Election 2013: Paul Watkiss
Paul Watkiss is one of six candidates running for four open seats on the Maercker School District 60 Board of Education.
Name: Paul Watkiss
Position sought: Maercker School District 60 Board of Education
Residence: Clarendon Hills
Family: Wife Carrie; daughters Sara and Claire.
Education: Bachelor's degree in business from Illinois State; law degree from DePaul University.
Occupation: Managing attorney for State Auto Insurance Company’s house counsel office in Naperville.
Years in District 60: 11
Previous elected offices: School board member, Maercker District 60 (two terms).
Applicable experience qualifying you for the position: I have been on the board eight years. I have been the president of the board the last two years.
What is the primary reason you are running for this office?
I am running for re-election to the board because I think the incoming superintendent needs stability and consistency as she takes the reins of District 60. Our current superintendent is retiring at the end of this school year. The board has hired a replacement. It would be helpful to the new superintendent to have some familiar faces on the board during this time of transition.
What will be your single most important priority if you get elected?
The two major issues our district faces in the future are:
- Negotiation of the new collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union; and
- Overcoming limited funding.
In these hard economic times, we must find an overall compensation package for our teachers that is competitive in the marketplace, while at the same time keeping the district viable financially.
It is an economic reality that the district’s revenues are capped, but its expenses are not. This year was the first time our district faced deficit spending. The district remained viable as we planned and saved over the seven years. However, in the very near future, a referendum will have to be brought to the residents in order for this district to remain financially viable. In the meantime, the board must pursue strategies to save money and spend wisely.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
I am experienced. I have been on the board for eight years, with two as president. During this tenure, I have been involved in negotiating two collective bargaining agreements, hiring two superintendents, as well as various other legal and financial issues, including bond refunding and reaching a successful resolution of the TIF district put into place by the Village of Westmont that included a portion of the boundary of Maercker District 60.
What do you believe is District 60’s biggest strength?
Our greatest strength has been an administration and board that work well together.
What do you believe is District 60’s biggest weakness?
Our biggest weakness will be finding ways to keep the district financially viable when revenue is capped and expenses are not.
In terms of a school district, how would you describe a board that is fiscally responsible? Does District 60 currently have a fiscally responsible board?
A financially responsible board makes decisions based upon their impact on the taxpayers in the district. For example, even though the TIF district, as originally conceived by the Village of Westmont, would not have resulted in a loss of tax revenue for District 60, it would have resulted in shifting a significant tax burden onto the shoulders of residents and business owners within District 60 who do not live within the boundaries of the TIF. The agreement reached with the village will reduce the size of the TIF district by nearly 40 percent, saving District 60 taxpayers an estimated $2.7 million over the life of the TIF.
During my time on the board, in 2010 and again in 2012, the district was able to take advantage of historically low interest rates along with its strong credit rating to save taxpayers a combined $575,000 in interest costs. As part of the refunding process, the district received a strong “AA+” rating from Standard and Poors, which is the second highest rating available.