When Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 failed in its bid to win voter support for a tax hike in the spring, it didn't take a huge leap of faith to believe that voters would again be faced with a referendum in a year's time.
And while voters in District 95 will likely see another referendum question in 2006 asking them to help reconcile the district's expenditures with its annual revenues, another blip has appeared on the radar.
On the heels of a year-plus facilities study completed during 2002-04, the district has embarked on a second facilities study in order to prioritize recommendations made in the first go 'round. The board voted to spend another $30,000 for an architectural firm to lead the new process, which seeks to gather input from everyone from board members to teachers to community members to students.
The board says the new study will help reduce capital improvement costs in the long run by avoiding expensive temporary patches. But it's clear that whether the fixes are temporary or something more comprehensive, any capital improvements to the district's two buildings are going to be expensive.
As a result, the district has called for three community forums seeking input from residents (aka voters) on what priorities should be and, we're sure, to help gain understanding and support for a referendum that's inevitably coming down the pike.
The last time the district did something like this?"in advance of its spring referendum?"attendance at the forums was disappointing. Attendance may have been hampered by short notice or by inadequate publicity from the district about them.
Then again, it could have been a sign to the board that voters simply weren't behind the tax hike. Silence does speak volumes sometimes.
That said, we hope that silence won't be the response when District 95 kicks off its facilities push tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in the second floor conference room of S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield.
Instead, we hope that both supporters and opponents of the new effort will come to the forum and give constructive input on which direction they think the district should move. At the same time, we hope that the board will balance their desire to transform Brook Park and Gross schools into state-of-the-art educational facilities (which would be great) with the reality that it must first address annual deficit spending in its day-to-day operational fund.
It can be argued that the state of the buildings goes hand in hand with implementing a top-notch curriculum. But there is a limit for taxpayers, who are straining to deal with exploding fuel and energy costs in their own personal budgets.
Still, the dialogue is necessary, and convening these forums (the next two are scheduled for Oct. 24 and Nov. 29) is a great way to gather information straight from the mouths of concerned taxpayers.
Here's hoping taxpayers will use their voices, not their silence, to get the message across.