Monthly Archives: November 2017

District should register as PAC for referendum

Something to keep in mind for the next referendum, I’m reading “Illinois Laws Affecting the School Finance Referendum“ found at: http://www.iasb.com/pdf/referendum.pdf

During the 2017 referendum, CUSD 200 should have registered as a political committee.

On page 3 under “PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS” heading it states

A state appellate court in 2009 went even further in regulating the use of public funds in election communications.3 The court held that any communication that “refers to a clearly identified question of public policy that will appear on the ballot” must be treated as an electioneering communication. And if a school board expends more than $3,000 in any 12-month period for such communication, the board must register as a local political committee and abide by requirements of Article 9 of the Election Code. [emphasis added]

The court did not appear to make any exception for a board communication that calls attention to a specific election question in a neutral manner.

Where a school district would expect to spend more than $3,000 for lawful communications alerting voters to a public policy election, a board might be well advised to delegate even such impartial of communication to a citizens committee. Even a board that is willing to register as a political committee would be faced with tracking costs associated with printing and mailing, including staff time…

Looking at a post from Feb. 2017 CUSD 200 PR spending we see for the last referendum the district spent $11,772 on printing and mailing 40,000 “Investing in Our Future” referendum Brochures.

pr_2017 ref mailer

This clearly exceeds the $3,000 threshold.  CUSD 200 should have registered as a political committee for the 2017 referendum.

We also noted in “CUSD 200 video – $180 is misleading” that Superintendent Jeff Schuler stared in pro-referendum videos, filmed on district property and paid for with district funds after the referendum was placed on the ballot.   Clearly this violates the cautions in the same section of the IASB document.

Like members of the board, school district employees enjoy the common rights of citizenship on their own time. They, too, can perform referendum work so long as they are not on compensated time or using district equipment or supplies. School employees should not engage in activities designed to support the referendum during their work day (or during “compensated time”). The Ethics Act specifically defines participation in a political event or support of a candidate or referendum as a “prohibited political event” during the “compensated time” for a governmental employee. Determining when the superintendent or other administrator is on “compensated time” will be problematic, as will distinguishing between support for a referendum and simply compiling and communicating facts regarding the referendum.

CUSD 200, new pre-K building despite taxpayers saying “NO”

 

According to the Daily Herald, posted 10/30/2017 “District 200 could build a new Jefferson school after all” despite taxpayers defeating referendums for this twice (2013 & 2017).  Listed on the next school board agenda is approval of the time schedule & start of work.

  • Regular Board Meeting
  • Wednesday, 11/8/2017
  • 7:00 PM
  • Sandburg Elementary School (1345 Jewell Road, Wheaton)

 

According to the article D200 plans to build a new Early learning Center (pre-k) at the existing site for $17.3 million without asking texpayers and without raising taxes.  “[T] he new plan calls for the district to pay for a new Jefferson by dipping into reserves and borrowing money through so-called lease certificates for a term of up to 20 years.”

 

I (Jan Shaw) placed a couple couple comment on the page.  I have also sent info to the board (no responses from board members)

I have often wondered why the district hasn’t hired an architect that specializes in refurbishing old buildings for an honest estimate in fixing the existing building, perhaps with a small addition. In 2007 the district estimated this option as costing $7.4 million. Applying the Turner Building Cost index, that same work should cost $9.1 million now. Other buildings in the district have been renovated. Why must Jefferson be new?

 

The district currently provides services for all special needs 3 and 4 year olds whose parents want the services. Why do we need to build a larger building with more capacity? Note; these students attend 4 days per week for 2-1/2 hours per day.

 —  

In 2017, the pro-referendum group would have us believe that all buildings were falling apart and that if we didn’t approve the referendum our children would be attending schools that resembled a third world country. Now, they decide that the new pre-school is the top priority and everything can be afforded out of current income. WHAT CHANGED?

 

 

If the district had cut other spending, this might make sense. But, the district just missed a golden opportunity. Approximately 50 administrator contracts renewed last summer. I spoke to board suggesting that ALL end-of-career bonuses should be cut. Administrators can receive up to $25,000 lump sum when they retire & start their large pensions – Why was that bonus ever approved? The teacher contract renews June 2018. Administrators should give up their end-of-career bonus first, establishing precedence, for the teachers doing the same. I also suggested that administrators pay their own pension contribution as well as the same amount for other benefits to match what teachers pay.

 

As for spending reserves, we know that last year the state of Illinois was behind on its payments. At the low point for the year the total fund balance for all funds on 5/31/2017 was $6,340,889. We also recall that not too many years ago CUSD 200 was issuing tax anticipation warrants each May in order to make payroll. Then the state sent CUSD 200 a check on 5/7/2012 for $14,462,317.00 (for the 2003 high school construction grant). If the district now has plenty of reserves, it is due to that check and the state catching up on money it sends the district. If we spend the reserves and promise future revenues to pay for a new pre-school, what happens if the state is late with its payments (again) or if some of those fixes they said were desperately needed last year actually become urgent?

 

 

To see the board meeting agenda:  Go to cusd200.org then click on “board of education” and “meeting agenda “ in the drop down menu. On the calendar, click on the Nov. 8 date, the agenda for the next meeting will appear.

Action Item #3 is “Approval of Timeline for Early Learning Center

This item says “The Board of Education has reviewed multiple scenarios to find a resolution to the Early Learning Center (ELC) need. The Board has directed staff to begin the process of moving forward with Scenario F, which is the construction of new building on the current Jefferson site. The Board would pay for the work by issuing lease certificates which would be repaid from the operating budget and cash reserves (fund balance).”

Attached to it is the schedule of work, starting with “Start of Schematic Design Phase (9 weeks)” on Nov. 9th.

 

 

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