Viewpoint: D65 should live within its means

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board must to find a way to fulfill its educational mission with the ample funds taxpayers already provide.

Talk at this week's school board meeting of launching a new referendum campaign after voters soundly rejected one last month suggests some board members are deaf to the message voters sent.

School District 65 already represents more than 39 percent of the total property tax bill for most Evanstonians.

As Evanston Now reported this week, the board, while spending large sums in recent years on expansion projects at several schools, chose to defer millions in needed roof repairs and other critical maintenance projects.

And as the Evanston Review reported, the state legislature may soon shift millions in annual teacher pension costs onto the backs of Evanston property taxpayers.

Four years ago the school board agreed to a lavish contract settlement which granted teachers raises of up to 27 percent over four years just as the nation was in the midst of a recession that left most taxpayers struggling with pay cuts and job losses.

That leaves residents little reason to believe that the board will be more responsible in this year's contract talks.

And, as a Chicago Tribune report last year demonstrated, District 65 is well into the top 10 percent of Illinois elementary districts in its level of spending per student.

The board has many options for living within its means as it deals with projected increases in enrollment — ranging from slight increases in class size to adoption of a year-round school schedule that would better utilize existing buildings.

The board members need to focus on finding the best of those solutions, not on grabbing for more money from the taxpayer's pocket.

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