PAC supporting failed D65 school referendum ends first quarter in debt

Jessica Floum

The political action committee that supported the failed 5th ward school referendum is currently more than $2,600 in debt, according to a financial report filed last week with the Illinois State Board of Elections, and group organizers say they don’t have a plan to pay their outstanding bills.

C4BE reported raising $8,947 and paying $7,368 in bills for the campaign, leaving the PAC with only $1,579 to pay a $2,617 bill to Quartet Digital Printing. Miah Logan, co-founder of Citizens for a Better Evanston, said the PAC hasn’t yet established a plan to pay off that debt.

“We are still strategizing,” Logan said. “We must do that at this point. We want to cover the bases and know what our resources and what our barriers are in bringing a school to the 5th Ward.”

Calls to the group’s chief financial officer were not immediately returned Tuesday. Logan attributed financial confusion to the speed with which the PAC came together.

“There have been some bumps along the way,” Logan said. “Especially with 300 people coming together and having at least 30 new members of the organization who have not met one another prior to this.”

The PAC primarily acquired funds through donations from local and national donors, according to the filing. Major contributions included $2,500 from NEPCO Inc., a Mount Prospect construction firm that has worked with schools in the southwest suburbs, $1,317 from Evanston resident Susan Greene, and $1,050 from C4BE member Terri Shepard. Donations also came from as far as Dallas, where Leonard Lopez, CEO of health care group ESI, Inc., donated $600. State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) also contributed $250 from her political committee.

D65 School Board President Katie Bailey contributed $200 to the campaign, making her the only board member listed as supporting the PAC. Bailey had previously voted in December for the referendum to be placed on the March 20 ballot.

School board members Rick Rykhus and Eileen Budde opposed the referendum.

“Mostly my objection was the dilution of resources,” Budde said. “We would have diluted our resources, hurt all the other schools and increased our operating expenses.”

Budde said the district needs only two to four additional classrooms, but construction of the new school would have created 18.

Although the PAC isn’t sure how it will repay its debts, it is still enthusiastic about moving forward with their plans to build a new school in Evanston.

“We definitely know which direction we want to move forward, and that is to still bring in a school in the fifth ward,” Logan said. “That is our main focus, and that is our mission.”

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