Candidates answer: Should 204 ask voters to fund air conditioning?

Updated 2/26/2015 9:14 AM
  • Indian Prairie Unit District 204 school board candidates from upper left: Justin Karubas, Lori Price, Mark Rising and Renata Sliva.

    Indian Prairie Unit District 204 school board candidates from upper left: Justin Karubas, Lori Price, Mark Rising and Renata Sliva.

Should Indian Prairie Unit District 204 spend more money to install full air conditioning in all of its elementary schools?

Two of the four candidates seeking three school board seats in the April 7 election say that's a question voters should answer.

Incumbents Justin Karubas and Lori Price say they would support a referendum question about air conditioning.

Karubas says the question should stick to that one topic, but Price says she'd support a broader question that also could address technology and other capital improvements.

The other two candidates, incumbent Mark Rising and newcomer Renata Sliva, say they wouldn't support an air conditioning referendum.

Karubas, a 41-year-old attorney who joined the board in 2013, said a meeting after a heat wave in September 2013 drew the most public participation he's seen, proving air conditioning is a hot topic.

"We can make that an issue, bring it to the community and have them up or down it and move forward," Karubas said.

He also would like to see the district, which covers parts of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook and Plainfield, involve voters through ballot questions more often.

"I'd like to see a lot more decisions made by the community," Karubas said. "Referendums have been used as a bad word over the years. But what is a referendum? A referendum is a vote by the people and making a decision about something that impacts our community. So I think there's a way to do it so that it empowers the community."

Price, a 49-year-old buyer at Anderson's Bookshop and the board's president, said she also would support a referendum question. But she said the board should ask voters about capital improvements, technology and more than just cooling systems.

"I think if we're looking at a referendum, it's going to have to include many other things besides air conditioning," Price said. "I think we need to look at a bigger picture and that's where some of our very thoughtful and thorough planning comes in with our budget."

The district already is spending $2.7 million to install partial air conditioning at 19 schools before next school year. Cooling systems will be added to an average of four rooms in each building.

Price and Rising voted against a contract to conduct the work because of concerns about delays in state funding.

Rising, a 46-year-old software sales manager, said the good thing about partial air conditioning is the district can add on to the system as money becomes available. He doesn't want to ask voters for more money in taxes to complete full air conditioning, though.

"I don't support a referendum for that. I think there are bigger things on the horizon for the district as far as technology goes as far as reduction in state funding that we might experience," Rising said. "If we ever have to go to referendum, which I hope we never have to, I would rather have it be around curriculum-based things that help students and help all students and not just elementary kids."

Sliva, a 56-year-old stay-at-home mom, said previous boards missed the chance to air-condition elementary schools when they were built.

"This is a perfect example of why we need to make good decisions as a board," Sliva said. "The decisions we make will impact generations of kids later."

She said the district doesn't have the money for full air conditioning, and she wouldn't support asking voters to give more.

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