Wow, I've been called a lot of things since I have been on the Plainfield School District 202 Board of Education, but never have I been called a coward (as one Patch reader did earlier this week in reference to the board's 2.5 percent pay raise for adminstrators and non-union/non-certified staff).
Please allow me to share some facts. In 2008/2009 we froze our superintendent’s salary. We then proceeded the following year to freeze our administrators' salaries and have them contribute 10 percent towards their health care plans. This year we worked with both our teachers and support staff unions to reach deals that will save our taxpayers money. Plus, we have to deal with the rising cost of health care.
While I respect (fellow board members) Michelle Smith's and Greg Nichol's votes (against the raise), I felt I had to cast my vote to keep quality administrators in our school district.
We have over the past five-plus years cut our operating budget by over $45 million. To offset this reduction, we’ve had to reduce staff, eliminate and refine some programs, and refinance our debt load. Plus, we voted not to use the rest of the money that was approved at the last referendum.
The real problem here is not the board of education but the state of Illinois leadership, who have yet to make good on their financial commitments to school districts throughout the entire state.
Here are prime examples: Our transportation costs run around $14 million per year, for which the state used to reimburse us at 80 percent ($11.2 million). Now they have decided to reimburse us at 50 percent or $7 million; we have to make up the difference of $4.2 million just in the reimbursement allocation alone.
Also, the state is a year behind in payments in both transportation and other costs. This is usually around $20 million to $30 million per year, and it has occurred for at least the last five years. We have to maneuver or borrow funds in order to pay our vendors in a timely manner.
Add to that a rumor that they are planning on reducing the per-student allocation by $104 per child. Multiply that by 29,850 kids, and that's another $3.1 million we might have to come up with per year.
Finally, look at your tax bill. Most of our community saw a reduction in taxes paid to District 202 while the other governments' tax rates went up. This is because of our property valuations going down but also because your board of education has been good stewards of our taxpayers' dollars.
All of us as board members struggle with the decisions we make and I assure you that all of us, both past and present, care deeply about our kids, our employees and our community.
Put the coward label where it belongs, on some of the state leaders who have long forgotten the people they are supposed to represent and failed to give education their undivided attention and adequate funding. Stop voting them into office.
For the record, I am only speaking for myself not the other school board members.
Rod Westfall, Plainfield School District 202 board member
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