Today’s Hinsdale District 86 School Board meeting was a little different this evening. This evening dozens of residents came to the meeting wanting to know one thing: Where are their tax dollars going? They certainly got an earful. They also saw Hinsdale District 86 do its best “kick the can down the road” routine.
Most of the residents were brought to the meeting to hear the discussion about the District 86 practice of having a lawyer contest property tax assessment challenges from residents. Currently, whenever a taxpayer challenges the assessments on their property, the county and/or the township prepares a defense against the taxpayer’s challenge. On top of that, District 86 employs the law firm of Scariano, Himes, and Petrarca to contest these challenges. These challenges cost the residents of District 86 several thousands of dollars every year and
are growing. In 2008 the expenditure was roughly $9,000. In 2009 $10,000 was spent. Last year it was $18,000. Finally, through May 1st the district had spent $9,000. At that pace the expenditure for the year would be $27,000! That is a 300 percent increase in just three short years! The expense is only one facet of this outrage. Another is that no benefit could be attributed to these challenges. The board could not offer any testimonial of how the law firm helped the district. Downers Grove Township Assessor Theresa Cockrell (in attendance) could not provide any examples of their benefit either. It is all a waste! Most importantly, District 86’s actions are creating an adversarial relationship with the taxpayers and the parents of its students.
Nothing that was seen at the meeting tonight could be said to heal that relationship. The original resolution to be voted on tonight was to authorize the status quo. Feeling the pressure of the numbers in attendance, Superintendent Dennis Brennan attempted to diffuse the issue by amending the resolution to state that issue of contesting residential appeals would be tabled for investigation for 60 days. This attempt at appeasement was possibly the most transparent event of the evening. Everyone in attendance knew this was an attempt to delay the vote to a time when there might be fewer people in attendance and fewer reporters covering the meeting. In fact, Superintendent Brennan blamed the press and political organizations for the debate on the issue to begin with. After some discussion, over the objections of board members that wanted to continue debate, Superintendent Brennan called for a vote on the resolution as amended. When board member Diane Barrett asked for clarification, she was refused an answer and told she must vote. If Ms. Barrett didn’t like it, she was told that “you can sue.” The crowd erupted from their silence at the inappropriate actions of the superintendent. It got even worse as order was not restored until after Superintendent Brennan argued with one of the taxpayers in attendance.
In the end, procrastination won out. The resolution was adopted as amended by a vote of 5-2. It seems that the Hinsdale District 86 School Board would much rather argue with its taxpayers than have an honest discussion about their budget items.