Break even for D91

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If the state of Illinois doesn't screw your town on school funding, it is time to declare victory and keep looking for local solutions to pay for public education.

That's the situation for Forest Park after the state finally took semi-progressive steps last year to rewrite its school funding formula. No school district in the state lost money under the complex equation. That was the political reality of passing this reform measure. 

Instead, Forest Park's District 91 public elementary schools fell right on the razor's edge. The schools will see an increase in state funding of $1,093 this year. You read that right. $1,093. That's on a current anticipated total from the state of $1.4 million.

So here we are, as usual, looking to local taxpayers to fund public education. With the generosity of our local taxpayers, in recent years the school district has built up a notable cash reserve even as it has added costs for expanded services such as preschool and more kindergarten. That surplus will need to be gradually drawn down, about $1 million this year, to pay for existing services.

That's what reserves are for and, eventually, it will rightly lead to the need for a tax referendum where the school district makes its case to voters that it has earned a raise.

If we've learned one thing as residents of this largely screwed-up state, count on yourselves, not on Springfield, to make progress in public education.

Tapping gaming revenues

Among the arguments in favor of permitting video gaming in Forest Park was the financial benefit to village government. Under state law, local municipalities earn a small slice of the overall revenue deposited into the machines by players.

We'd note that the final numbers since the practice was legalized by the village have now been posted by the state and that Forest Park earned a grand total of $149,152 for this highly divisive gambit.

Yes, we stipulate that 2017 was, in effect, a partial year as the number of approved and installed machines increased through the year. That should mean a somewhat greater take in 2018. The total amount includes an annual licensing fee per machine.

By comparison, though, our fairly cash-strapped village government recently hiked a range of parking fees and fines in an effort to close a $1.4 million budget gap. Those hikes will bring in a much heftier $250,000 annually, according to village leaders.

Mark Hosty, the former village commissioner and now former Forest Parker, continues his attempt to clog the ballot for citizen referendums on gaming by putting up questions that range from insincere to nonsensical. Among the questions he has put to voters is whether proceeds from video gaming should be dedicated to reducing the property tax levy or to help pay underwater police and fire pensions. Lofty goals. A more proper question might be, should the proceeds of video gaming be used to hire another staffer to write more parking tickets.

That's where the money is.  

Reader Comments

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Geoff Binns-Calvey  

Posted: January 19th, 2018 6:28 PM

Let's look at a typical video gambler, who's lost $20 into the machines. Village Hall takes $1. The bar owner takes $7, and the remaining $12 leaves town (the gambling outfit that runs the machines gets $7, and the State gets $5.) Now, the Village does make $5K from each of the bars, once a year on licenses; and some local taxes are paid, but overall, video gambling is a terrible way to raise money for the Village, since it's a huge net outflow. Certainly there are pros and cons. Most Forest Parkers want to vote on it. A few bar owners, backed by the gambling industry, don't want them to vote on it, and have gone to great lengths to suppress the issue. What does that tell you, about how good it really is for the town overall? Just let us vote on it.

Steven Woltman  

Posted: January 18th, 2018 4:53 PM

Ms. Tepper - I think you should do more research. In particular, look at the financials for the school over the last, say, 10 years. If they don't have enough money sitting in the bank right now, I'd not only be shocked, but outright offended. They passed a referendum for extra dough and they get a lot from this community while their enrollment continues to shrink and their scores decline. The schools are in tip top shape, so I don't know where the money is going. I'd start looking a employee salaries, starting at the top. That could be a real eye opener for both yourself and your readers. Nobody ever carefully scrutinizes the schools, to our detriment.

Martin M. Sorice Senior from Forest Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2018 2:56 PM

It would appear that if gaming remains legal the village tax should easily exceed 250k for a full years operation. Mr Haley are you seriously suggesting that in lieu of gaming we hire another parking person at an estimated cost of 50k so he can then write another 300000.00 dollars in parking tickets. Do you really think "that is where the money is" . Do you really think that is where the money should come from?

Martin M. Sorice Senior from Forest Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2018 2:46 PM

The numbers quoted in Me Tepper's article do not include all of the 2017 totals . Therefore they should not be used to describe all of 2017.

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