For the next several weeks taxpayers, and anyone else who’s interested, have the opportunity to comment on two spending proposals that rely heavily on local property taxes. Those budgets also outline what opportunities students in the area will be provided. We’re talking of course about the school district budgets for District 91 and District 209.
Quite frankly, neither of these documents has garnered much interest in Forest Park for a number of years. At the high school level, the community’s interest in District 209 is practically nonexistent and most parents make plans to either move to a better school district or splurge for a private education. And as long as chaos reigns supreme in District 209 it seems the community is comfortable with whatever District 91 comes up with, so long as it doesn’t become the high school.
For those who haven’t looked, there are millions of reasons to take a gander at the local school budgets and ask that your board members help you make sense of it.
The K-8 schools in Forest Park will collect $13.78 million in local taxes over the next fiscal year. That’s 90 percent of their budget. Clearly, the schools could not function without this money and district administrators have long expressed their appreciation for the public’s support.
The three high school campuses in Proviso Township are counting on $53.32 million in local taxes. This figure represents 80 percent of their revenue stream. There are 10 municipalities paying into that pot, so it’s a little tougher to say exactly what Forest Park’s contribution is, but the impact is the same. Without that money, District 209 doesn’t open its doors. Arguably, administrators there have done a poorer job of conveying any appreciation they might have for your money.
The reasons to look over the high schools’ budget are almost too many to mention. For starters, 10 years of deficit spending should give the public little faith in the school board and the administration’s ability to serve as financial stewards. A proposed budget unveiled Monday night could put financial solvency within reach for at least a year, but $14 million in cuts to get there is an awful big hill to climb. What the board ultimately decides to keep and what gets scrapped could depend largely on what is heard from the public in the next month.
A vote on the proposal is scheduled for Sept. 24.
In District 91, newly installed Superintendent Lou Cavallo says the schools actually have an excess of financial reserves that represent six to 12 months of their total operating costs. The rule of thumb is to keep three to six months worth of expenses in the bank to quell any financial upheaval. Given the $3.1 million cushion in the proposed budget, residents have good reason to question why their tax money is being collected but not spent.
The District 91 school board will vote on its budget Sept. 13.
All the financial figures in the world aren’t going to serve as a rallying cry for many of us, because, well, math can be boring. Perhaps the incentive some of us need is sitting across from us each night at the dinner table.