I’ve been a resident of North Riverside for six years, and I support the current District 94 referendum. 

Since last year’s failed attempt, I have done a lot of listening to the concerns of my neighbors. I want to take the time to acknowledge what I’ve heard and make a case for voting yes on March 17. 

For many people, cost is a big factor. I urge people to use the tax calculator on Komarekschool.org to see what your actual tax impact of the $20.8 million referendum would be.

I don’t take this lightly; I know that an additional $27 or $50 a month (depending on your home’s assessment) is no small thing, especially on a fixed income. At the same time, it’s important to note that our school district tax rate is far below that of the towns surrounding us, and that the proposed increase would bump us up to be more in line with comparable communities. 

If cost is your biggest concern, ask yourself if you plan to sell your house in the near future. A 2010 study from the Quarterly Journal of Economics concluded that “passing a referendum causes immediate, sizable increases in home prices,” showing that buyers were willing to pay $1.50 or more for each $1 of facility spending (“The Value of School Facilities: Evidence from a Dynamic Regression Discontinuity Design,” by Cellini, Ferreira and Rothstein; 125 (1), Feb 2010, 215-261). 

Good schools make for attractive housing, so the long-term benefits may offset the cost. 

For others in our town, feelings about the referendum are mixed with other political concerns about the school board, past school administrations and the village leadership. We have a small but vocal constituency in North Riverside, and I encourage folks to keep attending meetings, keep engaging with officials and voicing your concerns. 

It’s my hope that you can separate these issues from the need at hand: an updated, safer, fully ADA-compliant school for our children that better reflects our community. We can move forward with much-needed school improvement while still holding our officials to task. Let’s do both. 

What will happen if the referendum doesn’t pass? The school building’s needs aren’t going away, so we will have to try again and again, with rising construction costs each year. 

The school will continue to patch things as they can — we are not a wealthy school with a reserve fund, so that will mean digging into the budget and sacrificing the programs that add value to the school. 

The families who can afford to move will leave for “better” districts, leaving the most vulnerable to bear the future burden. My family could afford to move, but instead I choose to stay and fight. I’m fighting for this neighborhood school with its dedicated staff and enthusiastic parents. I’m fighting to ensure that a child in a wheelchair doesn’t have to travel outside to switch classes because the doorways are too narrow. 

I’m fighting, not just as a parent, but as a homeowner and a citizen. I invite you to fight by my side, and vote yes.

Holly Neumann

North Riverside