What you need to know about the April 2019 election
Name: Martha Fraier Stoffel
Position Seeking: OTHS District 203 School Board
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? As an OTHS graduate and resident of O’Fallon for over 30 years, my primary motivator to run for OTHS school board has been my love for this community and school. I graduated from Murray State University and have a professional background in accounting and human resources. I have also been reporting on city government and education for the O’Fallon Weekly newspaper for the last year. I have two, elementary-aged children in District 90, and have served on the PTO Board as Treasurer. My family attends First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, where I currently serve as the Finance Committee Chair. O’Fallon and Shiloh are growing and thriving communities that continue to attract families, in part due to the educational and extra-curricular opportunities available at OTHS. Strong public schools are an investment in the future and play a critical role in the overall success of the community, and I welcome the opportunity to serve as a board member for OTHS.
What are the most important issues the school district faces, and how would you approach them? Finances continue to be at the forefront of most discussions regarding school districts, especially since the burden to fund schools is placed primarily on the local property owners. As the district strives to maintain OTHS as a premier high school in the state, the board needs to look at curriculum and technology needs, expanding extra-curricular opportunities, professional develop opportunities for the faculty, aging facilities and space needed for a growing student population. Financial strains over the years have limited the district’s ability to address some of these, but the board should make long-term financial plans for prioritized needs and projects. The current growth and economic development opportunities within O’Fallon and Shiloh should put the district in a more stable financial position to begin addressing these items, with the addition of commercial properties to the district’s tax role from expiring TIFs in both Shiloh and O’Fallon as well as upcoming commercial development projects.
Under what circumstances would you vote to raise property taxes? Your property tax rate for OTHS is calculated using two factors: the district’s rate-setting property value (determined by the county) and the tax levy (money requested by the district). As long as the district continues to see a growth in property value, I believe the board can continue to set a levy that will not require a higher tax rate from property owners. A majority of the funds within the district’s total tax levy require a public referendum to increase the rate, so I do not predict a tax rate increase without voter approval. The district does require a certain amount of money to meet its financial obligations and provide the educational and extra-curricular opportunities the community and students desire. The board should strive to work within a balanced budget and be fiscally responsible with taxpayer money.
What are your goals for the district/what do you want to accomplish? Over the next five to ten years, the district is set to see a considerable increase in property tax revenue as a result of ongoing growth and development in the O’Fallon and Shiloh communities. It is my desire to see the district positioned for continued success with ever-changing educational needs, extra-curricular opportunities and facilities. I would like to find ways, as the district’s commercial property tax revenue increases, to reduce fees assessed to OTHS families and provide property tax relief to residential property owners. The board must continue to plan for future needs of the community and educational preparation for our students’ post-high school paths, and I am excited to be part of the vision for OTHS.
What is your position on the proposed increase in minimum wage for teachers in Illinois? The role of the school board is to respond to legislation passed down from the state, so I will work with fellow board members to make sure the district is meeting those obligations whether they are funded or unfunded. The current contract with OTHS teachers already meets the requirements in the proposed bill, so this particular legislation will not immediately impact our district financially if passed. My desire is for OTHS to continue to pay our teachers a competitive salary in a structure that is best suited to meet our district’s needs and finances. It is important, as the state continues to experience a teacher shortage, that OTHS is well-positioned to recruit and retain high-quality teachers.