Oswego School District 308 voters will determine the fate of the school district’s operating fund referendum April 2. In the meantime, district officials held their second of four scheduled town hall informational meetings on the referendum Monday, March 11 at Oswego East High School.
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.
The board has approved more than $14.4 million in program and personnel cuts and fee hikes since 2016. However, if voters approve the referendum, the board has voted to restore several of the program cuts.
“This referendum is going to be a sign from the community,” board member Matt Bauman said. “If it passes, then there’s value to the programs and offerings that we have in the district. If it fails, that means there’s not that much value, and you’ve given direction to the board to make further cuts.
“Just to say, those cuts are going to be more impactful than the ones we’ve had, and probably going to end up with a lot of frustration and anger afterwards. But we’re going to do what we have to do to balance the budget and maintain local control of this district, and to do the best that we possibly can for all the students in the district.”
Superintendent Dr. John Sparlin and Christy Tyler, the district’s chief financial officer, detailed the district’s financial situation.
“The district is basically living paycheck to paycheck,” Tyler said.
Lauri Phillips, a Boulder Hill residents, asked the board how the district plans to work with local government bodies to increase revenue in the future.
“It will have to be a combination of bringing in more revenue, and using our resources more wisely,” Phillips told the board.
Bauman pointed out that village leaders from Oswego and Montgomery are aware of the district’s financial woes.
“They are aware that mixed development is something that the district needs to rely on, more commercial, more industrial - not rooftops,” he said. “Those conversations have occurred, and they are happening.”
Another resident, Courtney Brown, asked the board how it would avoid falling back into its current situation if the referendum passes in April.
“14 years ago, they probably asked the same thing,” Board Vice President Lauri Doyle said.
As Doyle pointed out, the district asked for its most recent property tax referendum in 2005 amidst of a “conglomerate of things” including state budget issues, local tax limitations and a dramatic increase in enrollment at a rate that required the construction of several new schools.
“I don’t want to predict the future, however I suspect we won’t see that kind of growth in this area because most of our areas are starting to be landlocked,” Doyle said. “I think now going forward, we have the appropriate personnel in place to ensure that there’s proper documentation and follow through on what our administrators and our buildings are doing to stay within the budgets that we have set for them as a community.”
The presentation can be viewed on the board’s BoardDocs website, accessible through the district’s website. The Board of Education will next meet at 7:15 p.m., Monday March 18, in the Oswego East High School Community Room.