James B. Koch is a Wilmette resident and member of the New Trier High School Board.
The article in Patch regarding District 39’s Referendum is not accurate. The opinion of Mr. Ali Elsaffar, a failed candidate for local office, simply has his facts wrong. District 39 accurately calculated the financial impact of the referendum which is $58.00 per $1,000 of taxes paid on resident tax bills. The District 39 board was well aware that the ballot language might be confusing so the board passed a “statement of intent” limiting the incremental cash due to the impact of the referendum to $6.375 million in the 2010 tax year. The language for the ballot question is drafted based upon state law as it exists, not as Mr. Ali Elsaffar or the National Taxpayers Union hoped for or imagined it should have been written.
The ballot language for the District 39 referendum is absolutely correct and fully complies with state law. State law does not require the use of the state’s equalizer, which is a number the Illinois Department of Revenue determines each year to ensure that Cook County assessments are in line with assessments throughout the state. The referendum also doesn’t include the 7 percent tax cap, certain exemptions such as senior exemptions and other financial information.
I would invite Mr. Ali Elsaffar and the National Taxpayer Union to take a shot at re-drafting the state’s statute. I can assure you that including the state’s equalizer and a host of other financial variables have significant implications, including the rates of bonds, that a number of very talented financial consultants and attorneys have considered and rejected. Nonetheless, District 39’s Referendum is accurately and carefully crafted and the financial implications have been openly and accurately presented to the community.
By way of bias I attended District 39 in the late 1950’s and my two sons attended in the 1990’s. The education my family and friends received included small class size, foreign languages, instrumental music, art and physical education. Today, my sons work in the area of national security and, at least in my opinion, nothing is more critical to national security than a first rate education. The issue here is priorities, not capabilities. The question, as the old saw goes, is not whether we can afford the referendum but whether we can afford not to support it. While my children are grown and gone I fully support the referendum. It’s the best thing for the students and it’s the best thing we can do for the community.