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.