Education

Here’s what some O’Fallon school board candidates want voters to know

Eleven of the 13 candidates running for O’Fallon school boards in the April 4 election introduced themselves to voters Thursday night.

They all hope to serve in one of the eight open seats on the O’Fallon District 90 and 203 school boards. Four seats in each district are open.

District 90 comprises eight elementary and junior high schools and one pre-K center. O’Fallon Township High School is the only school in District 203.

The candidates came together for a forum at City Hall to say what they wanted the public to know about them. The forum was broadcast live, but will also be available on the city of O’Fallon’s website and its YouTube channel at a later date. Two candidates were not in attendance: Keith Richter, an incumbent on the District 203 board, and John Rosenbaum, a candidate for District 90’s board.

Each candidate talked about their backgrounds and why they care about O’Fallon and its schools as they asked the public to vote for them next month.

But three of the District 90 candidates also told voters where they stand on a proposal to increase the sales tax rate by 1 percent in St. Clair County. The new revenue would be distributed to schools throughout the county from the regional office of education to use toward existing construction debt and the cost of new infrastructure improvements.

Taxing bodies can always find ways to spend your tax money, but we don’t need it.

Steve Springer, District 90 candidate, on proposed sales tax increase

The tax increase would not apply to some purchases, including groceries, medication, services and vehicles.

Voters will see the proposal on their April ballots, in addition to a separate 1 percent sales tax increase to benefit public safety agencies.

O’Fallon District 90 expects to receive about $1.8 million each year from the increase if it passes; the district has stated that it would use 60-70 percent of its share to pay off debt. The rest of the money would go toward projects such as alarm upgrades and general facility repairs at its schools.

In District 203, the plan is to use half of the estimated $1.3 million that it would receive toward debt and the other half toward facility needs like window replacements and electrical upgrades in the first year.

Because the districts would be using the new revenue instead of property taxes toward paying their debt, the owner of a $100,000 home would see a savings of about $89 from both districts.

In the end, I believe overall it would be a positive and would provide a relief on property taxes, which we can all agree is needed.

Curt Iffert, District 90 candidate, on proposed sales tax increase

Two candidates for the District 90 board — Jason Boone and Curt Iffert — said Thursday they support the sales tax increase.

“It’s not a perfect solution,” Iffert said during the forum. “... In the end, I believe overall it would be a positive and would provide a relief on property taxes, which we can all agree is needed.”

But Steve Springer, an incumbent, said District 90 had enough taxpayer money.

“Taxing bodies can always find ways to spend your tax money, but we don’t need it,” Springer said.

During the forum, some incumbents touted their experiences making financial decisions for the districts.

The District 203 School Board recently voted to cut $1 million from next school year’s budget because of a projected $2.3 million deficit; they quickly revised those cuts to $610,000 after backlash from teachers and the community.

Incumbent Brett Schuette, who voted in favor of both the $1 million in cuts and the revision two days later, said he visualizes the effect his decisions have on taxpayers.

“When I’m on the board, I actually picture the community sitting at a table with me and pushing dollars my way and saying, ‘I worked very hard for this money. Please be a good steward of it when you’re making decisions about the school,’” Schuette said.

8 Candidates for four open seats on the O’Fallon District 90 School Board

5 Candidates for four open seats on the O’Fallon District 203 School Board

Incumbent Lynda Cozad, who also voted for the original budget cuts and the revision, said she has plans to face District 203’s financial obstacles in the future.

“If elected, I will propose expanding the finance committee to include feedback from work teams to specifically offer input on the financial future of our district and strategies for the use of the financial reserves,” she said.

“I will also encourage the development of additional resources in an easy-to-understand format for the community to have better insight into the issues that we face,” Cozad added.

In District 90, incumbent Matt Lloyd said he thinks the school board has acted in a fiscally responsible manner in the past.

“Nobody wants to raise taxes, but they do want to have the best educational environment for their kids, and that means making difficult choices, weighing options, using a systematic approach to make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck,” Lloyd said. “I want to continue doing that.”

Other candidates used the forum to highlight their experience in education careers.

District 203 candidate Laura Jacobi Van Hook is currently an adjunct professor at Lindenwood University.

“I bring the unique perspective of clarity to the ripple down effect,” Jacobi Van Hook said.

Quennetta Chambers, a District 90 candidate, works as the assistant director of special education in Cahokia District 187. District 203 incumbent Steven Dirnbeck retired from his positions as a teacher and administrator at OTHS.

The O’Fallon school board candidates forum at City Hall was broadcast live, but will also be available on the city of O’Fallon’s website and its YouTube channel at a later date.

Several candidates also talked about their families’ ties to the O’Fallon school districts.

Chambers, for example, said her children were the motivation for her candidacy.

“I’m running simply because I’m a mother, and there’s nothing more important to me than my children,” she said. “I feel my role as a parent is to raise successful, independent adults. A necessary component of that is a quality education.”

Other candidates who have experience as parents in the districts are John Valentine, John Wagnon and Iffert, who are all District 90 candidates, as well as District 203 candidate Jacobi Van Hook.

Several candidates, including Boone, Chambers, Schuette and Lloyd, said they moved to O’Fallon specifically because of the school districts’ reputations. Lloyd said his reason for running is to give back to the schools that have helped his children become successful adults.

“I know my daughter would not be succeeding the way she is in college without the background she had. I absolutely feel a debt to pay that back,” he said.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

Candidates

O’Fallon Community Consolidated District 90 School Board

  • Jason M. Boone
  • Quennetta Chambers
  • Curt Iffert
  • Matt Lloyd, incumbent
  • John Rosenbaum
  • Steve Springer, incumbent
  • John Valentine
  • John Wagnon, incumbent (current board president)

O’Fallon High School District 203 School Board

  • Lynda Cozad, incumbent (current board president)
  • Stephen Dirnbeck, incumbent
  • Laura Jacobi Van Hook
  • Keith Richter, incumbent
  • Brett Schuette, incumbent
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