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Oswego

Citizens group works to build referendum support

By helping to organize and lead a citizens’ committee in support of the April 2 Oswego School District 308 operating fund referendum, David Edelman said he has heard himself and other referendum advocates described as “tax and spenders.”

Edelman, however, respectfully disagrees.

“People don’t want to pay more in taxes. I understand that and that’s not what we are all about. We are not about wanting to tax and spend more money. This is about stabilizing a very serious situation,” he said.

Edelman acknowledged that passage of the referendum would mean higher property taxes, but believes there would also be a cost to the community if it fails.

“I think the consequences are far greater than passing it,” he said. “It goes beyond the school doors. It would be far-reaching to our community. That’s not a scare tactic--that’s the reality.”

Edelman and Robyn Vickers have organized and are leading a committee in support of the referendum called “Vote Yes to Invest.” Both have children attending district schools.

“What it comes down to is we are concerned about our community and concerned about schools and the direction we are headed. We are obviously in a bad spot. What it comes down to is the State of Illinois owes us just shy of $50 million. That is really the root cause of where we are at,” Edelman said.

To garner support for the referendum, the committee is using traditional methods and social media to reach voters. The committee has posted signs, knocked on doors and taken out print ads, while also posting information on Facebook (@Voteyestoinvest) and Twitter (@yes_308).

The district is seeking passage of the referendum to offset a deficit budget and prevent the need for further budget, program and personnel cuts. If voters approve, district officials estimate the referendum will cost the owner of a home valued at $200,000 an additional $182 annually, while the owner of a home valued at $250,000 would pay an extra $232. The tax bill for a $300,000 home would increase by $282.

To date, board has approved more than $14.4 million in program and personnel cuts and fee hikes over the past three years. Under a controversial package of fee hikes passed by the board in February last year, the cost for high school students to participate in sports increased from $75 to $300 per sport for the current school year with no discount for students competing in multiple sports.

In actively campaigning for the referendum, Edelman, a 1987 Oswego High School graduate and local business owner, said he is continuing a family tradition of support for the school district.

Edelman recalled his father telling him in the 1980s that in supporting passage of referendums at that time he was “standing up for me.”

Referring to his father, Edelman said, “He told me that someday that I would be in the same position and I would have to stand up for my kids--so here we are.”

Vickers, an Oswego resident and Kendall County Board member, noted that her children and Edelman’s will soon graduate and she could choose not to be involved with schools or the referendum campaign.

“[But] I want to live in a community where the kids are well educated and they want to have jobs here and come back when they are done with college and contribute. Somebody paid the taxes so that schools could be built that my kids have attended and now this is how I pay it forward. This is kind of how it works,” Vickers said.

Vickers acknowledged she has encountered a number of district residents who want to “lay blame” for the district’s current financial situation.

“The way I look at it is that we can acknowledge that mistakes were made...[but] we all own those mistakes collectively,” she said. “I firmly believe there is blame to go around everywhere. The state screwed up. We had bad (school board) decisions. We had bad village (of Oswego) decisions.”

Referring to prior school board decisions, Vickers said she believes those earlier boards did the best they could with the information they had available “but in hindsight, it was wrong.”

If voters reject the referendum, Edelman and Vickers said the current board will have no choice but to make further budget cuts.

“It will be sports and academics,” Vickers said.

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