Letter to editor stock art - old mailbox

We all work so hard every day to provide for our families and create a brighter future for our children. As a member of the District 112 School Board and someone who works in finance, I hope you’ll consider some perspective and data on our financial circumstances to realize just how critical it is that our families and households provide adequate funding for our teachers and our schools with a YES vote on the ECCS referendum.

The first reality is that education is a people business. The vast majority of our operating costs (79%) are people and the overwhelming portion of that goes towards directly serving our learners (81%). Moreover, our district must compete with other districts to attract quality teachers and professionals.

Most of the funds to pay our educators comes from the state budget, which covers 69% of our main operating expenses. Unfortunately, the average annual increase of these funds has been 1.9% per year over the past 10 years. As you may know, this increase doesn’t cover inflation in a typical year, let alone the current high inflation environment. And from a competitive reality, our peer districts have been increasing their labor contracts over 3% annually, on average, in recent years.

When it comes to financing the accumulating gap between state funding and labor costs, that falls disproportionately on local households vs. many peer districts because of two main factors. First, our home values can be lower due to the impact of newer, more remote developments. Second, we may also have a lower commercial/industrial tax base due to being more bedroom-type communities. The result is a greater financial burden on households to support our local schools.

The good news is that being such a desired community, our county is one of the top two fastest growing counties in the state. This growth is important as every new house that is built, helps reduce the tax burden to existing households. You can see this in the fact that the average tax burden for a $350,000 house has gone down 12% in the past five years.

Some of you may ask why we don’t just cut administrative costs to pay teachers more — I also used to think this. Unfortunately, the district's administrative costs are already just 3% of expenses, which is among the lowest of our peer districts. The simple reality is that without new funding, there is no way to prevent cuts from hitting the classroom in the form of larger class sizes and reductions to programming.

I fully appreciate that this referendum requires families to make hard choices, which is why the school board takes this responsibility so gravely. Hopefully, you can see that the only way for us to continue to provide a high-quality education is for households to make a stand together for strong schools which are critical to supporting our future and the growing, highly valued communities we are building. Please vote YES for ECCS!

Tim Klein

School board member