Coming together as a community

Riverside is proof positive of what it means to be a community. The coming together of our village around the July 3 and 4 Independence Day holiday festivities should serve as a template for all communities to follow in these uncertain times.

Both a hearty congratulations and a heart-felt thank you goes out to the residents of Riverside for their support of our community celebration. Without these opportunities for community-wide interaction among residents, we risk becoming just a place to live, rather than a place to thrive and foster lifelong friendships.

Stand up and be proud. First, the Friends of the Fourth. Without their tireless volunteer efforts and single-minded pursuit of community spirit, we are not certain if this event would have happened.

Second, our business community. Their ever-present involvement is what helps make our village work. Third, our village staff. Without support by every department head and every staff member and the cooperation of our employee unions, this celebration would not have been possible.

Fourth, the Riverside village board. Without the board’s willingness to craft a plan to support this event – at no additional cost to our residents – financial constraints may have rained on our parade.

And, at the top of the list stands our residents. Their generous donations and their zeal to lend their time and effort as volunteers, both on July 3 and 4 and in the months preceding, stands out brighter than any fireworks display. We are all proud to call ourselves Riversiders.

Michael Gorman, village president,
and the Riverside Board of Trustees

School board needs to do more, with less

I write with complete shock and dismay regarding Dr. Lamberson’s compensation plan (“D96 pays up to keep superintendent,” News, July 1). An average 9.6 percent increase totaling $136,000 over eight years not to mention pension and benefits obligations is outrageous.

In my opinion, the board of education has completely lost touch with taxpayers who are, at this very moment, enduring pay and benefit cuts, lost jobs and higher state and county taxes while aggregate net worth, home, 401K and portfolio values have declined by about one third, if not more.

I am extremely disappointed with the performance of the board and will vote against each current member in the next election. The board needs to develop an education plan with performance benchmarks taking into account a reduction of 30-40 percent in gross expenditures. We have to do more with less and so should you.

Bill Seeger

Thanks for a memorable Riverside Fourth

JoAnne Kosey and her Friends of the Fourth deserve a big thank you for their gigantic effort to insure that the Independence Day parade continued to be celebrated in Riverside. All of the people and all of the businesses that contributed to the effort deserve an equally large thank you.

The parade and related festivities were well attended in spite of the weather. What a great way to bring old and new friends together. The number of contributors and amount of money voluntarily donated should send a message to the village officials: the Fourth of July should never be cancelled again.

Bill Kernan

D96 board’s contract defense unconvincing

I was pleased to see the letter from the District 96 school board addressing Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson’s contract in the Landmark (“Extending contract in best interest of District 96 community,” One View, July 8).

The fact that the board felt compelled to defend their decision to offer Mr. Lamberson such a generous package suggests that they are aware, to some extent, of the slack-jawed reaction of many District 96 taxpayers upon hearing of the details.

I was less pleased, however, with the board’s argument in defense of the contract. In particular, I’m taken by the fact that the word “taxpayer” does not appear once in the board’s letter.

At no point does the board appear to recognize that Mr. Lamberson’s salary, which has increased 77 percent over an eight-year period, is paid for – in large part – by the property taxes of homeowners in Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield.

Indeed, except for a cursory reference to “difficult economic times” in the second paragraph, the board seems unwilling to acknowledge that events and forces outside the halls of the schools can, or should, have any impact on the spending habits of the district, or that the funds used to pay Mr. Lamberson’s salary might be coming from people who are facing significant financial difficulties.

I also find the board’s statement that the district would have been on the hook for substantial penalties if Mr. Lamberson had elected to retire at the end of his current contract to be somewhat disingenuous.

I presume that the board is referring to state legislation that imposes penalties on districts that raise administrators’ salaries more than 6 percent in the four years preceding retirement.

If that’s the case, is it not true that the reason that such penalties would attach is because the board also adjusted Mr. Lamberson’s 2008-09 salary to give him a 20-percent raise for that year?

In other words, if I’m correct in my understanding, one of the board’s arguments for retaining Mr. Lamberson’s services is: “We increased his salary so much in 2008-09 that we need to keep him on for another four years in order to avoid paying penalties.”

Perhaps a better solution would have been to abide by the spirit of the law and not have offered such a generous raise. Perhaps Mr. Lamberson would have walked, but it seems to me that a fiscally prudent board would at least explore this option.

Finally, I’m troubled by the implication in the board’s letter that one man, and one man only, is responsible for the success of the schools (a notion, incidentally, that until quite recently was shared by the administration and board of Riverside-Brookfield High School).

District 96 has a long tradition of excellence, and while Dr. Lamberson is an intelligent and able administrator, he also inherited a high-quality institution. The suggestion that the success of our schools and students is largely the result of one man’s efforts is at best, misguided, and at worst, insulting to the teachers and parents of the district.

Indeed, I’d suggest that the impressive performance of our students is due to the fact that the vast majority of them come from stable homes, in a stable community, where parents prize and promote academic achievement.

Our teachers and educational administrators deserve to be paid fairly. Our schools deserve money for educational, arts and athletic programs. As citizens, we have an obligation to support our children’s education with our time and our tax dollars.

Those charged with administering these dollars have an obligation to ensure that they are wisely spent. The taxpayers have kept their part of the bargain – I’m not so sure the same can be said of the board and administration of District 96.

John Mathews

Did District 96 blink in negotiations?

So the District 96 school board felt compelled to reward an end-of-career pay package to someone who at the time of the awarding of this gift had been a loyal servant of the district for less than four years?

The Landmark stated (“D96 pays up to keep superintendent,” News, July 1) that in addition to an unbelievable retroactive 20-percent pay increase, future pay increases take D96 Superintendent Jon Lamberson’s salary to $313,000 in his retirement year of 2013 at the golden age of 58.

In reading the 2005 and 2009 Lamberson contracts as supplied online by the Landmark, there are goodies which increase his relative pay even beyond that absurd amount.

For example, there is an almost $5,000 a year car allowance for a school district of only a few square miles. His entire family health insurance is paid by the district, though you and I would likely have to pay for the family portion of coverage at our workplaces.

If Lamberson chooses, he can opt out of that health coverage and not only must we increase his pay by the total amount of money he “saved” us, but we would also then have to increase the amount we put into his state retirement account due to his now-higher compensation.

Speaking of his state retirement account, by law we are required to make the employer contribution to his retirement plan, but his deal with the board requires us to pay his state-mandated share, too.

There’s a $500,000 life insurance policy we pay for on his behalf for the benefit of his family. When Lamberson was initially hired by our district in 2005 he had 60 accrued sick days from his prior employers. So, whenever he does retire, those 60 days alone amount to in-excess of $50,000 additional pay, due to his ending salary being north of $300,000. Who pays for that? Would anyone on the board care to put a hard dollar amount of the full cost we incur for all of these contract extras?

In their response to the Landmark article, the board goes to great length to support their unanimous decision to award the contract. They talk about how under Lamberson, the district “has been recognized … as one of the top-ranked, financially sound school districts in the state.”

Are they sure it wasn’t because the taxpayers voted in the 2004 referendum (before Lamberson arrived) to burden themselves with even higher D96 property taxes, or as governmental bodies euphemistically call them, “revenues”?

The board’s letter praises Lamberson by stating that “though other school districts … are eliminating programs, with Dr. Lamberson’s expertise … we can fund current programs.”

But our elementary school enrichment program, called QUEST, was just reduced last year from grades 2-5 to now just grades 3-5. Is that really “funding current programs”? A minor point, unless you have second-grade children who potentially got left out. Egregious raises and benefits do cost someone or something in every budget. So much for “it’s all about the children.”

The board emphasizes what great rapport Lamberson has with the teachers’ union, which they say should be helpful in contract negotiations next year. I think we heard that one before from District 208 and how Jack Baldermann had great rapport with their teachers’ union. There certainly couldn’t be any correlation between the great affection and rapport the teachers had with Baldermann and the 6-percent a year raise he gave them.

The relationship between the board and the superintendent shouldn’t be adversarial, but it also shouldn’t be familial. Rather, it needs to be a true arms-length business transaction.

The board’s allegiance needs to be solely with the taxpayers. Rest assured that Lamberson’s allegiance is, understandably, to himself. He resigned from being the superintendent of Barrington High School only three months after signing a five-year renewal contract with Barrington in order to become Lake Forest High School superintendent.

Lamberson left Lake Forest High School after his contract was up, and came to the Riverside school system to work for $100,000 a year less. It was his free-will choice to do so and likely was a function of Economics 101 – the law of supply and demand. Yet the response from the school board as published last week seems to show more defensiveness than real justification for their actions. Did Lamberson play hardball in his contract negotiations with the board, and did they blink?

Tom Latzke

Take off the rose-colored glasses

This letter is in response to Mr. Meehan’s letter regarding the Brookfield First info that he received (“Take me off the mailing list,” Letters, July 1). Mr. Meehan complained about receiving a piece of information that was inaccurate and biased.

There was nothing untruthful in that publication, and it is people like Mr. Meehan, with his rose-colored glasses, that have allowed the deterioration of this village by the PEP Party and their administration to go unquestioned.

Mr. Meehan states that these are tough economic times and Brookfield, like everyone else, is suffering. The reality is that from 2005 to 2009 the village manager has made so many financial blunders that we, the residents, are now paying the price.

The village has suffered a loss of income of over $600,000 because the village manager did not send the proper numbers to the tax assessor. That means that we the taxpayers did not pay the proper amount of taxes. As a result, all of us got to keep an extra dollar or two, but the reality is that we are paying dearly in lost services. Fewer firemen, policemen and public works employees mean less service to the public.

It also puts an incredible strain on those who remain and will only drive up overtime costs. We the residents are paying the price. Maintenance of alleys is deplorable, and spring clean up was canceled and service at the village hall is nearly non-existent.

Even little things like the flower baskets that made our community feel beautiful are gone, not to mention the events like Brookfest and Oktoberfest that brought our community together.

The bottom line is that the incompetence of this administration is borne by us, the residents and not those who thrust it upon us. The village manager makes about 30 percent more than he did when he started plus $5,000 to drive his car back and forth to work, a regular pension plus another $5,000 in annuities.

He was able to keep his more expensive insurance as we send money to Downers Grove every month and we still pay monthly for his expensive internet at his home. He has not offered a reduction in salary or unpaid leave to help ease the pressure on our finances.

Mr. Meehan mentioned that the public has spoken and to let it go. The reality is that less than 30 percent of the eligible voters decided that this should be the direction of our village, and it is time for the majority to wake up and learn the truth about this administration and the politicians who back it.

The group that is Brookfield First is made up of community members who realize that the public is not fully aware of what’s going on in Brookfield and yes, some of the members are also members of the VIP Party.

There is an election every two years in this village, but the residents need to be aware of what is going on daily, not just the false image presented by the ruling party. Mr. Meehan can continue to believe that what happens to our homes and village is beyond our control. It is not. We the residents need to finally stand up and demand accountability from our elected officials now instead of standing by silently and let them ruin our community.

Linda Stevanovich