Hinsdale D86 faces possible tax cut referendum over targeted elimination of student activities
Hinsdale Township High School District 86 could face a community push for a property tax cut referendum in the wake of the Board of Education’s elimination of activities at its two high schools, and intent to eliminate others.
The board’s actions on Monday came just a week after voters approved a $140 million referendum.
Zach Mottl, the leader of a grass roots movement that opposed the referendum, told the DuPage Policy Journal that he has started looking into getting a tax reduction referendum on the ballot.
“The board flat out lied to district voters,” Mottl said, referring to the cuts. “It’s a shame we can’t get our $140 million back right now.”
Mottl and others who opposed the referendum were also upset that more student activities are targeted for elimination at Hinsdale South High School than at Hinsdale Central High School. Activities directors suggested the elimination of five of 96 clubs at Central, and 14 of 86 clubs at South. Inequitable class and student activities offerings at South drove many voters to oppose the referendum, and an earlier $166 million referendum that failed in November.
Also on Monday, the board approved a $15,000 bump in salary for Tammy Prentiss, the assistant superintendent of Student Services.
“It’s a one-time contract amendment for extra work as she continues to do all of her duties as assistant superintendent of Student Services while at the same time transitioning into the Superintendent role,” District spokesperson Karen Warner said. "It's not a recurring increase."
Outgoing Superintendent Bruce Law announced his resignation in February, effective June 30. Prentiss takes over on July 1.
In December, the board cut a host of student activities, including athletics, after the defeat of the November referendum. It reinstated the sports programs on April 3, the day after voters approved the $140 million referendum. It reinstated additional student activities on Monday but reduced class boards at both schools.
The district realized $405,293 in potential savings under the December elimination of the programs; administration officials asked that the programs get reinstated under a $300,000 cap.
“The board always said when it came to reinstating activities, they would seek to consolidate redundancies where it made financial and operational sense to do so,” Warner said.
Adolph Galinski, a district parent who supports equity for all D86 students, argues that student activities should be handled the same as the curriculum.
“Since we are moving toward a consolidated Program of Studies for the curriculum in D86, why don’t we look at the co-curricular activities in a similar way?” he wrote in an email. “Rather than publishing an alphabetical list of activities for each school, let’s start with a single side-by-side list comparison of activities, segmented by Club Category (Service, Student Interest, Fine Arts, Academic). For example, what type of Service Clubs do our two public high schools have and can there be alignment and maybe even collaboration BETWEEN the schools? Wouldn’t clubs be a great way to bring our students together?”
The legislature approved the law giving voters the power to put a tax reduction referendum on the ballot as part of the 2017 education funding formula overhaul.
The schools most eligible for a possible referendum have an adequacy level for education funding, as established by the State Board of Education, that's at 110 percent or more.
“It appears they [Hinsdale 86] are at 131.9 percent of adequacy funding so a 10 percent reduction would still keep them well above what the state says it should cost to provide a high-quality education," Mottl said. “Overspending and overtaxing galore in D86 while lying to voters and discriminating against a large part of the district. This is shameful and not what public education is supposed to be about.”