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posted: 10/19/2016 1:00 AM

Endorsement: No on Elementary School Dist. 15 referendum

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Even on the face of it, Palatine Elementary District 15 is asking for too much with its proposal for taxpayers to cover $130 million in borrowing to build two new schools.

At a time when homeowners frequently name high property taxes as their most troubling local issue, obligating the owner of a $227,500 home to pay an extra $122 a year for decades is overreaching.

Beyond that, District 15 has shown a reluctance to be open with residents this year, making it impossible for us to back a costly endeavor that requires a lot of trust among all those who would execute and pay for the significant changes the proposal entails.

District 15 would use the money to build a new elementary school at Osage Park, land now owned by the Palatine Park District, and a middle school on district-owned land on Ela Road in Inverness. Gray Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine would close and school boundaries would change.

The extra school would require more staff, at an added $1 million. District 15 staffing costs are a sore subject with us. In April, the school board unanimously approved a virtually unprecedented 10-year teacher contract. While balking at giving the public a view of the contract for six weeks after that, the board and Superintendent Scott Thompson said board members never even saw the contract -- only a summary -- before voting for it.

Raises will average 2.5 percent for the first four years and 4 percent for the remaining six years, deciding now what the economy will bear in 2026. An early retirement incentive, which Thompson says will save money, will push some top earners to $137,233 when they retire in 2020. That level of spending, that decadelong obligation, that lack of transparency add to our reluctance to support the current school building proposal.

We recommend a no vote.

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