No New Taxes –$132.5 Million CUSD 200 Referendum

In deciding a “Yes” or “No” vote on the Wheaton-Warrenville CUSD 200 $132.5 million bond referendum the informed voter should consider the answers to several questions:

  1. How much will it cost?
  2. What happens when the referendum fails?
  3. What work needs doing?
  4. How much does the district have in reserves? And how much can be allocated out of annual budgets?
  5. Has the district been spending the money they already have wisely?
  6. Were the community engagement and all the PR mailers honest?

Letters

Before looking at those answers, here are some letters we have received:

 

Now, let’s look at the answers we have.  (More will be added, and the date of this post updated as information becomes available)

1. How much will it cost?

According to the district, the yearly tax impact on a median value home ($322,300) is $180.  That is more like the introductory rate. The bond repayment schedule has been back-loaded.  For the same home the total tax impact for bond principle and interest is $7282. $7416   See:

 

2. What happens when the referendum fails?

  • Most work will wait. To take care of the necessities the district will need to dip into reserves (at least $7.5 million available) and/or issue working cash bonds (they have a limited amount they can do without referendum & without raising taxes). The referendum allows them to issue more bonds and to raise property taxes to pay for them.  They could also cut some other spending.  Worse case, they can come back to the taxpayers with a much smaller referendum.
  • The district can borrow some money without our permission. At the February 26, 2014 board meeting, the board voted to issue $10 million in working cash bonds.  At the same meeting, Jim Mahieson explained the tax code, how they can get around the tax cap and why we will always be in debt. cusd-200-will-always-be-in-debt and background-cusd-200-10000000-bonds
  • To understand existing board members’ attitudes see the discussions during the 1/11/2017 board meeting about annual budgets for buildings, placing the referendum on the ballot, and why Jim Gamaiani voted “No” cusd-200-132-5-million-referendum-placed-on-the-ballot/
  • Based on a video of Dr. Schuler, If no work is completed (referendum fails) the district will need to set aside in its annual budget at least $6.5 million simply to take care of the capital renewal. This assumes work for the entrances, library learning centers, science rooms and new early learning center will not be done. He says this will be difficult since they currently allocate about $1 million for Capital improvements. Video: April 4 Referendum – What Happens if a referendum is not approved?
  • “…We’re going to be living on borrowed time, if we don’t take care of some of these needs within the next couple of years. The district has completed about $19 million worth of capital renewal over the last 9 years…” Video: April 4 Referendum – Why is there so much work?

 

3. What work needs doing?

  • Except for Jefferson all school buildings have been built or renovated since 1985. cusd-200-building-age
  • One of the items on the plan is a new, larger capacity Early Learning Center (aka pre-school). While we agree Jefferson could use major improvements, we question the wisdom of building anything so big or spending so much. The bulk of the increased pre-K enrollment is in the typically developing (not special needs) population. Why should taxpayers be subsidizing pre-k for this group?  cusd-200-pre-k-enrollment Who is responsible for raising our youth? Parents or the state?

 

4. How much does the district have in reserves? And how much can be allocated out of annual budgets?

  • The “Investing in our future” flyer from the district says that if the referendum passes they are planning on using “$22 million in reserves and future budgets” to complete the work.
  • Daily Herald 2/24/2017 article says “A ballot question in April will ask voters to allow the district to borrow $132.5 million and raise property taxes to pay off the loans in nearly 20 years. Roughly $7.5 million from existing reserves and another $14.5 million from future budgets would fund the rest of the plan.” com/article/20170224/news/170229220/

 

5. Has the district been spending the money they already have wisely?

  • TOTAL Spending on Public Relations is the salary and benefits for two people (rough estimate $150,000/year, most likely more), the purchased services ($198,000 in the last four years, as documented in cusd-200-pr-spending and the celebration the PR department hosts ($65,707 in three years cusd-200-celebations ).  We have a rough estimate of at least $200,000 per year.
  • Are we paying long-time teachers too much for years of service? See: retirees-out-earn-teachers-who-replace-them/ For CUSD200 current pay schedule, see pdf page 44 of org/cms/lib7/…/Contract%202015-17…pdf  A first year teacher with a BA is paid $43,089. A teacher with MA+60 and 25 years experience is paid $109,288.  Are experienced teachers worth 2-1/2 times as much as a new teacher?
  • Why aren’t all administrators paying their own pension and same percent of benefit costs like teachers do? [We have the FOIA results – need to write it up]
  • Why had the district been giving end-of-career salary spikes? And now big bonuses for retiring? post-employment-compensation
  • The amount of teachers, average teacher salary and operating cost per student have all gone up significantly faster than inflation. See: cusd-200-far-more-staff-today-at-what-cost/ 
  • Rather than meeting candidates for a new Superintendent at a district conference room and ordering moderately priced refreshments, District 200 rented a conference room at the Hilton and had their own food fest. Grand total for using the Hilton’s conference room with A/V rental, food and soft drinks was $1,346. cusd-200-food-fest
  • The board forgave Superintendent, Dr. Harris’ $40,000 get-out-of-contract-early penalty when he abruptly left on May 29, 2014. One year earlier, they had granted him a new five-year contract with a $20,000 base salary increase. superintendent-shell-game  and district-200-superintendent-leaving-40000-gift
  • April 2011, the district sent 4 administrators and 3 board members to an NSBA Conference in San Francisco. Two administrators retired, and one quit that summer. 2011-cusd-200-bon-voyage-conference/
  • CUSD 200 had two administrators whose contracts (ending in 2009) called for 20% raise the last year worked. The contracts were extended to 2010 and 2011. The actual raises were 20% (in 2008), 0, 6%, 6% the last four years. two-cusd-200-administrators-scammed-the-system-did-someone-break-the-law These (we contend illegal raises for two individuals) resulted in the district paying them a total of $311,427 more than we would have paid with no raises their last four years, $111,572 penalty paid to TRS for excessive end-of-career raises, and it increased the pensions for these two by approximately 20%.

 

6. Were the community engagement and all the PR mailers honest?

  • The “yes for D200″ website and associated lit has misleading statements.  yes-for-d200-propaganda-on-funding-is-misleading/ This post also covers changes in teacher salary and operating cost per student:  2016 vs. 1986 adjusted for inflation to 2016.
  • Did anyone else notice on the original Engage200 invite, there were talk-bubbles on the one side which turned out to be the 4 topics “picked” by the “public” for discussion topics in session 2, 3, 4 & 5? Common Core did not make the list but was brought up at every table I sat at.  cusd200-engage200-all-a-plan and wheaton-warrenville-cusd200-engage200/
  • The Daily Herald (5/8/2014) reported

“Many of the nearly 200 residents attending Wheaton Warrenville District 200’s fifth Engage200 session on Wednesday drew a blank when asked how the district should cut spending.”  True, I was there.  Most tables regurgitate what the district tells them in the presentation and the districts mentioned nothing that could be cut.   Our table had a bountiful list of spending cut suggestions.  engage200-finances-no-cuts-take-money-from-others

 

This page was originally posted on 2/28/2017.  Updated on 3/7/2017,   3/22/2017, 3/23/2017, 3/25/2017 and 4/2/2017.

One thought on “No New Taxes –$132.5 Million CUSD 200 Referendum

  1. • Years ago, a $10,000 brick structure was built in front of Franklin Middle School. The structure does not serve any purpose. It doesn’t protect students from inclement weather. Was that structure necessary for $10,000?
    • Claire Academy took over a private school building on Main Street, south of Franklin Middle School and north of Wheaton Library. Did District 200 administrators ever look at that building for the students at Jefferson school? Before new buildings are built why don’t administrators view existing buildings? It appears that Claire Woods Academy is functioning quite well in their building. Claire Woods Academy is a school for children with special needs.
    I want what is best for the students in District 200.
    • I want the administrators from District 200 to be resourceful. All of the administrators are paid very well. They are supposed to be paid for their knowledge and expertise. I would like to see both those components put in place.
    • How many administrators live in Wheaton/Warrenville? Look at their tax bill in conjunction to the house they live in. The taxpayers are paying for their houses and expenses.
    • Are admintrators contributing to Wheaton/Warrenville in a monetary way?
    • Teachers are held accountable for students’ progress. Where is accountability from the administrators?

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