D86 Flat Levy 'Appears Most Unwise': Letter

A letter from two Hinsdale residents criticizes the District 86 Board of Education for its decision to freeze this year's levy.

Patch file graphic
Patch file graphic

The following letter was submitted to Patch by J. Richard Spatafora and Catherine A. Kinney, who live at 311 S. Vine St. in Hinsdale:

Richard Skoda, today is your day. 

The longtime Hinsdale Township High School District 86 board member could hardly contain his enthusiasm as he voiced his "second" to the motion to freeze this year’s district tax levy, not even adjusting for the 1.7 percent CPI increase. He offered a lengthy discourse, reading a "taxpayer’s letter" decrying taxes and fees of all types and at all levels of government. Joined by the three newly elected board members, Skoda’s position prevailed.

We too are taxpayers. We, however, distinguish among taxes, rather than asserting as an article of faith a singular position. Voting a district levy freeze as an expression of philosophy about taxation, based upon assumptions about future expenditures containment that includes amazing blitheness about the local impact of anticipated pension cost-shifting from the state, appears most unwise. 

What does seem clear enough: Skoda, the self-described lifelong "educator" (whom we suppose enjoys a generous teacher pension) and his allies intend to cap expenditures by restructuring teacher salaries and benefits. 

In speaking of current teacher health benefits, one board member disdainfully contrasted these with those of the "real world." We ourselves have been scrutinized more than once by a board member and by a supporter of the board’s levy decision, with the question, "Are you a teacher?"

We are not teachers. Rather, we are community members who see a tight correlation between attracting and retaining an excellent faculty, which is not fungible, and fair open-minded negotiation with that faculty that is not agenda-driven.

Check out other letters to the editor about the District 86 flat levy:

Sue Pircon December 04, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Yes, Richard Skoda is celebrating. He has finally accomplished what he has tried to do for the past 12+ years as a member of the District 86 school board. He claims to be an advocate for the taxpayer but his hypocrisy is astounding. As a retired teacher from Morton HS he enjoys a more generous pension than the majority of District 86 teachers. http://www.bettergov.org/pension/ While the decision to zero levy was made with virtually zero community support, I find the hypocrisy of Dr. Skoda's position disturbing. If my calculations are correct, he will receive over $2 million in taxpayer monies by the time he celebrates his 75th Birthday. Well, Happy Birthday Dr. Skoda, looks like you should celebrate.
Linda Burke December 05, 2013 at 07:36 AM
Thank you, Dr. Rick and Cathy, and Sue Pircon, for your great communications. It is also important to note that the flat levy, if allowed to proceed, would make our district the extreme outlier among Chicago-area high school and unit (K-12) districts, and not in a good way. Even if I believed in the flat levy, I wouldn't want our district to be the FIRST or the ONLY one to try this experiment, and that's just what we would be! Here is a list of the levies voted on by other area districts: Downers Grove High School 99 2.1% Township High School District 214 (Arlington Heights) 2.5% Deerfield-Highland Park (Township High School District 113) 2.97% Wheaton Warrenville Community Unit School District 200 4.8% Glenbard High School District 87 3.8% Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 “20% increase,” expect 1.7% Indian Prairie School District 204 3.2% Glenbrook High Schools (Northfield 225) 3.9% New Trier Township 3.31% As you can see, our "zero levy" if allowed to happen would in effect be "unilateral disarmament," forever taking us out of competition with other districts, a radical change from past practice where we proudly competed with the best of the best. A zero levy would not even keep up with the CPI or level of inflation, which is 1.7%. Given the reality of the tax cap, every other district has chosen the standard "CPI plus new growth" in order to keep up with inflation and foreseeable program needs. The good news is that we still have time to make our voices heard--the levy can't be finalized until December 16.
Franois-Marie Arouet - Voltaire December 05, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Thank you for standing up and questioning polices of a majority of Board members. The community needs more people like to you.
J. Geoff Rove December 10, 2013 at 08:19 PM
Time for some belt tightening and gasp, Consolidations ! I challenge the ingrained suburb bureaucrats to at least consolidate at the Township high school level. And note, Hinsdale Township is a fiction, at least in Dupage. Maybe it exists in another county or planet.
Dick Flesher December 12, 2013 at 11:52 AM
Hinsdale Township does exist, has existed quite well for a long period of time and it is most certainly in this planet.
Linda Burke December 12, 2013 at 01:37 PM
J. Geoff Rove's posting may echo the proposal by flat levy proponent Roger Kempa at the Nov. 25th District 86 HR-curriculum committee meeting. He suggested turning our high schools into a grade 9-10 building and an 11-12 building instead of their present status as Hinsdale South and Hinsdale Central. This is one proposal for "consolidation" under flat levy.
Linda Burke December 13, 2013 at 12:34 PM
It isn't possible to lower revenue below the rate of inflation without sacrificing something. This is common sense and simple arithmetic. The claim of no sacrifices under flat levy is based on "assumptions" analyzed by Sue Pircon and others and exposed as preposterous. I don't have the financial background to do the detailed analysis, but others have done this most expertly.
Dan F. December 19, 2013 at 12:11 AM
According to district consultant PMA Financial Network, D86 ran an approximate $1.9 million surplus in FY13 (June 30), a net increase to reserves. A $1.4 million surplus is projected in the current FY14, and in FY15, with the flat tax levy, D86 still estimates generating over a $1.3 million surplus. These facts stand in stark contrast to the personal attacks and baseless claims that there will not be enough money. When the tax and spend crowd holds court, more is never enough. Whenever honest Republicans manage to forge a majority on school boards, good things happen for students and taxpayers. Here is to hoping those last three tax and spend Board members get shown the door the next time they run for election.
Devon Chenelle December 19, 2013 at 05:57 AM
"Whenever honest Republicans manage to forge a majority..." Are you kidding Dan? I really hope this is an elaborate satire. Do you really watch cable news, view the vitriolic gridlock and inaction of D.C., the grasping avarice and myopia of BOTH parties and say to yourself... "hmmm...I'd love to transplant that sort of miserably poor governance to my own community! With luck, I can drag down the local schools performance and divide the community!" Why would you ever make the choice to live in a strong, tight-knit community in Hinsdale, and be repulsed at the prospect of making a small fiscal sacrifice to provide for the lynch-pin of the community, the public school?
Linda Burke December 19, 2013 at 06:02 AM
It's interesting how rarely the supporters of flat levy come forward to comment under their real names. If they are proud of their agenda, why can't they admit who they really are? It bears repeating that Mr. Corcoran and his group have not pretended that nothing will need to be sacrificed under a levy that fails to keep pace with inflation. Of course, they have yet to see an expenditure they can't love, as long as it serves the agenda of smear against the previous board. This explains why we suddenly need at least FOUR (possibly five) highly paid new administrators--to conduct a fishing expedition on alleged financial impropriety by the previous board and administration, despite the utter lack of evidence that any such thing ever actually occurred. For the same purpose, the taxpayer will pick up the tab for unnecessary expensive audits. And now, we have a $25,750 no-bid contract for a company, American Heritage Protection Services, to ferret out non-resident students allegedly attending our schools. Of course, no one wants non-residents attending at taxpayer expense, but this problem--if it really does exist--can and should be addressed through a sensible registration process and existing staff. In the present climate of forced austerity, we simply cannot afford American Heritage Protection Services. Mr. Corcoran justifies this expense with accusations of "negligence" against the previous board and administration. Sadly, we can no longer trust any financial information presented with majority board approval. It will not stand up to independent scrutiny. As the board majority cannot deny, all the necessary sacrifices under flat levy are expected to be imposed on our teachers, and thus, quite obviously, on the quality of our academic program. There is no honest denial ofare now awake to what has happened.
Linda Burke December 19, 2013 at 06:04 AM
Oops, my final sentence should read as follows: there is no honest denial of the tragedy that has happened here, but at least a vast number in the community are energized and awake to the situation.


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