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U-46 board candidates debate taxes, spending


By Seth Hancock and Joe Hyland
  Candidates in next week’s April 2 election for the Board of Education in School District U-46 differed on issues of taxes and spending at the Bartlett Woman’s Club candidate forum on Thursday, March 21.
  The eight candidates vying for four seats include incumbents John Devereux (Bartlett), Sue Kerr (Bartlett) and Jeanette Ward (West Chicago) as well as newcomers Daniel Hancock (Hanover Park), Eva Porter (Hanover Park), Tina Rio (Bartlett), Ina Silva-Sobolewski (Hanover Park) and Kate Thommes (Elgin).
  Devereux, who was appointed last June to a vacated seat, and Silva-Sobolewski did not attend the March 21 forum. Devereux has missed 27.3 percent of public board meetings (6 of 22) since being appointed.
  U-46, which hiked spending $40.2 million and added 54 new positions this year while enrollment dropped by 633 students, has lost 1,915 total students since 2014 but spending has increased by nearly $100 million, over $70 million faster than the rate of inflation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. At the same time, academic scores have been flat or declined and have lagged behind the state average according to the state board of education’s annual report card.
  Ward said there’s “a conflict of visions” on several issues including “between those who respect the taxpayer and those who do not.” She’s aligned with Hancock, Rio and Silva-Sobolewski who have all stated a need for more fiscal responsibility that takes taxpayers into account especially with the continued enrollment declines, and they believe a concerted effort needs to be made to improve U-46’s state report card results.
  “Tax levies and budgets should not continue to rise while enrollment and student performance continue to fall,” Ward said.
  Hancock said regarding spending that he doesn’t want to see cuts in the classroom but “we should be able to find other areas to cut,” and Rio said “our property taxes are too high” and taxpayers need relief. Silva-Sobolewski, at a previous forum, said the board needs to be “forward thinking” and consider how their decisions affect future students and taxpayers.
  Devereux, Kerr, Porter and Thommes are all aligned and have argued for more spending while saying there is no need for property tax relief but also a need for more tax dollars from the state. At a previous forum, Devereux said there’s “not a runaway property tax burden” and that there’s “inequities” from the state allowing other districts to have smaller class sizes.
  “I have to see the state hold up its end of the bargain,” Kerr said before she can consider property tax relief. Porter said she was “for holding property taxes” but “the state has to do its part.”
   The state’s report card data shows U-46 has a 22-1 student to teacher ratio and receives $4,128 per student from the state while CUSD304 (Geneva) is at 23-1 and $943, D303 (St. Charles) 23-1 and $1,125, USD101 (Batavia) 24-1 and $1,321 and D300 (Algonquin) 23-1 and $2,859. Despite larger class sizes and less state funding all outscore U-46 academically.
  U-46 has continued increasing its tax levy by the maximum allowed under the law which Kerr has consistently voted for, but she said she supports continuing the abatement process. Ward, who has voted against the levy increases but for the abatements, pointed out that abatements preserve the tax hikes which taxpayers will pay in the future meaning increases on tax bills once the abatements end.
  On issues of student discipline and curriculum, Thommes said it should be subjective and she cannot “impose” standards on the “diverse” students who come from different cultures and religions. “There’s no one right, simple or easy solution” to these issues she said.
  Ward, in contrast, said she believes in objective standards and “student discipline should be based on sound practice and not social engineering.” She also believes in “academic freedom and diversity of thought.”
  Editor’s note: Candidate Daniel Hancock is the father of Examiner reporter Seth Hancock.

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