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Emails for October 2004

Time to say NO on tax increases


After reading the e-mails in your column and seeing the signs popping up in favor of the referendum I felt compelled to put my two cents in. This consolidation was ill conceived from day one! I placed a letter to the editor in the �Minonk News Dispatch� prior to the original consolidation and stated that this plan had tax increase written all over it!! Well guess what? Since this consolidation my taxes have almost tripled!! When is enough enough??? When the original consolidation was conceived Toluca was in the red and so was Wenona. We consolidated but did nothing to truly consolidate. All the buildings are still operating. Why do we still have (2) junior highs?? It seems that a true consolidation would have been just that, one school open in each town. The people responsible for this consolidation knew it would be political suicide to do that so they basically left everything status quo. Now instead of making the tough decisions they want everyone to open their wallets yet again!! I for one say it is time to send a clear message by voting NO. The people pushing this consolidation are attempting to lay a guilt trip on people by saying �It�s for the children�. Unfortunately they are the pawns in this whole mess. Raising taxes every year is just going to drive more people from the district causing higher taxes! Who wants to live in a district with taxes that are spiraling out of control? Our son lives in a brand new home in a new subdivision in Springfield and his taxes are less than ours!! What does Minonk have to offer to justify these high taxes? Last time I looked I don�t think we had anything close to what Springfield has to offer. How do they expect people on fixed incomes to be able to live in their own homes? They say �it�s only a small increase�, but that is on top of an already huge increase that comes every year. There has to be a better way!! Last time I looked I didn�t have a money tree to keep supporting these ridiculous increases and I doubt if anyone else does either!

Dave Stokowski

Points to consider concerning referendum


I am pleased that you are providing a forum for people to speak their thoughts on the upcoming referendum. However, I feel compelled to set the record straight.

Most households have a budget or at least they should have one. Budgets are estimates of revenues and expenditures for operating the home for a fixed period of time. All things being equal and living in a perfect world, a person would be able to nail down every bit of income (revenue) and cost (expense). However, the world is not perfect. Grandma fell down and broke her hip and the health insurance will only cover a portion of her rehabilitation. In the meantime the hospital and extended care bill have to be paid. No problem, the family has a rainy day account (savings) which they can draw upon. Just when Grandma is on the mend, the car breaks down and is in need of serious repairs totaling nearly $1000. Once again, the head of the household goes to the rainy day account but finds that only $300 dollars remain for this emergency.

The point I am trying to make is that unexpected expenses (costs) occur. For instance, the state of Illinois mandates that Fieldcrest provide special education services out of district if the school cannot provide those services cost effectively in house. Then there are the myriad of insurance costs that all school (workers compensation, property and casualty, health) systems have to contend with. And by the way, the illustrious Bush Administration is now saddling all school districts in the United States to pick up the majority of the compliance costs of the No Child Left Behind Act. The Board of Education could refuse to comply, but then Fieldcrest would lose what little federal funding they receive to try to comply. Or worse yet, be hit with a federal lawsuit.

What some of the misinformed writers to your forum are asking is to break the law by refusing to educate children with special needs, refuse to pay escalating insurance costs, refuse to comply with the mountains of mandates and so on. Also, how can one cut insurance expenses short of dropping coverage. Try this one on for size. How about turning down the thermostats to 60 degrees in all buildings to save money in the Building Fund?

The facts are plain as the nose on one's face, Fieldcrest is a RURAL consolidated school district without a broad tax base. Despite the talk about contracting out for transportation or custodial help, the facts are that these measures have been explored and were found to be not as cost effective as one would have hoped.

The tax increase is for the Education Fund. The Transportation Fund is healthy and believe it or not MAKING MONEY!. However, we can't rob peter to pay paul by draining the Transportation Fund. Legislation mandates which funds one can use to fund various programs or projects. Special education costs are now 13.1% of the Education Fund budget. A very, small portion of the total cost is reimbursable.

Sorry, but there are no free lunches. I implore those that are still doubting Thomas' to start to religiously attend school Board meetings on a consistent basis to learn the ins and outs of public school finance. It isn't pretty. Better yet, if anyone has a better idea on how to finance public education cost effectively without exceeding the budget, then pick up a school Board petition and run for the Board. Sharp minds are always appreciated. The Citizens of our communities have to decide what kind of school system they are willing to accept. And which opportunities they want their children to have. It is a tough choice.

Gotta go now, 'cause I don't want to miss the bus to take me to work until my car gets out of the shop, but first I have to stop by the bank to borrow some money to pay the mechanic and Grandma's home care. Darn it, why don't these politicians get off their rear ends and fix this education thing?

Yours for better schools,

Michael A. Stagliano, Ph.D.

Support Fieldcrest referendum

As a homeowner and parent of three children who attend Fieldcrest Grade School, Junior High and High School, I am writing in support of the Fieldcrest Education Fund Referendum. In the past few years, the board of education has been forced to make cuts which have affected all of us in various ways. Fieldcrest is not alone in its financial difficulties. You can go to http://www.isbe.state.il.us/pdf/financial_profile.pdf and note the number of Illinois schools placed on the financial watch list. But, until the state of Illinois comes up with a better way of funding schools without placing excessive burden on property owners, it seems there is no other choice, but to keep making deeper cuts into the quality of education at the expense of our children.

One point I would like to make is that after the failed referendum in 2003, the board's need to generate money resulted in the issuing of $750,000 in working cash bonds. Fieldcrest taxpayers have already seen this increase on their tax bills. The bonds issued will be paid in full in 2006, resulting in a tax decrease, as long as no further bonding is necessary. If this referendum would fail, the board could have no other choice but to issue additional working cash bonds.

In regards to my own family, and others I have spoke with, we have paid more in activity, lab and extracurricular fees this school year than we would have paid in tax dollars had the first referendum passed. Yes, it is my choice to allow my children to participate in these activities because I strongly believe the discipline and dedication instilled in them through these programs remains with them throughout their lives outside of the classroom.

I have always been a strong supporter of our school district, but on occasion have caught myself saying "Why can't they do this?" or "Why didn't they do that?" I think most of us would agree with the saying "hindsight is always 20/20". Let's leave our baggage at the door and work together to get through these tough times. Whatever your reason may be to vote "no" or not vote at all, please think of the negative effect that vote will have on our communities. A good school system will not only keep families in our town, but attract new families who will keep our small communities thriving. But, more importantly, think about the effect a "no" vote will have on the children of Fieldcrest who are defenseless in the midst of this financial turmoil.

Please vote "yes" November 2nd for the children of Fieldcrest!!


Monica Kalkwarf

What's a 'DSO exploit' and how do I get rid of it?

To link to a site explaining 'DSO exploit', click here.

There is an easy way to keep spyware and adware off your computer.

Don't use Microsoft's Internet Explorer!

Clean your computer with Ad-Aware or Spybot then go to this site www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/index.html and download the program called Firefox. It's a free web browser. You should not be bothered again with adware, spyware or popups.

Keith Paris

Can't get rid of spyware program

Hi, Dave;

Enjoyed your story on turning over the pavilion to the city. Job well done, my friend. Also, I read your editorial on technical tune-up. I've been using Spybot for about a year now, and it's a great program. However, there's one item it can't get rid of. It's named DSO Exploit. Ever hear of it? I've talked to several folks who have the same problem. I'm running Windows 2000, and from what I understand is that there is a "hole" in this operating system that Microsoft can't seem to patch. All other spyware I pick up is destroyed by Spybot, expect this one. I "immunize" once a week. Also I check the updates as well. I just thought that you might have some ideas on how to get rid of it. It seems like you have to be on guard more and more these days, like you mentioned in your piece. Well, take care and I hope all is with you and yours.

Art Kettelhut

Editor's reply: Art, I also cannot get rid of DSO Exploit when I run Spybot. So far it does not appear to be causing any harm and, therefore, I am ignoring it. You are right about Microsoft having plenty of holes in its operating system. You don't become the richest person in the world by creating superior operating systems.

Voting yes on referendum

Thanks for your editorial on the referendum. It is the only place I have read the actual amount of increase a property owner will occur. Perhaps a property owner looking at their property as an investment should consider the negative resale value of living in a troubled school district. As a libertarian I do not want to pay more taxes and with just having my taxes raised considerably but I am voting yes. I believe many of the houses around here for sale are people fleeing a failed school district. I was against the consolidation. I wanted my children to walk to grade school. I am angry that enough of the same people that voted in the consolidation will not support what they voted for.

Jack Daniel Devine

Fieldcrest made cuts too late

Here are a couple of quotes from the referendum committee.

1. " Fieldcrest has been deficit spending since 1997 "
2. "due to declining farmland values, most school districts in Illinois are being underfunded"

1. Dave, if the average person were to deficit spend on their household budget they don't have the luxury of just going to work and asking their boss for a raise to cover the spending. They have to live within their budget. Why should the school district be any different? They have been deficit spending since 1997 and they want the taxpayers to cover the expenses for them. The cuts they have made are too late. They should have been made long ago.

2. They say the farmland values are declining and then they want to turn around and tax the farmers land more. I'm glad that I'm not a farmer.

I think Dave Stokowski pretty much summed it up in his letter on the last referendum.

Keith Paris

Senator Rutherford urges everyone to vote

Your vote is important, it is imperative, it really does count!

In 1992, a candidate for State Representative won over the incumbent by only 8 votes, with tens of thousands cast. A few years later, a candidate for State Representative in the Champaign area won the General Election by only 16 votes and an incumbent Legislator in the South Suburbs lost by 33. In the 1980's, Jim Thompson won re-election to Governor by less that one vote per precinct in all of Illinois.

It is easy to think that such and so candidate will win without your vote, or that your one vote won't make the difference on who resides in the White House. NOT!!! The examples I gave you are actual people, people whom I personally know. Elections are for real and they are won, or lost, one vote at a time. The few hundred ballots in Florida, literally, determined the outcome of who would be the Leader of the Free World.

I know, everyone is busy; getting the kids to school in the morning, seeing grandma in the nursing home, scolding the puppy that just soaked the carpet, or being overloaded at work. But, if only a few more cousins, church friends, college buddies or neighbors would have voted in the elections I spoke, the results would, verifiably, have been different.

If you know someone that will be out of town or unable to personally go to the polls on Election Day, help them get an absentee ballot. On November 2, you and all you can reach must vote, the future of America will be determined that day.

God bless America.

State Senator Dan Rutherford
53rd District

More comments on spyware

Hi Dave,

I read your editorial and Art's email reply regarding spyware. It's a nuisance for everyone. We've been running Spy Sweeper on all of our computers for approximately the last 6 months. It seems to do a great job as well as finding and removing trojan horse virus' that happens as a result of the Spy and Adware programs. They do offer a free download, but if you want to update the definitions, you'd have to subscribe. We're almost considering the subscription here as we really like the results so far. You can get Spy Sweeper from http://www.spysweeper.com.

It's a good idea to remove all the spyware as it makes you vulnerable for others to get into your system. They can get personal information off your system as well tracking what you do, who you email and obtain account numbers if you do any business online. Most of the Spy and Adware programs bypass firewall programs that you have running.

I just found this definition of Spyware... http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/s/spyware.html .

I hope this information helps!

Michael & Sherry Willis

Facts concerning the Fieldcrest referendum

Dear Citizens of Fieldcrest:

As you know, District 6 is currently in a financial crisis situation. According to the latest information from the Illinois State Board of Education, Fieldcrest is among the 80% of public school districts that are deficit spending. Fieldcrest has been deficit spending since 1997. This is especially true of rural consolidated school districts similar to Fieldcrest. The geography of the school district, the difficulty in centralizing programs and services and the reliance on farmland for property tax revenues has put a financial squeeze on the District's Education Fund, the largest and most important fund for any school district. The economic plight of the District has earned a Financial Watch List designation from the Illinois State Board of Education, the most serious designation a school district can earn. If this designation continues, local control of the District can be ceded to an oversight panel of the State of Illinois. This does not mean that the District will receive more funding. It does mean that state finance authorities will implement more cuts.

In the past two years the Board of Education has cut $1,177,000 from the Education Fund. This wholesale reduction of programs and personnel has reduced the teaching staff by 16%, resulting in fewer opportunities for our children. For instance, library services have been reduced and eliminated, elementary art and physical education is no longer offered, the high school industrial arts program has been eliminated, supplies and materials cut by 50-75% and a building principal has not been hired to fill a vacancy created by retirement. This is just a small portion of the total picture.

The Board of Education has done all it can do to keep costs controlled. Nevertheless, revenues cannot cover the increasing expenses of health and liability insurance, workers compensation, special education costs, necessary supplies and materials and other costs associated with running a medium size school district like Fieldcrest. The Education Fund tax rate of $2.97 was set in 1992 when the District was formed. It has not been raised since then. Even at the current rate, the Board of Education has only levied at the full $2.97 when absolutely necessary.

In April 2003 a referendum failed for $.90. Since then the Board has authorized as many cuts in personnel and programs as possible without compromising learning for our communities children. This November 2, 2004 the voters of the District will be asked to approve an Education Fund tax increase of $.55. This is the lowest rate the Board feels can bring in enough new revenue to start turning things around. As the District's financial condition improves, the Board may not need to levy the full amount of the new rate.

A comprehensive document, "Hard Questions-Straight Answers", explaining Fieldcrest's Education Fund finances in plain language is available on the school district's web site. To access this document go to the District's web site at www.fieldcrest.k12.il.us and select Fieldcrest Referendum. If you still have questions about the school district's need for a referendum or any other questions please call the high school office and ask to speak committee members, Garilyn Wells or Jaynet Smith.

Say "Yes" to Fieldcrest's Future,

Fieldcrest Referendum Committee

Root the Knights on

I just want to first say there was an excellent crowd out at Knight Stadium last Friday for the Homecoming game against Dee-Mack despite the weather conditions. That was great to see all the people routing on the Knights. The team took one on the chin Friday night and lost the first game of the season against a very good Dee-Mack squad. However if the elements would have been better I think the outcome would have been different or at least closer then what it was. Regardless the outcome of last weeks game the Knights are still having a terrific season and are looking at finishing 8-1 on the season and getting a first round playoff game at home.

The Knights are 5-1 and in 2nd place in the Mid-State and they take on Ridgeview on Knight Stadium this week at 7:00PM. It is the last home game and Senior night. It would be nice to see everyone who came out last week and even the ones that did not come out last week to come to the last home regular season game to cheer the Knights on. This weeks game looks to be an excellent match-up. Ridgeview's line up and try to stop us run offense against the Knight's try to run against us defense. This weeks game will be one that everyone should come see. I personally feel the Knights will bounce back and defeat the Ridgeview Mustangs this week.


Jason E Buchanan