Opponents of the $140 million Hinsdale D86 referendum approved in April are beginning to have their “I told you so” moments. An ardent supporter of the referendum, Yvonne Mayer of Burr Ridge, wrote on social media that she was troubled by estimated cost overages of projects funded by the tax increase, and the lack of public access during the school board’s recent meeting on the progress of the projects.
On the social media site Nextdoor, Mayer commented in a lengthy post on the Aug. 16 D86 Facilities Committee meeting where Pepper Construction, the construction manager for the over 70 projects at Central and South High Schools, said that they are already projecting an overage of $8,040,721. That would raise the taxpayer cost of the referendum to $147,856,704, not counting interest on the borrowing. Higher construction costs for pools at the two schools account for a large portion of the projected overage.
Mayer further wrote that she was disappointed by the lack of input by the three board members who sit on the Facilities Committee over what the higher costs might mean for other projects, and the lack of access – the meeting was streamed on Facebook only when requested, but people watching reported they couldn’t hear the discussion.
“Please comment on the information provided in this post,” Mayer wrote. “- Are you surprised? - Are you ok with it? - Are you upset, and if so, why? - Do you think the Facilities Committee meetings and Oversight/Steering Committee meetings should be livestreamed by the Administration?”
Burr Ridge Trustee Zach Mottl, who led a grass roots movement to fight the referendum, told the DuPage Policy Journal that the only thing surprising about this is that anyone might be surprised by the board’s conduct.
“The VOTE NO Do Better D86 team proved again and again how the Hinsdale District 86 administration and board were not honest or transparent,” Mottl said. “We promised the community that D86 could not be trusted and would pull a bait and switch with our money. Now, sadly, D86 has made our promises come true.”
Mottl added that the board failed to restore all the cut co-curricular programs after the passage of the referendum.
“Then, after crying poor and cutting the kids’ programs, they immediately doled out lavish raises, some as high as 25%,to their overpaid and bloated administrative staff,” he said.
In May, the month after the referendum was approved, the board approved pay increases for 11 administrators and support staff. One staffer, former D86 communications director Karen Warner, received a $22,900 increase to her $100,000 a year salary. But Warner left it behind to join former Superintendent Bruce Law who now runs Township High School District 113
Reactions to Mayer’s post were also gratifying for the “No” movement, and personally for Mottl.
“This BOE is tone deaf,” wrote Drew Kelly. “The very first meeting somehow gives Central an 8 lane option and a 10 lane option. Does South get these options? Of course not. And the fact that they are already 8m over is ridiculous. Many did not vote for the 166m referendum because of cost and the pools.”
“Unbelievable,” he wrote later in the post. “I need to be the first to apologize to FSF [Fill South First], to the Mottls, and to everyone that warned our community. I am sorry. You were right.”
D86 tried three times in two years to get a referendum approved. The fight at times turned ugly, and for some in the “No” movement, threatening.
After voters defeated a $166 million referendum last November 2018, “Yes” supporters posted images of charred bodies on Facebook, with one caption saying “time to fight fire with fire.”
This past February, Mayer and others disrupted a Burr Ridge board meeting where Mottl was presiding as interim mayor; the Chief of Police had to intervene.
And in March, Mottl was forced to call the Darien Police when "Yes" supporters Michele Irwin and Cassie Cannizzaro-Swieton, both of Willowbrook, harassed him while he was having dinner with friends at a local restaurant.
On June 22, Irwin was found guilty of disorderly conduct in Downers Grove Field Court.
The three D86 board members on the Facilities Committee are Kevin Camden, Marty Turek and Keith Chval.