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Letter to the Editor: D46 Board Members Who Voted Down Tax Levy Made Wrong Decision

Letter to the Editor: Grayslake resident Chris Thibaudeau writes an open letter to the District 46 School Board members who voted against approving the proposed $32.6 million tax levy at its Dec. 19 meeting.

To the CCSD 46 Board members who voted NO on the recommended tax levy:

I watched the District 46 board meeting Wednesday night with high interest and went to bed in horror after witnessing the events that transpired. While I understand and sympathize that the decisions you face are extremely important, I cannot express anything other than my own belief that you have acted in the exact opposite way that a person in your position is supposed to.   

You were elected to operate the school district for the constituents of this area in the most sincere manner possible. I believe your first responsibility is to the students who live here. Second is to the residents as they have charged you with that task for them. You act on their behalf, in the interests of the students, whether they agree with the decisions you make or not.

I do not believe you acted in the best interest of the students when you voted down the balloon levy Wednesday night. I realize some would argue that your vote showed strength and that the district must find new ways of dealing with their budget shortfalls.

While I agree with the fact that the district must address their budget woes from more angles than tax increases, a proper step would have been to approve the balloon levy and abate back a portion (perhaps all) of the growth amount that you collectively would determine is not needed to meet the district's needs.

Your vote restricted the district from ever being able to collect that amount, compounded for an infinite amount of time. That was very short-sighted. I question whether that vote actually showed strength. Strength would be having the discussion about the abatement and the decision to force the district to cut expenses now. Your vote showed your unwillingness to engage the community in that discussion and that is avoiding the topic. It's weakness.

Some arguments were made Wednesday night that I am in complete disagreement with. Levying for less than the max in an effort to force the state to supply an increase in general state aid is foolhardy in the face of the state's own budgeting woes. I hope none of you are holding your breath waiting for the state to live up to its obligations for general state aid. If you are, you might want to talk to the managers of the public pension systems, which have been consistently underfunded (or borrowed from). I believe you all are (or should be) far too smart to have bought into this argument.

Another assertion that was made that has no basis in truth (but it does have basis in hope and prayer) is that if you hold the tax rates down, businesses will flock to our community in appreciation of your efforts. Will we ever be able to get tax rates that can compete with an area like District 50 in Gurnee, an area with almost unlimited commercial property already in existence (car dealerships, Great America, Gurnee Mills and other retail spaces)?

The attraction to Grayslake and District 46 for commercial business will not be our low tax rate. Even if it were, have you projected the timeline of when last night's decision (to levy for less than the maximum rate in order to help commercial businesses) will begin to bear fruit? I would argue there will be no impact for at least 10 years, if ever.

The long and short of it is this: By not levying for the maximum increase of $750,000, here's the loss of property tax revenues over time:

In the first 5 years (by 2018):   $3.98 M
In the first 10 years (by 2023): $8.6 M
In the first 15 years (by 2028): $13.95 M
In the first 20 years (by 2033): $20.15 M
In the first 25 years (by 2038): $27.34 M
In the first 30 years (by 2043): $35.68 M

From here, the loss continues to grow with each year being well over $1 million. Diminishing future revenues is inexcusable when considered in conjunction with several other budgetary issues the district is now facing, namely falling revenues due to declining property values, rising health care costs.

When you also consider that this vote was taken 28 days before a pending strike date for the teachers, one has to wonder if the true purpose was a political statement made by board members against the concept of collective bargaining. Certainly reducing the entire amount of potential growth in the levy from the Education Fund is a message from the board to the teachers of the district that there is no plan to pay competitive salaries and maintain moderate class sizes for the short or long term future without an ed fund referendum (which would be highly unlikely to pass).

Your previous statements about wanting to pay a fair salary to the most important human resource within the district are in complete conflict with your actions. And believe me, your actions have spoken louder than your words ever will, even if you can correct the mistake that was made. In my opinion, it's already too late.

Incidentally, I also find it odd that you choose to not listen to the recommendations of both your business manager and your superintendent, who have advised against your actions Wednesday night (by recommending and proposing a balloon levy). I would expect your next move is to replace the district's business manager, since you have decided not to listen to or trust in those recommendations.

Chris Thibaudeau

Grayslake

Chris Thibaudeau December 24, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I have sat in a few D 46 board meetings, but I don't agree with your view of this board's biggest mistake. Any previous mistakes are correctable. Wednesday night's was permanent. As for figures and ideas, these are not mine. Anyone is capable of doing what I did. Seeing as how every other district in Lake County uses a balloon levy with an abatement (sorry, Mr. Jarrett, it isn't just Stevenson; but Stevenson is the only district that I know of which has abated the entire increase and they've done it multiple times). It wasn't anything I was anticipating. Nor was the ludicrous assertion about getting more money in general state aid. Maybe that was a mistake given this board's prior history. It is my understanding that school board members undergo training from the ISBE (or maybe from the IASB) so it's inconceivable that the board members who as negligent as they were, regardless of what they're hearing from their business manager. As for her performance, I haven't observed enough to make a judgement--not that my judgement would matter. But I so feel that she must have a sense of the board's positions and should have been knowledgeable to lead the abatement discussion. Unless she was directed not to. As for that, we'll never know. The board members are responsible for their votes. No doubt about that.
Pete Gardner December 24, 2012 at 07:27 PM
It seems I may have not posed my question in a way that you felt wasn't in need of a defensive answer, so please allow me to ask you in different ways in hopes your thoughts are provoked beyond blaming 5. Are you aware the board in D127 voted 4/3 to increase the levy? Have you written an open letter to those 3 board members? Did you write open letters to the village of Grayslake Trustees when they voted not to increase the levy? Did you write to Avon Township when they voted not to increase? The same people who spoke publicly asking to not increase their taxes have offered their help in looking for ways, now and future, to help. No one to my knowledge, showed up to plead for increases. Why didn't you show up and make your argument then? What are you willing to do other than complain after the fact?
William Harms December 26, 2012 at 03:10 PM
There are some really good points here and it sounds like people of good will are looking for answers. The stakes are high-- the futures of our children and the reputation of our community as having great schools. There has been some nice traffic on this letter and pick up as well and I wonder if there might some value in people getting together to take some action here. The center of gravity on this has to be with parents. Anyone want to organize a get together?
Katie January 04, 2013 at 05:36 AM
I wish certain people who don't even send their own kids to public schools would quit trying to mess with our schools. No one needs you or your Tea Party junk.
Lennie Jarratt January 04, 2013 at 03:47 PM
All children should have access to quality education. That is what I am many others are fighting for. I will continue to do so regardless of who does not want that.

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