Delavan-Darien School Board members plan to survey residents this summer and ask what kind of referendum they might support in November, a move the district hopes will foster input and mend its fractured relationship with the community.
Members discussed the surveys during a workshop meeting Monday night. Board President Jeff Scherer said the district cannot rely on the state Legislature to provide funding for schools. The district must ask taxpayers to supplement the costs of their “chronically underfunded” district, he said.
“Everybody knows what’s happened in the last 60 days,” Scherer said. “We all know that we are kind of sticking our necks out trying to get a referendum passed. How can we best sell it?”
The turnaround for sending and reviewing surveys is short. The district must finalize its November referendum language by about Aug. 14, administrative assistant to the superintendent Karen Logterman said. The board will hold a special meeting June 28 to finalize the survey’s language.
Some board members suggested the survey list up to 10 funding items. Residents could then individually select which items they would support funding. Business administrator Anthony Klein suggested the survey include the cost of each item so residents know how the money would be spent.
The board also considered splitting the referendum into two questions—one for an operational referendum and another for a facilities referendum—or attempt one in November and a second in spring 2019.
During the workshop meeting, board members also reviewed a joint letter to the district from state Sen. Steve Nass, R-La Grange; state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton; and state Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva.
The three legislators responded to a May 4 letter from the board, which sent the same letter to many statewide elected officials—including Gov. Scott Walker, who’s an alumnus of the district—detailing recent funding struggles.
In its letter, the board wrote the state’s school funding model, adopted in the early 1990s, is flawed and has led to an unfair distribution of state aide.
“Due to the lack of state funding, much less than our neighboring public schools, we have had good teachers leave our district for higher pay,” the May 4 letter reads. “Our revenue limit is currently one of the lowest of our neighboring districts, so unless we increase our tax base rate, the increase aid to public schools recently passed … does us little help.”
In their response, dated May 17, the lawmakers criticized the district’s “tone” and “misleading statements.”
“We are more than willing to meet with school board members to discuss how we might be able to move forward at the state level to assist your school district,” the letter reads. “However, a legislative dialogue must be secondary to a renewed effort by the district’s leadership to repair its relationship with the residents in your community.”