Wilmette Parent: Vote 'Yes' for District 39 Referendum

What do you think of the proposed referendum?

Amy Dillon is a Wilmette resident and parent with a child who attends New Trier High School. 

Our continued investment in our schools plays a major role in maintaining Wilmette property values.

A friend asked for advice about where to relocate on the North Shore. She asked because I have a District 39 graduate, now a sophomore at New Trier. She asked if it really mattered which feeder district she settled in. I absolutely think so.  

When you chose to live here, a fair number of you picked Wilmette for the schools. Ask any realtor. School quality is central to real estate value. If our electorate only hears the label “tax increase” and therefore fails to support the schools with this referendum, potential home buyers will go elsewhere. Realtors are saying it’s already started to happen in the last few weeks.

My friend investigated schools, from Lake Forest to Evanston, gathering opinions and facts. I was not surprised she chose Wilmette. She made this choice based on the very class size, teachers and programs this referendum seeks to support.

Because we’ve consistently invested in them, Wilmette schools are valuable to our children AND our property values. Our schools are not perfect but they belong to all of us. Let’s protect our real estate nest eggs. Can we really not afford $13.57 per week for an average yearly tax bill of $12,000? Vote Yes on April 5. One of your friends may be trying to sell a house!

informed March 18, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Concerned Citizen: Are you running for the District 39 School Board? Isn't that the fight you should be fighting? I agree with WilmetteCares in that punishing our community, home values, and children is NOT the answer. If you really want "Real Change" you actually have to change the people making the decisions, correct? Last time I checked, my 3 children who are students in the District have NO SAY in the decisions, yet they are the ones who will be punished. Do I agree that there needs to be reform when it comes to teacher/administrator contracts? Absolutely. However, I don't agree with decimating a school district first and making those changes later. I will vote YES, but I will also push for changes in the future. Shame on you if you can't see the forest through the trees.
Rob Cohen March 20, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Seems like everyone wants to rationalize their point of view. Property values, teachers' contracts, pensions, the value of 5%, and who's the most fiscally are substantive matters that you cannot seriously expect to resolve on an ad hoc basis. I would like to see the broken public school system fixed, and I would like my property values back up. Let's be serious, though, these are maters if regional if not national scope. My kids are out if D39 next year, so I guess I could vote no. But - while I was there I got every iota if value out of 16 years, dozens of teachers, four Boards, and three superintendents. I held the schools accountable and while we often disagreed, D39 always delivered. I was an especially large consumer of the enrichment programs that are about to be cut. So, I plan to vote yes. For your kids and, I have no problem admitting, for the teachers and administrators who did their jobs very well. As for those of you who are so preoccupied with the (admitted) mess the public schools are in - I invite you to spend one tenth of the time i have spent addressing your concerns with people who might actually be able to do something about it. Those people do not include the grade schoolers whose programs are about to be cut.
Dan March 21, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Margaret Mcintyre, I am glad we still have some conscientious people on the board watching the tax payers' money. US public school system has been singing the same song for decades - more money means better education. I am surprised to see that there are still people buying into it after decades. Everyone from the private sector knows it is the execution that makes the difference. Without change, more tax dollar simply means more fat cats hiding in north shore school districts. I will definitely vote No and force the school district to change the way they spend money!
Concerned Citizen March 22, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Informed: Good luck pushing for real change once they get their cash. Have fun in your forest.
Rational Resident March 22, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Rational Resident Who is kidding who? I have no problem paying teachers but the problem with D39 is the bloated bureaucracy, back-ended pensions, and salaries that are way out of line for layers of administrative people. Imagine an "HR" person making $168,000 ?? Are you kidding me? Private industry would pay MAYBE $115,000 for this job with NO pension. And this person is scheduled to get 5 1/2% raises for each of the next 3 years! That brings the pay to $195,000 in year 2014! I bet you could find 100 people to do this job for $85,000. And dont forget, this person doesnt answer their own phone either----they ALL have secretaties that do that! And what do you think they make? The whole system is out of wack. And we have the ability to put our foot down right here and now and start to stem tide. They use the "home values" scare tactic--well, guess what, within 5 years, average tax bills of $20,000+ will hurt home values even more. Call their bluff and vote this thing down. I bet not one teacher gets fires, only "overhead"---which needs to go. Lets end the party.
WilmetteCares March 22, 2011 at 07:30 PM
Note: Administrators are not paid under the WEA contract or subject to WEA raises. D39 administrators have taken a pay freeze. From the State report cards on school districts, District 39 has among the very leanest administrator-to-pupil ratio in the State with 245 pupils for every one administrator (a total of 15.5 administrators in D39 for 3700 students). All this info is online. Look at ISBE report cards for the administrator-to-pupil ratio at Sunset Ridge 99:1, Avoca 136:1, Winnetka 155:1, Springfield 129:1, Glenview 217:1, State average 204:1). D39 looks about as lean as they get as far as administration.
Dan March 22, 2011 at 07:47 PM
WilmetteCares: D39 has one superintendent and THREE assistant superintendents each make more than $200,000 excluding benefits such as vehicle compensation. And you are satisfied that they agreed to take a pay freeze? They should agree to take a pay CUT instead of freeze! As to the administrator to pupil ratio, you are comparing school districts with different sizes. What you should do is to give administrator-to-school ratio as a more reasonable number. For example, avoca has two schools, five admins, that is a ratio of 2.5. D39 has five schools and 15.5 admin, that is 3.1. That shows D39 is fatter than Avoca. Say No to Fatso!
T Cleary March 23, 2011 at 01:00 AM
D39 and "Wilmette Cares" all have a credibility issue as the Chicago Tribune reported on Sunday, March 20th, with "tax data" from the Cook County Township Accessors Assoc. The tax burden for passing the D39 referendum is nearly 50% greater than D39 states on the ballot. No surprise there. They have resorted to scare tactics from the start. Just as the D39 board and their William Blair consultant have erroneously stated the impact on Wilmette taxpayers, they have overstated the impact of the referendum not passing. The D39 board went too far in their property tax request. It's time to face reality and cut the fat from the admin. and teachers. I have a simple solution, let's remove any admin or teacher who doesn't work a minimum of 40 hours a week-like the rest of us. The time to stop this nonsense is now.
Facts March 23, 2011 at 01:27 AM
The ballot language has been publicly discussed ad nauseum. Did you read the Chicago Tribune article? Even the leader of the NO group, Herb Sorock was quoted: "Sorock doesn't blame the school district, because he believes it correctly followed state law." The D39 web site contains info about the tax increase homeowners can expect if the referendum passes ($58.80 for each $1000 paid in property taxes): www.wilmette39.org. The state-mandated ballot wording is exasperatingly confusing, but D39 has been clear & consistent. Because the legally-required wording was so convoluted, the board discussed, voted on, and approved a Statement of Intent at the public & televised January board meeting confirming that D39 would collect no more than the specified amount if the referendum passes. The guy that raised this issue (Mr. ElSaffar from Oak Park) was clearly trying to get his 15 minutes of fame. And Mr. ElSaffar, as of today, issued a press release agreeing that taxpayers can use the same calculation used by D39 to figure out how much a proposed tax increase from a referendum would cost for tax bills. Much ado about nothing, but at least Mr. ElSaffar got his name published: www.op97.k12.il.us/referendum/ballot.html. D39 has been completely transparent on this issue from the get-go -- as I'm sure you well know.
Neighbor March 23, 2011 at 02:34 AM
T Cleary-I don't understand complaints of 'scare tactics'. Shouldn't cuts needed to balance the budget be publicly discussed and made abundantly clear? D39 has been planning for what will be needed to balance the budget for many many months at public meetings by going line by line through expenditures and finding cuts to balance the budget if the referendum fails. This has happened at public meetings that are televised and with all documents online. The line item costing document has been at www.wilmette39.org and available for scrutiny for months and months. Cuts & choices have been debated and discussed. D39 has already cut $4.3M (almost 10% of the operating budget). But that's not enough. Cutting 80 teaching positions over the next two years will balance D39's budget going forward without needing a referendum tax rate increase. The exact cuts and where they will take place is a known quantity for anyone caring to look -- as it should be. Those cuts mean larger class sizes and cutting programs, including all K-8 foreign language, reading intervention, library, technology, differentiation support, and instrumental music, plus reductions in P.E., art, music, etc. Informed voters should know all this information, shouldn't they?
T Cleary March 23, 2011 at 03:54 AM
D39 has a credibility gap that continues to widen as further analysis (see above and other postings) of the "pro-forma" budget is revealed. The board has been clear about the "probable" cuts to programs and larger class sizes. However, if you listen to them, they are careful to state that these are assumptions based on current tax revenues, and does not consider the strong likelihood that the state will be forthcoming with additional funds. I simply don't believe that the School Board and Dr. Lechner have been truly open with all the alternatives. As Twain said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Neighbor March 23, 2011 at 04:28 AM
T Cleary- It is a true cry of desperation to contend with a straight face that the State of IL is going to send increased funds to Wilmette. I need to pick myself up off the floor and hold my sides from laughter before I respond. Really? ILLINOIS? Go to the IL State Board of Ed web site (www.isbe.state.il.us) and look at this press release when contemplating the likelihood of Wilmette D39, on the North Shore of Chicago, getting increased funding from the State: "Local school boards are grappling with decreased revenue and late payments from the state...During any given time over the past two years, the State of Illinois has a backlog of bills owed to schools totaling more than $1 billion and currently owes $4.6 billion to vendors. Given the uncertainty of state funding, many school districts have announced layoffs in recent weeks to meet statutory deadlines and better position themselves for financial stability." ... So... Given the uncertainty of state funding of education in IL, you take solace in the thought that Springfield might be there to fulfill its obligations to D39 on any level in the next few years? Got it. I'll rest easy tonight with that thought.
Neighbor March 23, 2011 at 04:35 AM
After noting that IL General State Aid for schools declined by $119.6M from FY 2009 to 2010, and by another $328.3M from 2010 to 2011, here's another sobering overview regarding the prospect of IL state funding for education: http://www.isbe.net/board/meetings/2010/dec/fy12_budget_discussion.pdf: "If ISBE is required to make reductions in its General Funds budget for FY 2012, it will possibly not only have to make reductions to GSA. It may also be forced to make reductions in Mandated Categoricals, even though this could possibly result in a reduction of federal IDEA funding. It may also need to make reductions to other important priorities such as Early Childhood and Bilingual Education, as it has the past several years. It is unclear, however, whether there will be any discretionary funding available to offset these reductions as was the case in FY 2010 and FY 2011." In other words, D39 is on notice to expect LESS from the State in the future. In fact, so much less, that Federal IDA funding could be reduced. Is it a giant conspiracy to hide the stash of gold that the State of IL is going to reveal and send to Chicago's North Shore school districts in future years? Or, perhaps is D39 being truthful in noting that State funds are later and later each year, and decreasing annually. T Cleary, it seems you hold the State of IL in great esteem, so perhaps you're in for the conspiracy theory. But, the reality of the situation is painfully clear.
Spectator March 23, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Noting the point about layoffs in other districts from the post above, and looking at the online docs from D39's board meeting on Monday, 80+ teachers were given layoff notices for 2011-12. Plus, some resignations from teachers who found new jobs. That's on top of cuts D39 already has made of over $4 million. I understand the district was required to give layoff notices in March, and teachers can be re-hired if the referendum passes if they haven't found new jobs. But that's more than 1/4 of D39's teachers and a lot of jobs to absorb if the referendum fails.
Max March 26, 2011 at 02:09 AM
The issue is not the quality of schools but fiscal responsibility. If we took out most of the school program addotions and staff additions except for the prorated staff increase to cater the increase student enrollment, I'd bet we can have the same quality and save ourselves a bundle to pay for additional school programs. Send a clear message to the School Board and the Unions that we will spend money we have, not wished we had. Vote NO to this tax increase because you care.
Carol Bennett March 29, 2011 at 05:35 AM
Carol Bennett March 29, 2011 at 05:40 AM
Now it get it. We stop funding our schools because of the pension issue. And presto - the pension issue is fixed. District 39 will change the world of pension finance by starving its own schools of operating funds. To say the least, your suggested solutions to the pension problem (voting against funding our schools) is at best naive. I have a strong feeling that your goal is to generate anti-union / anti-pension press coverage for whatever organization you represent. But if you are sincere, tell us all how you think voting no will fix a decades old pension issue? Is it a problem? Yes. Is destroying our schools and our home values going to fix it? No. Is it something that the voters of District 39 can have ANY impact on in this vote? No.
Margaret Mcintyre March 29, 2011 at 10:19 AM
Putting all the blame on Springfield is simply dishonest and irrational. Throwing more money into the TRS MAW does not guarantee economic security for teachers and administrators. But, excessively inflating the payroll does translate into higher property taxes--WHICH will deflate home prices at a greater rate than will scaling back the District expenditures back to the Excellent Program levels of 2000. To not take responsibility for the choice and power local voters, local administrations and local unions have, is to deny the moral responsibility to our children. The adults here say they seek more tax revenue "for the children"s benefit" when in fact it will be these same children who will have much diminished young adult employment opportunities and long term career success BECAUSE OF THE CRUSHING PUBLIC DEBT THIS REFERENDUM PROMOTES! Take a look around the North Shore and you will see Morton Grove, and Nile snd other districts negotiating reductions in the teachers contracts to reduce the number of teachers that they must lay off. THAT' is ACCOUNTABILITY and RESPONSIBILITY. VOTE NO to save our children's and grandchildren's futures!
Margaret Mcintyre March 29, 2011 at 10:30 AM
Carol, You are right. I was born and raised in IL, my family and most of my friends and loved ones still live in IL, but my family made the financially rational decision (but emotionally difficult decision)) to move out of Wilmette and IL to save ourselves. My husband and I both were employed in careers which gave us exceptional insight into the labor market and real estate trends. With foresight and luck we were able to see the armageddon that was facing IL and we got out before home prices crashed. Whether IL can save itself is yet to be seen--but referendum actions like this one is a good indicator of whether the situation is hopeless or not. As a former school board member from 1999-2003, I made the best decisions for the District and all of the children and families. I cannot be silent when I see the trajectory of failure being advocated by narrow self -interest in the District. Carol, have some compassion for those residents that will be hurt by this referendum--in cash now and in depressed home values going forward. Have some wisdom about what this excessive public debt will do to our children's futures.
Margaret Mcintyre March 29, 2011 at 11:04 AM
Carol, no longer living in Wilmette, while having enjoyed 28 years of the fabulous community gives me objectivity as well as the motivation to help friends and family who still live there. When I moved I thought I would not find the opportunities for my children like those in Wilmette--but I was wrong. Virginia schools can afford to give their residents as much or more than Wilmette, IL because Virginia is not controlled by public sector unions--plain and simple. I have only the best memories of Wilmette and I wish only the best for families still residing there-and I believe Wilmette can be maintained by using it's creativity and high levels of education to re-allocate all of the resources--including the ART, Music, PE, Theatre, Camps, Preschools and the endless enrichment curriculum offered by the Park District.
Carl March 30, 2011 at 01:12 AM
I have been reading these posts for a while, and I too find it interesting that Ms. McIntyre is spending so much time and energy on a town that is hundreds of miles from where she lives. Then I found the answer - on Facebook. Ms McIntyre writes to Senator Kirk: "Margaret Mcintyre-Farina Out here in Norfolk, we are still cheering for you! Hopefully, after you are elected, IL will come back, and we can afford to move back to Wilmette! November will be a tide turner!" Now I get it. Ms. McIntyre wants to live in Wilmette, but she can't afford it. So now she is trying to drive down Wilmette real estate prices by scuttling our school referendum. As a former school board member, she knows that 50-75% of all home buyers in Wilmette have school age children. They move here for the schools. She also knows that if she destroys our school system, she will drive 50-75% of the potential home buyers away from Wilmette and thereby cause our home values to decline. Presto - now Ms. McIntyre can afford to move back to Wilmette. Margaret, please stop. This is disappointing behavior to say the least.
Carl March 30, 2011 at 01:13 AM
I have been reading these posts for a while, and I too find it interesting that Ms. McIntyre is spending so much time and energy on a town that is hundreds of miles from where she lives. Then I found the answer - on Facebook. Ms McIntyre writes to Senator Kirk: "Margaret Mcintyre-Farina Out here in Norfolk, we are still cheering for you! Hopefully, after you are elected, IL will come back, and we can afford to move back to Wilmette! November will be a tide turner!" Now I get it. Ms. McIntyre wants to live in Wilmette, but she can't afford it. So now she is trying to drive down Wilmette real estate prices by scuttling our school referendum. As a former school board member, she knows that 50-75% of all home buyers in Wilmette have school age children. They move here for the schools. She also knows that if she destroys our school system, she will drive 50-75% of the potential home buyers away from Wilmette and thereby cause our home values to decline. Presto - now Ms. McIntyre can afford to move back to Wilmette. Margaret, please stop. This is disappointing behavior to say the least.
Bruce March 30, 2011 at 01:36 AM
It is odd that most of the people on this site attacking the District 39 referendum are older (55+) - the baby boomers. What is most amazing about this is that these people are all of the generation that stand behind the greatest ponzi schemes ever invented- social security and medicare. These problems are 100x as important as any other issue in our country. And they think our tiny referendum in District 39 is going to change the world? How about all of you go to work on fixing the mess your generation left in this world. Forfeit your social security benefits, pay for your own healthcare costs. I am sure that each of you alone are costing this country more than the amount of this referendum. And you would also be smart to keep educating the children of this country. Who else is going to pay for your outrageous entitlement benefits for the next 30 years?
Margaret Mcintyre March 30, 2011 at 01:42 AM
Carl, well, you are close. When I wrote to Kirk, I thought we might move back and retire in Wilmette--That was before the Referendum push. As I said in another Patch response, when someone asked "why" would she put so much energy into fighting the referendum....I will repeat my previous response...I still have friends and family in Wilmette and IL and every additional burden on the public debt (TRS -IL taxes--Wilmette taxes) burdens my family and friends. I now realize how much better off we are in Virginia. Why would I want to get back on the Titanic? I already sold my home at the top of the market and watched the taxes increase $2000 a year for the new owners. The referendum will add another $800. The price can't go low enough to compensate for the additional taxes. Interacting here and hearing (again) the "more money spent on schools equals better schools myth", watching the greed of folks increasing the TRS burden, foisting that debt on less affluent people outside of Wilmette-- it's shameful. Our home has a water view, short drive to Williamsburg, in a state that is solvent. My daughter attends the Governor's school for the Arts, is enrolled in the pre-medical-science honors HS track and is headed for University of Virginia. My sons- -also headed for U VA--tuition now lower than U of I-Champaign where they were/would have attended. All of this is for half the taxes assessed on my former residence in Wilmette. Interacting here has given me closure!
Margaret Mcintyre March 30, 2011 at 01:46 AM
PS. Carl, November was not quite a tide-turner. Quinn won the governor's office. Sorry to disappoint you Carl.
Carol Bennett March 30, 2011 at 02:08 AM
Margaret - if life is so good in Virginia, why are you posting that you want home prices to come down in Wilmette so you can move back? You are a radical anti-school, anti-tax zealot who harbors a grudge from your failures in Wilmette. Focus on your new life in Virgina so you don't screw that up too.
Deadcatbounce March 30, 2011 at 03:27 AM
Carol it looks like you can’t win your argument through reason that you are now attacking Margaret's motivation, which she said has nothing to do with home prices. Home prices are going to go down or stay the same for a long time no matter what happens and many of the reasons for that have nothing to do with taxes. So why don't you give us a coherent argument instead of Ad hominem attacks.
RallyCap March 30, 2011 at 12:38 PM
@DeadCatbounce: Aside from the fact that Carol has already posted a bunch of retorts to the Decline 39 group, it is important to address why a non-citizen feels so compelled to continue to post on this topic. The answer is important because after the referendum vote, we all still have to live with each other while she does not. In a small village like ours the "personal is political" takes on a significance not usually associated with county, state or national elections. I want to live respectfully with my neighbors that vote no. I want them to respect my vote. I am suspicious of Margret's motivations, or anybody's who does not live in the District yet posts on this topic. Perhaps it is simply the altruism of "friends, family and the public debt." But I suspect Carl and Carol are onto something - there is another reason why she continues to post the same anti-tax, anti-union, anti-teacher posts. Profit? Position? Schadenfreude?
Emma Elliot March 31, 2011 at 02:54 AM
Wilmette Cares cannot produce a shred of scientific evidence linking quality of education to the amount of money spent per pupil. Washington, D.C. spends more per pupil than D39 and has the worst public schools in the nation. How is it that parochial schools that have far less revenue manage to achieve good results? Perhaps not being able to afford the bells and whistles that North Shore schools can, they concentrate on delivering an education that focuses on what's really important--reading, writing, mathematics, etc. It's time we stopped equating quality with money spent.
Ruth James January 16, 2014 at 01:05 PM
I think this was a very interesting article. I wasn't aware of the referendum being passed. Ruth James | http://www.concordiaplace.org/programs/children_youth/preschool_program.html


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