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Investment in GSL Schools a sound, lasting value

Voters in the Glencoe-Silver Lake School District will be faced with a variety of choices when they go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 6. One of those choices they will face is a single-question request from the school district to replace an existing $476.88 voter-approved per-pupil unit operating levy set to sunset in June of 2020 and replace it with a school board-approved $300 per pupil-unit levy good in five-year increments. The district’s request includes a request for voters to OK a weighted $460 per pupil unit levy good for a decade. The request reflects an increase of $283.12 per pupil unit over the next decade.
We can discuss the dehumanizing finance-based use of ‘pupil unit’ some other time. It’s a state term meaning high-schoolers generate more revenue than children in kindergarten.
The money will be used to pay everyday expenses and not the cost of debt service from the successful building bond referendum voters approved in 2015. You should know tops on the list of everyday expenses is staff wages and benefits. Revenue from a successful levy referendum will also help the district maintain a reasonable operating fund balance.
The Glencoe-Silver Lake School District has gone out of its way to hold several informational meetings throughout the district to explain the levy request. The meetings were sparsely attended. If you opted not to go, that’s certainly your prerogative. The presentations were well done and discussion with district staff respectful. If you still want information on the request, no doubt Michelle Sander or Chris Sonju will to talk with you about the levy request.
During last week’s candidates’ forum for city, school district, county and state candidates the Glencoe Chamber of Commerce conducted, candidates for school district director seats were asked how they would stem the tide of children leaving Glencoe-Silver Lake public schools and attract additional students and the revenue that comes with them. Passing this levy referendum is a good first step. A district facing budget reductions is a less-than-attractive place to be.
People without children in GSL schools perhaps feel they have no interest in this issue, so why support the request. But if you own residential property in the district, consider this: A district in sound financial shape will likely benefit the value of your property when you decide to sell.
If approved, the school district’s operating levy request will add $85 -- $7.09 per month -- to the district’s share of property taxes on a house valued for taxation at $200,000. That $7.09 is worth keeping the school on a level playing field.
You might spend more on lunch at Burger King.
The district should be credited with two important facets of its request. First, the inclusion of an inflation escalator will keep the amount requested on pace with inflation. If voters OK the request, GSL schools will receive what it requested. The district should also be credited with asking for the increase that is to go into effect in 2020 now.
By asking now, the district provides the cushion of time. If voters decline the request, the district will have another opportunity to ask for a levy increase next year. Voters should know, however, if the they reject the proposal this year and school district has to ask again in 2019, a series of potential spending reductions will also be considered in case voters decline the request.
There will be suggestions the district is threatening voters. Approving a reasonable request like the one on the ballot Nov. 6 will avoid the potential drama.
If voters approve the request next week, they have the right to insist the school board spend the money wisely and demonstrate its prudent use of the investment. Whether you have children in school or not, people should pay close attention to the school district. It is an important level of governmental authority in the community.
Sure, nobody wants to see property taxes go up. The underlying question for all GSL property owners is what do you want your community to be? We believe the school district’s request is reasonable.
It’s likely a better long-term value than lunch at BK.

John Mueller is editor of the Chronicle.