All posts by Janet Shaw

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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No Pledge of Allegiance at COD and inaccurate minutes

This blog was originally posted in 2015.  I am adding this note, and re-posting today in response to all the uproar over disrespecting the flag.  COD now has a new president and 6 new board members.  They added a flag to the room and the Pledge of Allegiance to each COD board agenda in the spring of 2015.

You also might want to check out what has been happening in school district U-46.  illinoisfamily.org/uncategorized/conservatives-needed-show/

original posted January 23, 2015 —

Incredibly, only Vice Chairman Kathy Hamilton stood for the pledge of allegiance when Jan Shaw of the West Suburban Patriots gave the pledge during public comment.  The College of DuPage didn’t have a flag, nor do they do the pledge at the start of the monthly board meetings.  It was suggested that the COD board thinks the pledge is “offensive.”  6 of 7 Trustees, President Robert Breuder, and ten senior managers of college refused to stand up for the pledge on Dec 18, 2014.

 

At the January 2015 board meeting, the flag was in the corner, but still no pledge on the agenda.  Jan lead the Pledge again during public comment.  Trustee Hamilton asked for a correction of the December 2014 minutes.  The minutes say “Jan Shaw spoke regarding Tax Levy” – Kathy said they should add that Jan lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The minutes also state that “Matthew Tyrmand spoke regarding Treasurer’s report” which he did.  But he also addressed Trustee McGuire’s November rant comparing the Watchdogs and the Tea Party to Nazzis.

Trustee McGuire’s November rant

The board voted 6-1 to accept the December minutes as is.

 

CUSD 200 new Early Learning Center without taxpayer approval

Wheaton-Warrenville, CUSD 200 is now planning to build a new early Learning Center (ELC) as an addition to Monroe Middle school and they plan to borrow the money to pay for it, without asking the community for permission via a referendum. They claim they can do this because the money will be paid back with existing funds – no new taxes.  Initially, they thought a “new building” required a referendum and were looking for a way to avoid that.  Now, they realized that if it is paid for with debt certificates a referendum is not required.  (Hmmm…)

 

September 15, 2017, CUSD 200 e-mail newsletter contained the following:

Board Narrows Down Early Learning Solution and Financing Option 
At their meeting, the Board reviewed an option to construct an addition at Monroe Middle School as a solution to our early learning facility needs. This option was one of 
nine possible scenarios the Board has reviewed following the April 4 Referendum Plan. The Board’s Facilities and Finance Committees ultimately recommended this intergovernmental plan as it allows the District to retain the current Jefferson as an asset, would not require a tax increase and will be paid for out of current and future operational dollars.

How will this option work? Doesn’t the park district own the property next to Monroe?
Through an intergovernmental land swap agreement with the Wheaton Park District, the school district would swap the vacant land (ball fields) immediately south of the current Jefferson property with a portion of the park district’s Graf Park that is immediately east of Monroe Middle School. The early learning center addition would be constructed on the current Graf Park property and would be connected to Monroe Middle School.

How will the Board pay for the early learning center addition?
The Board is reviewing an option to pay for the addition through fund balance (savings) and 
debt certificates. Debt certificates provide a way to borrow for improvements that allow for debt payments to come from the existing operational budget, not through a tax increase.This option allows the Board to access funds to complete the project without increasing taxes. The Board will also consider a private fund-raising campaign to potentially offset a portion of the building cost.

What does the new design look like?
A preliminary concept of the new building can be found 
here. The Board’s Facilities Committee will continue working with our architects and construction manager to refine the design and cost estimate of the project. As part of the presentation, the Board received a projected timeline for this option that projects groundbreaking Summer 2018 and opening to students for the 2019-20 School Year.

Currently, the District provides early learning and special education services to students ages 3-4 at Jefferson, Madison, Whittier and Johnson. To learn more about our early learning program and the need for a facility solution, watch this video.

ELC in the news

My Suburban published a related article on 9/20/2017:
mysuburbanlife.com/lists/2017/09/20/…

History / Cost

elc estimates2017

In 2013 I (Jan Shaw) ran for school board and posted information on my web page along with the first three lines in the above chart.  This blog is based on that blog with updated info.  For the 2017 estimates, I could not find construction cost broken out from total cost (demolition of old building, landscaping, and furniture assumed to be $2.2M – same as 2013 referendum numbers).  The data for the last line came from the board packet attached to the Sep. 13, 2017 board meeting.  At that meeting they discussed leaving the 2 Head  Start classes where they are and reducing the new ELC by 2 classrooms.

 

From “Janshaw200″  2013 post:

CUSD 200 has enough money in its building fund to renovate or build an appropriate new pre-school – without a referendum. Please vote NO on April 9,

  • According to RSMeans the average price for building a school in the Chicago area is around $200/ft2. (reference – 2017 link no longer works)
  • 59,000 square feet at $200/square-foot is just under $12 million.
  • Note: the in the current Jefferson 12 classrooms are used for classes and one for specialist.  In the proposed one there are rooms for specialist in addition to the classrooms.
  • Currently, CUSD 200 uses 14 classrooms for pre-k (12 at Jefferson, 2 at other schools). The older estimate increases that to 18 classrooms, a 28% increase. The current proposal is 20 classrooms that is a 42% increase.
  • Why is CUSD 200 looking at something so big and so expensive ($260/ft2)?
  • According to the Turner Building Cost Index, construction costs are not up since 2008.
  • In May 2012 the state of Illinois issued a check to CUSD 200 for $14.46 million as a capital improvement grant.

 

The current Turner Building Cost index is available at turnerconstruction.com/cost-index

If we assume the 2008 estimate was a good one $234/ft2 what would one expect the price to be for each of the dates in the above chart?  (The index is construction inflations since 1967)

elc inflation v estimate

Since the district is not planning to demolish the existing Jefferson building, my estimate for construction cost may be low.  I understand Jim Mathieson questioned why the building costs so much. Based on the above chart,  he has good reason for questioning it.

I also question the wisdom of building a new building rather than renovating the existing one with a small addition since the taxpayers have said “NO” twice.

 

It’s for the kids – 2017 Staff Celebrations

Last year I submitted a FoIA for 3 years of district “Celebration” expenditures, compiled the results and spoke at the July 13, 2016 board meeting.

See: dupagewatchdog.org/2016/07/cusd-200-celebations/

 

According to the Illinois Constitution “Public funds” are to be used only for “public purposes.” The purpose of Public Schools is to educate the children. How do parties and gifts for the adults serve that purpose?

Last year’s FOIA covered 3 years was 428 pages.  This year was 71 pages.
And it is good to see that total spending per year has come down.
2013-2014          $19,372.0
2014-2015          $17,856.6
2015-2016          $28,479.26
2016-2017          $7,395.58

This year’s spending….

celebarte2017

Retirement dinners at Cantigny – still happened

dinner2017

This year, the 59 attendees included
16 retirees,
15 retiree’s guest
17 administrators
2 union reps
6 school board members (Jim Gambaiani paid for his dinner)
3 spouses of board members (all paid for their own dinners)

note: 2016 was the last year that the 6% end-of-career salary spikes to increase pensions was available.  

A total of $10,650.20 for “Retirement clocks” over a two year period (2015 & 2016) – still buying them
This year it was 32 clocks for $1,754.00

Individual Service Anniversary gifts ordered from Eagle Recognition – still happening
2015: $8,054.96
2016: $9,698.52
2017: $2,285.96

The last sympathy / congratulation bouquet (flowers or edible delights) was sent in July 2016
That is good, if the board or administrators want to send something, they should pay for it themselves, not with taxpayer funds intended for students.

And yes, they still bought

  • a couple sheet cakes (one was for the board meeting at which the new board members were sworn in).
  • And it appears the district purchased meat for a staff picnic in the summer.

Lack of transparency

I’ve looked at the annual budget, and monthly financial reports.  The only way to find how much is being spent by the communications department, human resources, superintendent or other administrators is to request it via a FOIA.  School board members approve spending every month as part of a consent agenda.   They should request  that spending be broken out by department.

CUSD 200 – who’s in charge?

I attended the Wheaton-Warrenville board meeting tonight.

The good news is: Lacrosse players and their parents showed up to support one item in the consent agenda, which did pass:

Approval to Recognize Lacrosse as a High School Sport Under a Fully Funded Parent Agreement

It is a pity that the district could not find any money to put toward this sport.  After all, it is for the kids.

The other good news (as expected) the administrators, including superintendent Schuler, accepted a salary freeze rather than the 1% originally proposed.

The bad news, no benefit concessions from the administrators.  The district will still spend $600,000 for their pension contributions.  They still pay less for insurance benefits than teachers pay – which is less than many in the private sector pay. They still have their end of career bonus.  They claim they discussed it twice in close session and comparable districts do the same.  There has been no real discussion in open meetings.  And I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t side lobbying.  So, who is greedy?  Who is in charge?

Jim Gambaiani made a statement as to why he would be voting NO.

  • $600,000 pension pick up
  • $850,000 benefits
  • $25,000 per employee maximum retirement bonus (does not count toward pension)

See the compensation list (note: top pay for a governor is $180,000) personel admin 2017

Facilities Plan Update-Early Learning Center

They are still planning on a new, larger facility for the district early learning center.  Many scenarios  were presented.  The ones they will continue to investigate are

  • Renovate and Expand the current Jefferson Early Learning Center, or
  • Build a new pre-school as  an addition to Monroe Middle School  with a connecting hallway. This option includes land swap with the park district.

By doing an addition, rather than a new building, they claim they can do it without a referendum.  And after 2 failed referendums, they’d rather not try again.  The price of each scenario was in the ball park of $20 million.  Jim Mathieson questioned the cost.  He said we need to bring it down to $15 or $16 million.  They are looking at spending reserves and hiring a firm to do fund raising on behalf of the district.

Yes, I agree, we need to do something to improve the Jefferson building – at least to maintain it.  But, should we spend our reserves when we cannot count on the school funding from the state?  The district just received the third out of four payment from last year.  Even once the school funding bill passes, how will it be paid when the state’s piggy-bank is empty?

 

 

CUSD 200 budget review tonight

There is a board meeting tomorrow – 8/16/2017, 7:00 PM at the School Service Center (130 West Park Ave. Wheaton, IL).

Would love to have others show up and speak out! Or simply listen and give moral support.

 

At this meeting they plan to approve the 2018 budget, then this year’s contracts for the 50 administrators whose contracts expired 6/30/2017.  It appears they will be taking no raises.  However, I have spoken out in June and July about aligning administrator benefits with the teacher benefits  and doing away with the lump sum they will get when they retire.

 

On the meeting agenda, I see the administrators who are now working on expired contracts are listed in the personnel report as having new base salary the same as last year.  OK.  But, I’ve asked for a copy of the contract to be attached so the taxpayers can see everything they are on the hook for.  Not there.  Does that mean no change?  If so, who is in charge of the school district?  Is it the board?

 

For these 50 administrators:

  • The total base salary is almost $6 million
  • The pension pick up is 9.8% of that base or almost $600,000.  Everyone else in the district pays their own pension contribution.  Administrators should as well.
  • In addition they pay only 10% of their benefit premiums.  Teachers pay 20%.  BTW: at one point the district paid 100% so this has been diminished in the past.  It can be done!

More importantly, we need to set a precedent by removing the end of career bonus (aka post-employment-compensation) from the administrator contracts this year to have leverage to remove it from the teacher contract next year.

  • End of career salary spikes should never have been granted?
  • When they were removed, there was no reason to grant a large end of career bonus in their place.
  • Nor was there any reason to increase the size of the bonus when the contract renewed.
  • None of this should have exited!

The current maximum bonus for administrators is $25,000.  If all 50 end up with this eventually, leaving this in the contract means the taxpayers are on the hook for 50 x $25,000 = $1,250,000.  That is $1.2 million – for what?

 

There are 850 teachers.

  • In the last three years, 83% of the TRS retirees had 18 years or more – In fact that group averaged 28.6 years.  35 teachers x 83% x 28.6 x $750 = $620,000 expected retirement bonuses per year.
  •  If everyone works 25 years that would be: 850 x 25 x $750 = $15,937,500 (about $16 million) spread over the years.

 

If the board insists on diminishing benefits for administrators, they have a choice: accept it, like so many in the private sector have done. or quit/retire.  Most will stay.  Yes, they will grumble.  But, they will not be surprised – We have been making public comments about their overly-generous benefits for at least a decade.  I’ve been providing data at the last few meeting.  They’ve heard it.

This had already been identified by the public in 2010 when the district had major cuts – but none was done then.  At that point they

  • removed B-sports reduced the number of teacher aids
  • increased student fees
  • and the teachers agreed to a temporary salary freeze.

They threatened to cut

  • the gifted program
  • PE for kinder garden
  • orchestra and
  • band

So far, teachers, taxpayers and parents have all made concessions, it is time for the administrators to do the same.

CUSD 200, Still Partying on Taxpayer’s Dime.

A year ago, I reminded the board that public funds are for public purposes only.  Then I went over a list of spending on the adults with no educational purpose.  I expected the board to direct the district to cut this out.  Nothing has changed.  Why wasn’t this cut rather than increasing student fees?  Why do they keep crying poor when this is going on? Who is in charge?  The school board? The superintendent? Or do we just do what everyone else is doing?

My comments from July 2016 when I told the board about the amount of money spent on celebrations and gift for the staff are available on  youtu.be/BwFikoSGLiw?t=1m46s  (2 minute mark)

A friend put in a similar FOIA this year – Nothing has changed!  The entire file is 71 pages, I’ve included a sample below:

celevrate 2017 p7_10

celebrate2017 p13_16

There is a board meeting tomorrow – 8/16/2017, 7:00 PM at the School Service Center (130 West Park Ave. Wheaton, IL).

At this meeting they plan to approve the 2018 budget, then this year’s contracts for the 50 administrators whose contracts expired 6/30/2017.  It appears they will be taking no raises.  However, I have spoken out in June and July about aligning their benefits with the teacher benefits   and doing away with the lump sum they will get when they retire. (I’ll post more on this tonight)

Would love to have others show up and speak out!

Budget Review

With a budget review set for August 16, and the top administrators currently working on expired contracts, a little public pressure could help convince the school board and the administrators that CUSD 200 cannot continue business as usual.  Taxpayers and teachers should insist that administrators pay their own pension contributions just like teachers do. This would save the district about $600,000 per year and slightly reduce future TRS pension obligations.

A little history:

It appears that the district was in good shape financially back in 2001, and had to make major cuts by 2010.  That is a time frame in which many in the private sector were taking pay cuts or at least not seeing the raises they had been getting when inflation was so high.  School districts including CUSD 200 were giving step & lane increases as well as end-of-career salary spikes.  They had yet to curtail anything.

 

The Education Fund: total expenditures, salaries and benefits had gone up significantly faster than inflation from 2001 to 2010.  They were running out of cash by the end of May each year. The balance would have been negative in 2008 without Hubble construction loan, and in 2009, 2010 & 2011 the district issued tax anticipation warrants in order to avoid being in the “Red.”  In May 2012 the district received $14,478,784 from a capital improvement grant.  This year, at its low point (May), the districts end of month balance on hand was down to $6.3 million.  With State funding being unreliable, reductions should be made now while renewing the administrator contracts.  And a precedence set for next year when the teacher’s contract will renew.

I have recommended that all administrators pay the same for benefits as teachers do.  And that the post-career-compensation (lump sum at retirement that replace the salary spike) needs to go!

Take a look at what parents said in 2010 when student programs were threatened.  This could happen again.

minutes 2010_3_3

And the value of the proposed 2010 cuts.

2010 cuts proposed