West Chicago, IL 60021
Operating Costs? Are they part of the Reason?
This is the third of a sequence of postings on the possible expansion of Wegner Elementary School.
Again I will take up the issue of different things stated in two different documents.
From Dr. Leman's email to Mr. Smith
From the April 24th Memo provided to the school board at the May meeting:
|"The ongoing cost of operating an additional 4 classrooms is approximately $15,000 per year for utilities, custodians, and maintenance, or $4.30 per square foot."||"Note: Alternate Revenue Bonds may also be able to pay off the earlier performance contract freeing $170K from the O&M budget, which would be more than enough to cover the operating cost of the addition."|
I suspect that there is a reason why operating costs are related to a $170,000 dollar per year expenditure. Using $40K as the school's cost for an additional teacher, and thinking a new classroom, if it is to be used, means a new teacher, he could be telling the school board a number looking to the cost of putting students and a teacher in four new classrooms.
There is a difference between information and spin. Regarding every issue or decision, there are facts and principles that support each side. This is information. If, however, someone presents only those facts and principles that support their decision and are most likely to convince a given audience, that is spin. It can often be detected by seeing the argument change for a different audience.
It is important that public servants, such as the superintendent be seen as a source of information, providing accurate, descriptive, complete and understandable information to both the board and the public... Not the information which supports his recommendation, but all information... that which supports his conclusions and that which would suggest other positions.
I am now in danger of people simplifying my comments to accusations that Dr. Leman is spinning, or worse yet, lying. Such is not my contention. I know and like Ed. He has always treated me decently. I consider him to be honest, smart and well intentioned. I also think his text reveals what I GUESS his intention is. A couple months ago he was faced with the prospect of reducing teaching staff and increasing class size. He successfully fought an attempt to reduce the administrative staff. The lower cost on health insurance saved him for at least one year.
He still has a problem with the Educational Fund, the operating money for the school. I think he is looking to transfer some regular expenditures for operations and maintenance into capital projects. Such would allow him to decrease the levy for O&M and increase available money for the Education Fund. Replacing broken tiles, replacing windows, wood chips at the playgrounds, roof repair, fence repair, and buying a new truck, for a school are not generally the things that cause a referendum... they are normal operating expenses that are scheduled across years so that no one year's budget bears the brunt of too many of them. Putting all these together and borrowing the money would allow him, not to increase taxes, but to not lower taxes. Meanwhile, the money available for maintenance could be levied to the Education Fund where it could be used to avoid increasing class size, new programs and/or increasing administrative salaries
Dr Lehman is careful to state that these manipulations will not require a referendum (except maybe a back door referendum which does not require a vote by the electorate.) His description is right. "It is like budgeting $200 per month for a car payment, but when the loan is paid, borrowing for a boat because the budget is already handling the payment." It is like refinancing your home to take out equity to buy a fancy car. Maybe your payment on your loan remains the same, but by stretching it out over additional years, you have incurred further debt. The school's finances are so dire, that I would compare it to refinancing the house for a lower monthly payment so that there is more money for putting food on the table. A case could be made for putting the information out to the public and letting them decide to incur more debt to be spent this way. I cannot, however, make the case for doing so without the voters' permission, by a back door referendum.
At the meeting on the 24th, I hope he lays the facts out, without spin. I hope he doesn't mention (again) that the committee recommends this unanimously, without pointing out that 100% of the school board members who attended the committee meetings were opposed to its conclusion. I hopes he sticks to the simple, plain facts, or has the integrity to spin for both sides of the issue.