Some Glen Ellyn voters too intimidated to publicly oppose school referendum, village trustee says
At least some Glen Ellyn parents are afraid to say they oppose a $24.2 million school improvement referendum that isn't necessary and is based on inflated estimates of how much those improvements will cost, a village trustee said in a recent radio broadcast.
"Intimidation, I think, is a big factor," Glen Ellyn Trustee Peter Ladesic said during a recent edition of Chicago-based radio talk show Illinois Rising. "I'm a 50-year resident of Glen Ellyn. My kids went to the schools. I have a pretty broad reach of friends and neighbors in the community. And there are a number of people who have a 'Vote Yes' sign in their yard who've told me they are absolutely opposed to this referendum but they feel like because there's a neighbor down the street who's a teacher or a volunteer for the school, it's just too awkward for them to have a 'Vote No' sign in their yard. But they're solidly voting no against it."
Ladesic took aim at $1.1 million earmarked in the referendum to fund vestibule improvement in one of the elementary schools. "It's under $100,000 storefront build-out and maybe a security button," he said.
It's add-ons that are making it so expensive, Ladesic said.
"They'll fluff that up and then they'll try to defend it by saying, 'Well, it's a concept, we don't really know these dollar amounts,'" he said. "Well then you need to fire your architect or your building consultant if they can't spitball what that's going to cost."
All six Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 School Board members voted unanimously Jan. 9 to place the $24.2 million referendum on the April 4 ballot to pay for an addition at Hadley Junior High and for other infrastructure projects in four elementary schools. Improvements the money would pay for include replacing 10 portable classrooms at Hadley, providing Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible bathrooms at all the schools and installing a more secure entrance at Churchill Elementary.
"In the end, we tried to decide from a priority list what things needed to be done and what amount we felt the community would support," board member Kurt Buchholz said, according to the Jan. 10 edition of My Suburban Life. "Is it playing it safe? Maybe it is. I said at the last meeting, the taxpayer often guides the long-range plan. It's not necessarily the board. We could drive around town and tell people this is what we need all day long. But if the taxpayers don't have the threshold for that, then they don't have the threshold for that. That forces the board to make decisions that some might say are short-sighted. But really, you are doing the best you can with what you have."
Glen Ellyn School District 41 serves more than 3,500 students who attend the district's four elementary schools and one junior high in Glen Ellyn, Glendale Heights, Wheaton, Carol Stream and Lombard.
The April referendum comes a year before the school district is expected to pay off 30-year-old bonds that funded past building projects, which means property taxes in Glen Ellyn are set to go down.
"The school district has an opportunity to roll off $40 million bonds," Ladesic said. "And instead of letting that roll off, they're looking to re-up $24 million of that, of which the net effect will be millions spent to one capital project and then spend the rest of that money – more than half – on a bunch of fluff and building maintenance and that type of thing."
The yes-vote spin on that spending is dubious and shameful, Ladesic said. "They're trying to sell that off as life safety and stuff like that when, really, there's no need for them to re-borrow this money," he said. "They've got a ripe opportunity to rebuild trust in this community, have it really impact our taxes, help to drive them down. But they just can't get out of their own way."
Organizations in this Story
793 N Main St
Glen Ellyn, IL - 60137