Parents and school board members gathered at Lakewood Creek Elementary School on Monday evening to participate in a school board public forum. The public forum was meant for the school board to answer questions and concerns about the upcoming referendum, where property owners would see a 30 cent tax hike in order to fund the district. Recent budget cuts such as summer school transportation, reduced class sizes and junior high school sports would be reinstated immediately if the referendum were to pass.
All school board members were present at the forum, alongside Superintendent Dr. John Sparlin, Associate Superintendent for Educational Services Faith Dahlquist and Chief Financial Officer Christi Tyler.
Kim Anderson, who has two children in the district, asked how the district budget would be balanced if the referendum fails. Tyler replied that the budget would be balanced within the next five years but the cuts would continue.
“[In] the next five years, we’re projecting a balanced budget without the referendum but all the cuts that are in place would continue on,” Tyler said.
Tyler further explained that without a successful referendum, the district would have to continue taking out short term loan borrowings.
Heather Gorney, who has three children in the district, asked how technology would be updated based on the result of the referendum. Dahlquist said the referendum would impact how the district handles upgrading the current technology and devices in the district.
“The referendum would impact how quickly we can [replace the technology] and also explore adding more devices,” Dahlquist said.
The total cost of replacing devices for the current year would be $3 million which jumps to $7 million in the next few years. Tyler added that the district would have to take on additional debt to replace outdated devices if the referendum fails to pass.
Joel Cisco, who has one student in the district, asked how building maintenance and repair would be affected with a failed referendum result.
“The district would continue the cycle of borrowing $14 million every five years, pay that debt down, and take out a new loan,” Tyler said.
After the Q&A session ended, the board thanked the community for coming and reiterated that SD308 with its struggles is a great place for children to go to school. Board Member Brent Lightfoot said he would recommend SD308 to families over any other district.
“My wife and I can live anywhere. We don’t have to be here, we choose to be here because it’s a great place to be,” Lightfoot said.
Board Vice President Matt Bauman reminded the community to still give support to teachers.
“They are facing struggles that are unbelievable … so just show them patience,” Bauman said.
Bauman also reminded the community to contact local legislators for the state to keep fulfilling all evidence-based funding the district is owed.
The public forum ended with the Board President Lauri Doyle encouraging the community to go vote.
“It doesn’t matter as much to me personally if you vote one way or another, as much as it matters if you come and vote,” Doyle said.
SD308 will hold a board meeting on March 17th before the community votes on the referendum on March 18th.
Alex Gerald is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl