Wheaton candidate says referendum asking too much
Harold Lonks, a candidate for Wheaton Warrenville Community Unified School District 200, identified the main reasons he opposes the $132.5 million school district referendum recently.
“My focus is on students, high-quality learning and measurable outcomes," he said. "At the same time, our school district needs to be responsible with taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. The sober fact is our district has financial challenges, and now is not the time to add millions of dollars in new debt and taxes."
His primary concern is the cost.
“The district is looking to borrow $132.5 million, and it will cost the taxpayers $206 million,” Lonks told the DuPage Policy Journal.
The referendum would fund district school facility updates via a 19-year property tax increase, Lonks said.
“The school board refuses to tell the public the true cost of the referendum over the 20 years but only states it will cost the 'median' homeowner only $180 per year,” Lonks said. "The $180 is only for the first three years, and then it climbs to $531 by year 11 and stays at the amount until year 20. The ‘median’ homeowner will pay close to $7,300 for this referendum to be paid off."
Lonks questioned why the district is looking to grow and update facilities with enrollment declining. His solution is to differentiate between the district's “needs and wants.”
“When 75 percent of your budget is going to salaries and benefits, it is difficult to fund the needs of the facilities,” he said.
Lonks said most school facilities have been neglected due to the “lack of maintenance of the past 10 to 20 years.” He identified inadequate roofs and plumbing problems, but he said the proposal is asking for too much considering what is really needed: transparency.
“Entire discussions regarding items to be voted upon take place by board members through emails to the superintendent in order to avoid open meeting violations," he said. "Agenda items need to be discussed in a public forum (school board meeting), which allows the public to know what is happening and what concerns board members might have concerning certain issues."
Lonks said if he is elected, he would focus on smart financial decisions.
“We must work on a long-term plan to address the academic and facility needs of our students and at the same time be fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ money," he said. "I will advocate for our students, better transparency for all and even better outcomes for our students.”
Lonks has two children at Moore Middle School.