Those pesky taxpayers – Wednesday Journal
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District 200 has a fiduciary responsibility to Oak Park taxpayers yet treats Oak Park taxpayers as obstacles to overcome rather than stakeholders/partners in navigating how to fund massive renovations of the school.
According to Investopedia, the definition of fiduciary is “a person or organization who acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their clients’ interests ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary thus requires being bound both legally and ethically to act in the other’s best interests.”
Regarding “good faith,” Investopedia states, “The doctrine of utmost good faith, also known by its Latin name uberrimae fidei, is a minimum standard, legally obliging all parties entering a contract to act honestly and not mislead or withhold critical information from one another. It applies to many everyday financial transactions.”
In November 2020, an advisory referendum asked Oak Park voters “shall any capital expenditure of $5 million or more by any local taxing body within Oak Park be subject to a binding referendum for approval or rejection by the voters?” Result: 21,384 or 77.24% of voters said yes.
Knowing the result of that advisory referendum, and given their fiduciary and good-faith responsibility to taxpayers, why then is D200 yet again discussing means of funding massive pool/PE renovation expenses, many multiples of that $5 million threshold, in ways that are sub-optimal from a financial perspective and intentionally structured to avoid a referendum? Is ignoring this advisory referendum in “good faith”? Is taking on unnecessary debt fulfilling fiduciary responsibilities?
Public comments at D200 board meetings are read and listened to; board members are not obligated to respond during such meetings. It is well past time for the D200 board members to each individually and publicly explain in detail:
1) whether they do or do not support such an expensive pool/PE plan, and their rationale
2) whether they do or do not support putting plans to referendum, and their rationale
3) why, despite a large surplus of around $90 million, would they approve taking on unnecessary debt to fund a pool/PE plan that would cost $36 million in interest, and their rationale
4) why collaborating with the park district isn’t an option — covering Ridgeland Common’s pool at around $15 million would better serve all of Oak Park by making that pool usable 100% of the year rather than under 30% of the year. D200 could pay cash for this option; it would, finally, solve the school’s pool issue, and serve all residents far better for decades.
The D200 board includes Board President Tom Cofsky, Board Vice President Ralph Martire, members Fred Arkin, Gina Harris, Kebreab Henry, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Sara Dixon Spivy. Their group email address is BoE@oprfhs.org
Jack Powers is an Oak Park resident.