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:
- How much will it cost?
- What happens when the referendum fails?
- What work needs doing?
- How much does the district have in reserves? And how much can be allocated out of annual budgets?
- Has the district been spending the money they already have wisely?
- Were the community engagement and all the PR mailers honest?
Before looking at those answers, here are some letters we have received:
- Vitone – Open letter to CUSD 200 Administrators and School Board
- Zhiss Letter – It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again…
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
- Illinois taxpayer says school districts use ‘Delphi Technique’ communication strategy to manipulate voters http://eagnews.org/illinois-taxpayer-says-school-districts-use-delphi-technique-communication-strategy-to-manipulate-voters/
- April 8, 2014, our Engage 200 write-up, ended with “This is nothing more than a manipulative money grab – it is about a referendum – it is about Jefferson and it is about them taking more of our money without any of the accountability or responsibility that goes along with it.” engage-200
- 2014 our write-up after the first session engage200-wheaton-warrenville-cusd-200-community-engagement
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.