Tony Bennett: Candidate Profile
Warren Twp. H.S. D121
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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: Gages Lake
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Warren Twp. H.S. D121
Family: Married with two childern, three dogs and a cat
Occupation: Real Estate Appraiser
Education: Candidate did not respond.
Civic involvement: Warren Township Republican Organization (WTRO), District 331 GOP Committeman, Northern Illinois Patriots, 912 Group, Republican Assembly of Lake County (RALC), Lake County TEA Party,
Elected offices held: Current District 331 GOP Committeman
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Key Issue 2
Candidate did not respond.
Key Issue 3
Candidate did not respond.
Would you be willing to pursue salary cuts or freezes when the next teachers union contract is negotiated? Explain your answer.
Yes. The current majority on the Warren Township High School board are detached from economic reality in approving a contract which provides raises of over 6%. At a time when people in the community are receiving pay cuts or losing their jobs, pay for public employees should reflect the experience of private sector employees. Since the major expense for the Warren High School District is public employee salaries and benefits, the Board cannot address school spending until it addresses excessive employee pay and benefits. Taxpayers simply cannot afford the salaries and benefits that the current majority has allowed for employees. Rich Conley, Mark Lund, and I pledge to only support a reasonable contract that is based on economic reality, which is the only way to protect the taxpayers.
Should rebates on interest paid from Build America Bonds be used to pay down a $24 million loan for construction projects as intended? Explain your answer.
Yes. In supporting the referendum, the taxpayers trusted the majority on the board to get the best possible interest rate in issuing the bonds. The Build America Bonds are issued at a higher interest rate than conventional bonds in order to make them more attractive to investors in a tight credit market. However, the Federal Government developed the rebate program to subsidize the higher interest rate, and effectively bring down the finance costs to the district back into line with conventional bonds. The subsidy is supposed to be used to pay down the interest, not fund pet projects of the majority of the board, such as acquiring land it does not need. Failure to use the subsidy to reduce interest costs will cost the taxpayers over $8 million. Rich Conley, Mark Lund, and I intend to make sure the rebates get applied to the loan payments, reduce the interest costs, and save taxpayers money.
What are your ideas for the district's future in the way of campuses? For example, should there be one large complex for all students on land the district purchased off Stearns School Road northwest of Gurnee Mills?
I would keep the campuses configured as they currently exist. I oppose splitting the two campuses into two separate high schools, and oppose building additional campuses. We have enough capacity to house students for the foreseeable future with the current facilities. At the present time, Warren can house 4,800 students, but have reached a high point of student enrollment of only 4,300 students. Based on current K-8 enrollment in our feeder schools, the student enrollment will drop to about 4,100 students. Rich Conley, Mark Lund and I will stop the unnecessary construction of additional buildings to serve a shrinking student population.
Should the district move forward with a plan to use part or all of its Stearns School Road land for athletic fields, possibly for the public at large, even though an estimated $1 million would be needed in roadwork for access to the property? Explain.
No. The purchase of the Stearns School Road property was a mistake and a waste of taxpayer money. Rich Conley, Mark Lund and I will do everything possible to sell the property at a time that property values improve enough to recoup taxpayer money used to make the purchase, and devote those resources to programs educating kids, holding the line on taxes, and paying down the debt. The purchase made more sense with the involvement of Warren Township government (a separate government body), which obtained a $750,000.00 grant that it could have used to significantly offset the purchase price. Further, Warren Township government has both the financial ability and the technical skills necessary to develop the athletic fields on the property, and has the staffing to maintain the property and administer programs using the property. Because of the action of the majority on the High School Board, we lost the $750,000.00 grant, and lost the cooperation of the Township in developing the property. Government cooperation is essential to provide services to the taxpayer at the lowest possible cost, and the High School Board made a huge mistake in proceeding with this purchase without obtaining the cooperation of the Township government.
Districts 121 and 56 combined bus service to save money. What other similar mergers or partnerships should be pursued?
We obviously need to cooperate more with other governmental entities. However, the current majority on the School Board has done the opposite, especially with the purchase of the Stearn School property. We lost a $750,000 grant due to the unwillingness of the current majority to work with Warren Township government. We need to put aside personal differences and act in the best interest of the taxpayers. A further area of cooperation is in purchase of supplies from vendors. It would benefit Warren to combine orders with other taxing bodies for various supplies for the school, and try to realize savings in buying in greater bulk, giving us greater savings.
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