Dear District 39 Families,
This is a critical time for District 39. Our financial position led the School Board to vote to put a tax referendum on the April 5th ballot – the first for District 39 since 1998. This referendum is important to the future of our schools.
Here are the key facts:
- Our current operating deficit is $5.5 million; projections show that without intervention our reserves will be gone by 2013-14.
- The current budget shortfall has been brought on by a confluence of events: state budget problems, no provision in the tax cap for enrollment increases - coupled with almost 9% more students, and a nearly zero Consumer Price Index, which has limited property tax revenues.
- We have been conservative and fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ dollars:
- We have already made significant budget cuts - $2.5 million between 2009 and 2011 with $1.8 million more planned for 2011-12.
- Our operating cost per pupil is the second lowest among 15 nearby comparable districts.
- At the same time, our students and our schools excel:
- 96% of D39 students received a “meets or exceeds” ISAT score.
- All six D39 schools were ranked in the top 20 by Chicago Magazine.
- Among 19 schools in New Trier Township, D39 has produced 3 of the 4 recipients of the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Award over the last 10 years.
- The last teacher contract in 2008 attempted to make our teacher compensation competitive with the other New Trier sender districts. D39 average teacher salaries still rank 13 out of 15 comparable districts.
- The referendum on the April 5th ballot asks voters to increase the tax base by $6.375 million, which equates to an increase of $58.80 per $1,000 of total property taxes paid.
- If the referendum fails, there will be significant changes in the next two years:
- Average class sizes will increase from 24 to 27.
- 24% of teachers – 80 of 328 – will be cut.
- ALL foreign language, instrumental music, and reading intervention will be eliminated.
- ALL librarians, technology teachers, and gifted/differentiation specialists will be cut.
- K-4 students will spend 25-50% less time in music, art, and PE.
The voters in our community have an opportunity to make the decision to invest in our schools. The increased property tax dollars will enable us to continue our excellent curricular programs with teachers and staff to support all of our students.
I know that school finance and the issues surrounding the referendum can be complicated. I am speaking to parents at each school during a PTO/A meeting and will do my best to answer questions. If you have missed the meeting at your school, please feel free to email questions to me.
Your partner in education,
Dr. Ray Lechner, Superintendent
Wilmette Public Schools District 39