Alternate revenue streams; not referendums

Last Friday’s edition had an interesting article by Suzanne Baker. She provided an update on the controversy over whether or not Naperville School District 203 should allow cellular telecommunications towers on the grounds of Kennedy and Lincoln junior high schools.

Beyond being interesting, the article was thought provoking. What really grabbed my attention was one resident indicating “he would do everything in his power to help the district find new revenue sources or get involved with a referendum.”

I fully endorse the part about looking for new funding sources. School districts around the state need to look at developing alternative revenue streams to meet their seemingly endless wish lists. With lawmakers and bureaucrats in Springfield perpetually negligent in meeting their constitutional requirement of primary responsibility for financing the system of public education, some outside-the-box thinking about securing more dollars would be welcomed.

Well over half of Naperville’s households do not include school-age children. The case for ever-increasing property tax levies for schools is getting harder and harder to justify. My personal belief is that with fewer homeowners having a horse in the race, referendums will become an increasingly harder sell, particularly if school boards do not take steps to do something other than business as usual.

One thing I have encouraged District 203 to think about is how and where they spend money not directly connected to teacher salaries. On an aggregate basis I am assured by groups such as QualityEducation203.org that the district is very cost efficient, achieving excellent test scores and rankings with regionally reasonable expenditures per student.

What these rankings do not tell me, though, is the relative cost efficiency within the district by individual school. With facilities of varying ages, sizes and construction, I presume there are significant operational cost differences between the buildings. It would be interesting to compute, analyze and understand these variances.

With this kind of information in hand, we could have fact-based conversations on the hard topics like boundary changes or even building reductions currently stymied by parents insisting on classroom location status quo. This might also generate some thinking around best practices for school-owned real estate. As a major landowner within DuPage County, District 203 conceivably will contribute a substantial portion of the proposed county “rain tax.” Now might be a good time to think about the real estate portfolio before the rain tax on school properties trickles down to the homeowners.

I had one other thought when reading about the cell towers. I wondered how much of the added capacity these radios will provide is needed simply because junior high students are such great customers for the wireless service providers.

Is it possible that failure to increase the available bars will make it harder for kids to spend their lives glued to their phones?

Maybe this will mark a return to eye contact, communication not based on opposable thumbs, fewer viral videos, and conversations not limited to 140 character exchanges. If this is a possible by-product … OMG!#stopthetowers.

Bob Fischer is president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. Contact him at bobfischer@wowway.com

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