There is much that has been written already in support of the upcoming District 113 referendum. In an ideal world, arguments – for and against the referendum – would be made based on reason and fact and voters would be better informed by this debate. But that’s not the approach that the anti-tax group, “Education First”, has taken to oppose the referendum.
In a document entitled “Referendum Fact Sheet” that is floating around town, “Education First” makes a number of incorrect, misleading and even outright false statements in opposition to the referendum. They call these statements “facts.” I challenge our community to judge whether this group is simply uninformed or intentionally misleading.
1) The plan will “substantially increase your real estate taxes” – even if you assume that no work needs to be done (an entirely ridiculous assumption), the total cost of the referendum is anywhere from 2-2.5% of your total property tax bill, depending upon your community. And the increase over 2012 will be less than 1% (a very liberal definition of “substantial).
2) For a taxpayer with a $600,000 home, “it will cost an additional $195 [in taxes] per year for the next 5 years to rebuild $25 million in reserves.” This is 100% wrong. There will be no additional taxes required.
3) The plan includes $6.4 million in “uncommitted contractor adjustments” – the steering committee, architects, and builders have clarified this. “Value engineering” is a commonly used technique to reduce costs, not some attempt to hide the true cost of the project. See the cost analysis here
4) D113 has “not conducted” an analysis of operational costs: this is misleading, fact-checked here.
5) Ed1st says “15% fewer children age 10 and under in Highland Park and Deerfield.” While the point of the proposal is to upgrade and repair the schools (not add capacity), it’s important to note that District 113 had increased enrollment for the 2012-2013 year (even though their previous analysis showed an expected decrease) and in the future forecasts flat or increased enrollment. District 109 is also showing stable enrollment in the near future (see p.49 here), and District 112’s 2012 enrollment was above the average for the 10 years prior (see p.113 here). Essentially, Ed1st presents numbers that assume that as “empty-nesters” and an aging population moves out (or passes away), then no families with children will buy their homes. Is that what you are seeing in your neighborhood?
6) And now, the grand illusion, their list of “new local taxing entities looking to increase our real estate taxes”. I’ll address some of them:
- "District 109 (covering the Deerfield elementary and middle schools) is discussing a $168 million expansion.” Completely wrong, twisted way out of context from a presentation to D109 - architects estimated this as the cost of major reconstruction of ALL D109 schools. Is this actually being considered? No. A D109 administrator called this idea “ridiculous” (even the presenters identified this option as not viable, due to “physical constraints” and “lack of land” at the schools).
- “Deerfield Public Library”: voted on and approved by almost 60% of voters in a 2010 referendum, and is now expected to cost taxpayers 10-14% less than expected
- “Highland Park Water Treatment Project - $30 million”. Not true – there will not be a real estate tax increase to pay for it. And costs are shared across multiple communities that benefit from HP’s water.
- “School District 112- currently exploring facilities expansion”: twisting and misleading, again - D112 has laid out the real facts, focused on cutting costs, here
- “Rosewood Beach – HP Park District facilities improvement”: no tax increases here either. In fact, the PDHP recently announced they would keep taxeslevel even as they lowered their levy previously.
- “Waukegan Courthouse upgrade - $100 million” – nope, paid for with existing funds from Lake County, whose board has cut
their budget since 2009, and froze their tax levy
“A more affordable plan”? The lynchhpin in their diversion. Their “plan” includes an inflatable dome at DHS, attempting to duplicate the excellent College of Lake County vocational-technical program (serving 19 high schools) in one HPHS building, kicking the can down the road on the 50-year-old pools, and is built on un-vetted estimates and (I kid you not) newspaper articles.
Who do you really trust? Compare their “plan” with the transparent project designed over 18 months, by community volunteers (including opponents of the 2011 referendum), using professional architects and
construction engineers, which was subsequently unanimously adopted by the Board of Education.
Don’t be fooled – our community answered the call, developed a “better plan”, and we must vote “yes”.