Candidates for District 200 School Board fielded audience questions about various issues impacting the district during a candidate forum Tuesday night at Wheaton Warrenville South High School.
The forum was presented by the Wheaton Warrenville PTA Council. Six of the seven candidates running for the school board shared their thoughts on a variety of issues community members put forth. Alisha Ali was the lone candidate who could not attend the forum. 10 questions submitted by the audience were posed to the candidates. Several of the questions concerned the district’s finances, and particularly whether or not the potential board members would support a tax referendum.
All six of the candidates said they would rule out immediate calls for a tax referendum, however several of the candidates said it needs to remain an option if revenues continue to be hampered. Pointing to the failure of the state to provide nearly $8 million in funding, all six of the candidates said the school board will have to advise staff to maximize every dollar in the budget. However, with dwindling dollars, several candidates said a tax referendum may need to be brought to the public.
“Right now it’s something the people can’t bear with the state of the economy, but if the state defaults on what they owe, the community may have to decide to reduce its reliance on the state,” said , who is seeking re-election to the board.
Like Swanson, and John Bomher said a tax increase is something that cannot be ruled out as a possible source of additional funding. All three though said other measures should be taken first.
said the district must live within its means in order to regain the public trust. He said without that trust, the district cannot go to the people at a later date and honestly ask for more funds through a referendum.
and also agreed now was not the time for a tax increase.
Each of the candidates said the new board will have their work cut out when it comes to drafting a new budget due to those financial restraints. They all agreed each budget line item must be scrutinized to see where any savings could be found.
Additionally budget concerns will impact contract negotiations with teachers next year. Each of the candidates said they hope some kind of amicable deal can be reached with the teachers that will not be a strain on the budget.
In addition to teacher contracts, the candidates were asked their thoughts on tenure for teachers. Each candidate said they believe the teachers in the district are highly effective, but some were concerned over inabilities to remove a tenured teacher who may not be so effective. Each of the candidates said some kind of tenure accountability measure will need to be implemented.
Both the new and the old Hubble Middle School were also topics of discussion during the forum. One question concerned higher than expected costs for the new Hubble Middle School, which was built as an investment in green technology. The question writer said operating costs, particularly for electricity, were much higher than the other middle schools in the district. Both Swanson and Bomher, who is also seeking re-election, said they could not corroborate the accuracy of the figures in the question. Both acknowledged that green technology costs more in the beginning phases, but said costs should decline over time.
Gambaiani said if the figures are correct, it’s another example of the school board not being mindful of the people’s money. He said the board members owe diligence to the people before they spend any money.
Lonks suggested taking an audit of the buildings finances to see if there is a way to recoup the revenue.
Radencich and Vroman said the new board cannot go back and change what has already occurred. They both said the new board should learn from any irresponsible behavior.
The six candidates agreed with the potential sale of the old Hubble Middle School. The school district is attempting to sell the property for $10 million to a developer. Gambaiani said he was concerned about the lack of a contingency if a developer does not buy the property.