Candidate profile: Steve Springer

Steve Springer
Steve Springer

Name: Steve Springer

Family: His wife Robin Springer and he have two adult children, and five grandchildren.

Town: O’Fallon

Office Seeking: O’Fallon School District 90 Board of Education

Occupation: U.S. Air Force, retired; Airline Transport Pilot with a major U. S. airline, retired; mediocre golfer, part time.

Previous Offices: Presently serving 2nd term, D90 BOE

Why I am running: It has been quite fulfilling to serve on the Board of Education for the last 7+ years. There is always something that needs to be addressed and I have the tools that can assist in making quality, lasting decisions on behalf of the district. There is unfinished business to attend to, such as the issue of preparing our campuses for future growth in the district and maintaining a balanced financial plan. There is new business to attend to as well such as providing language classes in our Jr Highs and possibly in the elementary schools. A comprehensive curriculum review is also needed. We presently have a well-functioning Board of Education and we can accomplish a lot. Community service is required from residents in the district and it is my time to serve. I have been asked by friends, family and some board members to serve again. I have the desire to serve this community, to do all that I can to maintain its values and continue to improve it any way that I possibly can.

What is the most important issues facing O’Fallon School District 90? How would you approach it? The financial environment is our major challenge in the months ahead. My previous two terms have proven my commitment to excellence in education while eliminating deficit spending in our operating funds. Our programs remain strong and vibrant. It is imperative that we maintain a commitment to a policy that requires expenditures never exceed revenues. That has been accomplished in the Education Fund. More work needs to be done to bring that to fruition in the O&M Fund and the Transportation Fund. It is extremely important that we meet that challenge without resorting to the “easy way out” of deficit spending or issuing working cash bonds or tax warrants as many neighboring districts have done. Therefore, we are not paying off large debts borrowed to pay for daily operations. It has been a huge challenge given the state’s recent practice of withholding funds that have been specifically earmarked for education. We have managed a balanced budget in spite of that fact and have not borrowed money to pay for operating the district.

Should a school district’s teacher demographics mirror that of its student demographics? Why or why not? A mirror image would be an exact representation of the community. That would require some type of selection process based upon physical traits or ethnic characteristics. I am strongly opposed to that type of selection. I believe that an approximate representation of our community is doable and desirable. However, the most important consideration is the quality of the personnel on staff in the district. To that end, we can only interview persons when we post a need for them and then we can only select from the candidates that apply to work in our district. From them we objectively choose the most highly qualified, and then have our administrators select the person who is the best fit for the district using their subjective judgement based upon their years of experience in the profession and the hiring process. We have done an excellent job to date and I expect that to continue in the future with the leadership team we now have in place.

How much emphasis should your school district put on STEM education? STEM course and education is important to students and will help them prepare for college and career paths. Engineering is not appropriate at the elementary level. Science, technology and math are essential and are some of the building blocks for understanding our world. Most important to me is the balance across the education spectrum. It is imperative that our students learn to read and comprehend, write and communicate effectively before they are capable of excelling in STEM courses. American history, the arts, music, English grammar and literature are all important in producing a well-rounded, well-educated graduate that is able to make choices and successfully navigate the way through the future. All of the aforementioned courses of study are important one to another.

In St. Clair County, there will be votes on two sales tax referendums. Do you support either or both? Why or why not? For years, I pushed to reduce and level our debt payments. We did. Debt service tax rates would have dramatically increased in two to three years, but now we are going to maintain the current rate. As a result, we are not in the position of many nearby districts that must support the introduction of yet another one percent sales tax. We are able to conduct business without additional taxes in the face of potential state tax increases, expanding the list of taxable items and other local sales tax increases. A nearby shopping center is already collecting an additional 1 percent sales tax. A taxing body can always find ways to spend money. Question whether or not it is truly necessary to increase taxes. The CFST tax was to be on the ballot in Nov. The ‘powers that be’ determined that we were incapable of handling the questions of who to vote for and whether or not to pass a new tax at the same time! I think we are all quite capable of such decisions. The discussion above applies equally to the Public Safety tax. Prioritize requirements and expenditures, and find solutions within present budget constraints.

Why should people vote for me? I am an advocate for quality education that we can afford. Fiscal responsibility to our stakeholders is a primary ingredient to providing education to our children. Our stakeholders are district staff, students, their parents and all of the other residents in the community as well. These groups are not always in perfect agreement on school priorities, especially funding priorities. I am quite aware of this and have done my best to represent the needs of all these groups. I am not afraid to be critical when I feel it is required and being controversial at times doesn’t upset me in the least. The keys to working with the other board members, our staff and administration while representing all the groups above is to be sure to listen, make sure to understand other positions and finally to make the most informed decision that I possibly can. This must be done in a professional and respectful manner. I will continue to represent this community on the District 90 Board of Education in the very best manner I am able.

How should the school district approach current budgetary challenges? In the same cautious manner that we have in the most recent years. We must continue to analyze the requirements to ensure the necessity. That requirement’s expenditure must be weighed against existing and forecast revenues. Lately we have understated our revenue projections and overstated the cost of our expenditures. This has helped us project fund surpluses in our operating accounts. It is incredibly difficult from year to year to predict what revenues will be coming from the State of Illinois. They have withheld 11% of their ‘contracted’ obligations to the district for at least 4 of the last 5 years. Last year we were funded at 100%. The majority of our budget expenditures are very predictable. The revenues are not. Therefore, any growth or expansion of programs must be done cautiously or not at all, until we can more accurately forecast the necessary revenues. Even if state funds are reduced but we at least know what amount is guaranteed to be paid out to us, that would seriously reduce our budgeting challenge.