The following was posted on Facebook recently by a community member, and someone who I would also consider a local activist for trying to better the community of Schiller Park. The original post can be found here
Before the community information meeting at Kennedy school on 1/20/2016 a woman was standing out front handing out some papers. I was late so didn’t have the pleasure of accepting one of the papers myself. But, someone at the meeting gave me a copy. I later found out that she refused to give it to some people. Hmmm I wonder why? Well, I would like to post answers to those questions…
1. Question: Schiller Park is land locked; we CANT get any bigger! Why do we need this expansion?
Answer: Enrollment in District 81 has increased by 124 students over the last 5 years. The growing student population requires additional space to meet their instructional needs.
2. Question: Once the current enrollment drops, what will happen to the extra teachers and new rooms?
Answer: Based on five years of historical data we do not anticipate a drop in student enrollment. Although we do not anticipate a drop in enrollment, the Board may consider offering more at-risk preschool programs.
3. Question: Is this enrolment spike due to apartments and renters?
Answer: The enrollment spike is due to more families with young children moving into the district. Regardless if they live in apartments or houses, they are still our students.
4. Question: How many full time and part time people will be hired for this expansion and how much will that cost?
Answer: Based on our current class sizes we anticipate adding 4 certified teachers, however the number of paraprofessionals at Kennedy School will be reduced since class sizes will decrease.
5. Question: Are there classrooms available at either of the Catholic Schools in town, that district 81 could lease?
6. Question: Why don’t we rent portable classrooms; was this looked into? Can we see the inquire about this?
Answer: Yes, mobile classrooms were looked into however this is a cost prohibitive, temporary option that does not address all the needs at Kennedy School. The committee was concerned with the learning environment and safety of the students in mobile classrooms.
7. Question: Why was Lincoln School not made big enough?
Answer: LMS is not at full capacity.
8. Question: How much will our taxes go up?
Answer: The bond and interest rate will remain flat. This project will not cause taxes to go up, however there are several unknown variables that cannot be predicted.
9. Question: Why is this not being put to approve by the tax payers?
Answer: The district is paying for the project by issuing working cash bonds, utilizing a portion of our fund balances and restructuring the original referendum bonds. The district does not need a tax rate increase to pay for this project therefore we did not go out for a referendum.
10. Question: Will the current board be taxing to the max every year?
Answer: The Board of Education upon the recommendation of their Finance Committee levied 4.99% for the 2015 levy but due to Property Tax Limitation Law the District will only receive .8%. which is the inflation index of CPIU. This percentage was determined in December of 2014. On January 20, 2016 the District was informed that next year the maximum amount we will receive is .7% of what is received in the 2015 tax levy. So although the board levied 4.99% we are capped at less than 1% over the next two years under the Property Tax Limitation Law.
11. Question: Lincoln School drove our taxes up, will this project dry them up again, or will we hear a cup of coffee a day is all it will cost?
Answer: This project is being funded under out Debt Service Extension Base authority. That number is currently included in your taxes. We are not asking for a tax rate increase above this authority as was the case with Lincoln Middle School.
12. Question: When our taxes go up, will the current DFO Wendy Flaherty be terminated?
Answer: No. Tax rates will not go up unless the EAV goes down which is out of the control of School District 81.
13. Question: Is this why we hired an assistant principle instead of more paraprofessionals at Kennedy School?
Answer: The Board added an assistant principal to support additional administrative needs that became necessary due to increased enrollment. The board also added 9 paraprofessionals to support large class sizes.
14. Question: It seems strange that we are having a question and answer night about Kennedy School, when our School Board had no questions of Dr. Kim when the project was presented on Dec. 18, 2015 This just makes one wonder how many times the Open Meetings Act was violated by our Board to find out the details of this project. There was no discussion at the public Board Meetings. Why have the planning and the discussions been so secret? No transparency? Something to hide or at least keep under wraps until no one was paying attention (right before Christmas)?
Answer: Several discussions have taken place at regular board meetings and committee meetings. All regular meeting and committee meeting agendas and minutes have been posted to the website. There have been no OMA violations and secret discussions regarding this project.
15. Question: Now it is now clear why taxes were levied each year, even though, the public (not the Board members) questioned why that was being done when there were sufficient funds in reserve to take care of unforeseen emergencies. The answer was finally given Dec 18, 2015, when it was stated that funding for the project would be done from the reserve funds the District had. Another case of delayed transparency? Transparency after the fact? Was explanation avoided because the people would see it for what it was a maneuvering of funds to avoid having to ask for a referendum?
Answer: The district has been fiscally responsible over the last several years. As a result of good financial decisions we are able to put an addition onto Kennedy School without asking the taxpayers for an increase in the tax rate.
16. Question: The public would probably like to know what financial wizard was hired to come up with this slick plan, and to what added cost to the taxpayers along with all the law firms for which we now pay? This scheme, I mean, plan to avoid a referendum seems to border on side stepping the law.
Answer: The district is not violating any laws by funding this project with bonds and reserves.
I personally would like to add that all these questions Ms Korey Gibala-Krastev had and many more could have been answered with the attendance of any one of the dozen or so meetings that had the topic on the agenda. Also with that being said many of these answers could have additionally been found by viewing the videos of the recorded board meetings. As usual questions were asked by a McCampbellite that did not actually want the answers to. The questions at face value alone raise doubt with those who will not seek out the truth.
The truth explains it all