Public quiet during hearing on $26M kindergarten plan in Dist. 64

  • Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 officials are moving forward with plans to borrow $26 million to pay for classroom construction for all-day kindergarten classes.

    Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 officials are moving forward with plans to borrow $26 million to pay for classroom construction for all-day kindergarten classes. Courtesy of District 64

 
 
Posted10/22/2021 5:30 AM

A public hearing on a Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 board plan to borrow about $26 million came and went Thursday night without any comments from the public.

Officials have said they want to borrow the money to renovate buildings so all-day kindergarten can be offered throughout the district.

 

Although no members of the public submitted written or oral testimony during the hearing at Franklin Elementary School in Park Ridge, board member Tom Sotos took the opportunity to again voice opposition to the proposal.

Sotos said he doesn't want this board or a future one to have to ask voters to approve a tax-rate increase "for issues that are needs and not wants" because the kindergarten plan will draw down the district's reserves. All-day kindergarten is "a want," he said.

Board member Gareth Kennedy, another outspoken opponent of the plan, questioned if public notice for the hearing included all the legally required information.

Adam Parisi, the district's chief school business official tried to assure him and the rest of the board that the notice met legal requirements.

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Kennedy also raised the specter of a resident effort to stop the plan through a petition and what state law calls a "backdoor referendum."

A final vote on the bonds is expected in November.

If the bonds are issued, District 64's property tax rate will increase to raise the cash to repay the loan. Owners of typical $350,000 houses will see the district's portion of their tax bills increase by about $125 the first year, officials have said.

The board decided in August to pursue full-day kindergarten at all five District 64 elementary schools and to convert Jefferson School in Niles into a district headquarters. The elementary schools -- Franklin, Carpenter, Field, Roosevelt and Washington, all in Park Ridge -- offer only half-day kindergarten classes now.

The meeting had a bit of a hiccup when board President Denise Pearl mistakenly called for a vote on issuing the bonds rather than adjourning the public hearing. Sotos and Kennedy voted "no."

The error was brought to the board's attention, and officials briefly adjourned to discuss it. When they resumed the meeting, Pearl acknowledged the error and the trustees unanimously voted to end the hearing.

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