Letter: D-86 flat tax levy would be 'tragic mistake'

To the Editor:

The “flat” or “zero” levy for Hinsdale High School District 86 is a tragic mistake that, if allowed to happen, would inflict irreparable harm on the quality and reputation of our public high schools. If the board majority must have their historically low levy, they should at least keep up with the current CPI of 1.7 percent. It’s simple arithmetic that something must be sacrificed if revenue falls below the level of inflation.

To understand the gravity of the situation, it is important to recognize that District 86 is already fiscally conservative, with per pupil expenditures and financial reserve levels substantially lower than our academic peer group, including New Trier Township. Something will need to be sacrificed under a flat levy, and the board majority ([Richard] Skoda, [Claudia] Manley, [Victor] Casini, and [Ed] Corcoran) have been unclear on what that might be. This doesn’t mean they haven’t given any clues. We can expect their pet priorities to be funded, including Dianne Barrett’s legal bill, unspecified capital improvements repeatedly cited by Mr. Corcoran, and as many as five highly compensated new administrators.

No, this group intends for the budgetary ax to fall on our teachers, or as Corcoran expressed it in an email which he encouraged the recipient to share: “Our salary and benefits should be lower than other districts due to the great parents and great students and excellent work environment/conditions – not to mention the prestige our teachers enjoy in the education community. There are large numbers of unemployed and highly qualified teachers, so it should be obvious to anyone that we should not be paying above market wages with taxpayer’s hard earned money." Mr. Corcoran's definition of "market wages" is "lower than other districts," which in the normal definition of "market forces" would cause us to drive our best teachers away, or fail to attract them in the first place."

This is a plan to force a crisis on our schools – but the vote isn’t final until Dec. 16.

Linda Burke

Hinsdale