Dist. 128 candidate wants contracts reviewed
A candidate for the Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 board said officials need to examine administrative salaries and benefits for potential spending cuts.
Kevin Huber also said officials should better scrutinize bids and contracts for purchases to ensure money is being properly spent.
Other candidates are concerned about the district's finances, too, but none cited such specific budget areas for potential cuts.
Five people are running for four seats with 4-year terms. They are: incumbents Pat Groody, Karin Lundstedt and Ellen Mauer; newcomer Jeffrey Harte; and Huber, also a political newcomer.
Additionally, newcomers Mackenzie Thurman and Kris Hoult are running for a seat with a 2-year term.
The school board's deficit spending has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Last July, officials said the district's $81 million in reserves could be gone in six or seven years if financial habits didn't change.
When trustees approved a $98.3 million budget in August, they pledged to look for ways to cut spending.
Huber targeted the salary and benefits given to the district's administrators, suggesting the number of sick days, vacation days and other perks they receive are overly generous. He questioned car allowances and retirement bonuses, too.
Huber, of Libertyville, also said he wants to focus "immediately" on purchase contracts if elected. He called for an examination of how contracts are put out for bid and how the bids are awarded.
Groody, the board's president and a member since 2005, said officials are looking for ways to cut spending while maintaining high-quality programs at Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools.
Groody, of Vernon Hills, said the board already has made cuts by reviewing staff vacancies and eliminating some positions. He suggested the district could save money by teaming with other government agencies on purchases.
Lundstedt, a board member since 2009, insisted officials are addressing the issue.
She said the board has reduced property tax collections by nearly $19 million in recent years. The board also has asked spending be held flat for expenses not covered by contracts, said Lundstedt, of Libertyville.
Mauer, a board member since 2005, said officials should review program costs and the potential impact of cuts in financial planning sessions with residents, employees and students.
The board would determine if cuts are needed "after significant discussion and feedback," said Mauer, of Libertyville.
Thurman, of Libertyville, said "something has to be done" to balance the budget. Officials should work with staff and students to brainstorm ways to reduce operating costs and boost efficiency.
Thurman opposed cutting "any funds" for educational programs.
Harte, of Vernon Hills, said budget cuts should be approached carefully to maintain quality education. Attending a nationally ranked high school benefits students applying to colleges, he said.
Hoult, of Libertyville, said it was "unfair" for someone who isn't an incumbent to suggest possible budget cuts without first discussing the issue with the full board. If elected, Hoult said he won't seek "across the board budget cuts" without a thorough review.