I attended the Feb 26 West Carroll School Board meeting, telling myself that I would not say anything and that I was just there to listen. It didn't work. I want to state up front that I am the spouse of a school board member and a Mount Carroll alderman.
I also want to publicly apologize to State Rep. Tony McCombie for making a comment implying that her presentation was not true. My tone was more aggressive and combative then I intended. I'm sorry. As a student, I had read a book, “How To Lie With Statistics,” by Darrell Huff. Sitting through the presentation, I had flashbacks to points the book made. Oftentimes data is accurate but skewed and biased toward the point you want to make.
As an example, The Enrollment and Facilities Planning Study projected a (round numbers) $7 million cost to bring the high school building up to compliance codes, but the presentation indicated it can be done for $1 million. The study included replacement cost, which is a long-term fix, while the presentation gave the temporary, band-aid, short-term repair, whose cost, while certainly cheaper, may be incurred repeatedly. Skewed. Replacement obviously costs more but is permanent or longer lasting.
My main concern is that the presentation missed or ignored the real question. Does the school district need three attendance centers? No.
Student numbers have been declining since consolidation and for many years prior (statistics presented by school superintendent at the meeting) and students will fit in two attendance centers.
The long-term viability of the district is dependent on wise use of taxpayers' money, which should not include putting a lot (and it is a lot, regardless of what you think the exact amount is) of money into an unneeded building, only to close it in a year or two, due to continued declining enrollment. That would indeed be a waste of tax dollars and more importantly could put the district in an untenable position.
Remember there are two other attendance centers requiring not only routine maintenance, but new roofs. There are only so many dollars to accomplish this maintenance and closing an unneeded, 60-year-old, asbestos-laden building would free up maintenance dollars to perform required maintenance on the two newer, asbestos-free buildings. This action would greatly reduce a property tax increase if one were needed at all. It's just common sense and prudent financial management.
In closing, I'd like to say I take great umbrage at the overreach of the Support Our Students group for giving guidance to the city of Mount Carroll (buy the school administration building and locate the police department there) regarding how they should spend their money and determining where their police department should be. The city of Mount Carroll is not currently seeking advice from this or any other group relative to real estate acquisition.