Category Archives: CUSD 200

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.

 

 

:

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, 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

 

CUSD 200 Budget for Public Comment

To Wheaton-Warrenville, CUSD 200 taxpayers & Parents:

A public hearing will be held on August 16 at 7:00 p.m. prior to the Board Meeting for any community members who would like to share feedback and comments on the Tentative 2017-18 Budget.

I (along with everyone else on CUSD 200’s e-mail list) received this email about next year’s proposed budget being posted for public comment.  Please take a look, and come comment if you have any feedback on it.

You can find the budget of the CUSD 200 transparency page https://www.cusd200.org/domain/2388

The email content:

Board of Education Meeting Highlights
The following are highlights from the July 12, 2017 meeting.

Tentative 2017-18 Budget posted for public review
The Tentative 2017-18 Budget is posted for public review at the School Service Center and on our website. Important points to note for the balanced $166 million FY18 operating budget include:
·       Total revenue from the State of Illinois, just over $18 million, is projected comparably the same as last year. With the passage of a State budget, the District is hopeful that revenues will flow from the State as expected.

·       Expenditures on high priority capital projects (roofing and flooring) is approximately $3 million, which is an increase from the prior year.

·       Deferred expenditures including the hiring of 2 vacant administrative positions ($174K), Drivers Education simulators ($162K) and purchase of new student information system ($270K) allowed for the increased allocation to facility projects.

·       A 2% decrease in purchased services, 4.8% decrease in supplies and 2.2% decrease in out-placed tuition from the prior year’s Education Fund budget have also allowed for an increased allocation to high priority facility projects.

·       While there are contractual salary increases for teachers and support staff, overall salary expenditures have remained relatively flat since 2010.

The District ended last year spending $390,000 less than budgeted. The District is still owed in excess of $5.6 million in funding from the State of Illinois. The District expects to receive just over $18 million annually from the State, which is approximately 11% of the District’s total operational revenues. Any excess revenue this year will be dedicated to the Board’s fund balance (savings). The Board and staff continue to find difficulty in addressing high priority facility projects due to inconsistent payments from the State of Illinois.

In spite of challenges in State funding, the District continues to be responsible stewards of public tax dollars. At $12,636 per student, District 200’s operating expense per student is BELOW the state average of $12,821; our FY16 Fund Balance (savings) was at 29.7%; our Standard & Poor’s Bond Rating is AA Stable; our State Board of Education Designation is Financial Recognition (the highest possible); and our balanced FY17 budget marked seven consecutive years of a balanced budget in spite of dwindling State revenue that has decreased by over $40 million since 2008.

A public hearing will be held on August 16 at 7:00 p.m. prior to the Board Meeting for any community members who would like to share feedback and comments on the Tentative 2017-18 Budget.

Enrollment projections updated, utilization of buildings analyzed
Every three to four years, the Board of Education updates their enrollment projections. Prepared by University of North Carolina demographer Dr. John Kasarda, the 2017 Enrollment Projections Report is an update to the District’s 2013 Report. To prepare the report, Dr. Kasarda reviews population and housing dynamics and analyzes recent enrollment patterns, including comparing graduating seniors to incoming kindergartners, to make projections for future enrollment. Dr. Kasarda provides three series of projections: Series A (less students than anticipated), Series B (anticipated number of students) and Series C (greater than anticipated number of students). Historically, Dr. Kasarda’s Series B projections have shown accurate for enrollment across the District.
In conjunction with enrollment projections, the Board of Education asked staff to take a deeper look at classroom utilization to provide further understanding of how we are using the space at all of our schools. The full presentation and 2017 Enrollment Projections are available on our website. After reviewing enrollment projections and building utilization, key takeaways include:

  • Based on Series B projections, enrollment district-wide should remain stable for the next 10 yearsand consistent to today’s enrollment of just under 13,000
  • Based on Series B projections, the classroom utilization analysis indicates that all schools are needed and appropriately utilized
  • Special populations that impact space, like special education and English learners, are expected to increase

Preuhs & Associates provides update on fundraising feasibility study
Through the Vision 2018 Plan, a goal was identified to explore alternate revenue sources, when available, to support district needs. As part of the Facility Master Plan, an option had been discussed to conduct a fundraising campaign to raise dollars for special projects in the April 4 Facility Referendum Plan like an early learning center, science labs, a performing arts space and libraries.

Conducting a feasibility study is an important step in determining levels of private gift support available in the community. The study will be used as a research tool to determine if a fundraising campaign is viable in our community. Earlier this spring, the Board hired Pruehs and Associates to conduct the study, with half of the cost being covered through private sources.

To complete the study, Preuhs and Associates is interviewing key community leaders and historically generous individuals to gather feedback. While the study is expected to be completed later this summer, an update at the Board Meeting revealed that:

  • private fundraising is an idea that is supported by many and willing volunteer leaders and potential funding sources are being discovered;
  • collaborations are being considered and potential leaders are being recommended; and
  • building trust in the District should continue to be a focus of the Board and staff.

Facilities Committee prioritizes projects, identifies scenarios for an early learning solution
As previously reported, following discussions and review of the Post-Referendum Survey results, the Board’s Facilities Committee has reviewed and re-prioritized facility projects and has decided that for right now, the Board focus their facility planning efforts around the most critical projects, capital projects and secure entries. The current focus on capital projects and secure entries is significantly scaled back from the complete April 4 Facility Referendum Plan that included multiple other projects.

The updated estimated cost of capital projects and secure entries (going out 8+ years, including escalation and loss of referendum plan efficiencies) is approximately $93 million in work. That estimate includes $5 million in capital projects at Jefferson Early Childhood Center. Given the amount of capital improvement projects at Jefferson, the Facilities Committee is also reviewing options for our early learning needs that do not include construction of a new building.

Based on those recommendations, the Board’s Finance committee, along with District and School Administration, will begin developing a plan to allocate $8 million toward capital projects and secure entries for the 2018-19 School Year. It is expected that a proposed cost reduction plan for the 2018-19 School Year will be developed by early fall.

Erica Loiacono | Director of Public Relations
630-682-2469     erica.loiacono@cusd200.org

CUSD200 Admin contracts renewing SOON

The current administrator contracts were approve last year at the June 8, 2016 board meeting as entries in the personnel report which was attached to the meeting’s agenda.

The salaries for our sample administrators are:
admin 2017 salatiesEach received a 0.8% increase.

Several years ago I asked the board in my public comments if they had any idea what they had approved?  The board packets listed who had contracts renewing, but nothing about salaries or benefits.  I thank the board for including the administrator’s salaries in the personnel reports after that.

However,  I don’t see a sample contract attached to last year’s agenda so that the board & public can know what benefits are included.

There is a finance committee meeting at 7:30 AM on May 31.  Meeting Notice  And the next regularly scheduled board meeting is 7:00 pm on June 14.  That board meeting is when the administrative contracts should be approved.  Expect the meeting notice to be posted on the preceding Friday.  By law it must be available at least 48 hours prior to the meeting. 

  • The administrators contracts that I have were all for one year – expiring June 30, 2017.  That is the end of next month! (correction the ones I have were for July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.  The renewed last year)
  • The current WWEA teacher contract expires June 30, 2018
  • The Classified Education Association (CEA) 2014-2017 (support staff)  also expires end of June.
  • The Superintendent’s contract also runs through June 30, 2018

In my opinion:

  1. The Board must know what is in the contract that they are approving – a sample admin contract should be attached to the meeting agenda.
  2. ALL post career compensation must go!
  3. Extra sick days for pension padding must go!
  4. Administrators must pay their own pension contributions, just like teachers do – and no, we cannot give them large raises so that they see no loss in net pay.  This is a perk they never should have had.

For my analysis of the current contracts see:
dupagewatchdog.org/2017/05/admin-compensation-cusd-200-part-1/
and
dupagewatchdog.org/2017/05/admin-compensation-cusd-200-part-2/