the next eight years.
“They put their trust in us to manage their tax money effectively,” he said, “and we take that trust very seriously.”
After the referendum, he added, “we were determined to stay even truer to the concept of transparency.”
Goren noted that he had received a number of comments from residents who thought the increase in their latest property tax bills was primarily because of the referendum. But he contended that a significant portion of that increase was the result of the triennial reassessment of property values by the county tax assessor.
On hand was one of the district’s newest senior staff members, Raphael Obafemi, Chief Financial and Operations Officer, who replaced Mary Brown in that position following her retirement at the end of last school year.
The bulk of the presentation, however, was presented by Kathy Zalewski, the district’s business manager and treasurer, who outlined the sources of the $125 million budget, and how that money is spent. She left plenty of time for questions from the audience.
Two similar public presentations are scheduled for this week. Wednesday night it will be at Haven Middle School, 2417 Prairie Ave., and Thursday night at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St. Both presentations are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Goren did not express disappointment in Tuesday’s light turnout, but speculated that similar sessions in future years would, hopefully, attract about 30 interested citizens.
The entire budget is available for all to see on the district’s website.
A public hearing and final adoption of the budget is scheduled for the regular meeting of the District 65 Board of Education on Sept. 25.
Attend Meeting tonight at 6:30 pm
Tonight is the 3rd and last D65 Budget presentation. The meeting starts at 6:30pm and is at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster Street.
Last night I attended the 2nd Budget meeting at Haven and was disappointed that only 3 other community members attended. Dr. Goren and his team have spent a lot of time and effort to inform the community about the current budget, and future expenditutures at D65 projected through 2025.
The meeting was very informative and the D65 team provided frank and thoughtful answers to several questions and issues raised last night. Based on current projections, D65 will have a fiscal deficit starting in fiscal 2022 (page 82), and may need to ask for another referendum by fiscal 2025. There are many challenging issues to address over the next several years.
Get informed and engaged in this critically important issue. Remember, D65 accounts for about 40% of your real estate taxes. The referendum gave us time and money to address our challenges, now we need citizens to get engaged.
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