I have been following the Review’s coverage of the upcoming school board election and I feel that a few issues are getting lost in the coverage. I have noticed that the focus of coverage has been not on the people who are running for the school board, but rather on personal relationships of some candidates. In the interest of full disclosure, I must point out that the husband and wife candidates Eric and Mary Win Connor are my first cousins.
This election should not be about who knows whom, but rather what each candidate brings to the table. I have seen reporting that since Village Commissioner Tom Mannix is friends with Brad Keefner this somehow makes Mr. Keefner unfit to serve on the school board. While focusing on a friendship, the paper has completely missed the fact that Mr. Keefner is a lawyer with the county and specializes in helping children. He is a Forest Park property owner and cares about the future of our kids and our community.
It is unfortunate that the real issues facing our schools and community are being ignored. That is why I am writing today.
As the Commissioner of Accounts and Finance for the Village, I am often asked, “Why are my taxes so high?” When asked, I tell them to look at their tax bills. The village makes up only 16-18 percent of your bill. The majority of your bill is to pay for our school districts. While families have been struggling to keep their homes, our local school District 91 has amassed almost $25 million in reserves. Annually they release a report saying how they have come in under-budget. This would be like Melinda Gates telling Bill that she saved money on the week’s groceries. Savings are good, and the district has done well on this. They have paid down debt and fixed up the school buildings. The current answer to the excess amount of money in savings is “we need this in case the state moves the pensions back on the local districts.” I must ask if that’s what the money’s for, what was it for two years ago before the state threat? The answer is simple, no one was watching.
We have continuously low reading scores, small enrollment, and a superintendent who is not easily accessible. With all that money in the bank, I can’t help but wonder how well we are doing in going after federal and state grant money? How do we stack up in receipt of grants compared to surrounding communities? Are we taking the easy way because the taxpayers are not looking, or are we looking to save at every turn?
We can have the best schools for our children but they do not need to be the most expensive.
Next week when you vote, stop and think which candidates are working for you and not the superintendent. These are our tax dollars. It is time they give more back and let the citizens decide how to handle their own savings.
Commissioner of Accounts and Finance