There were several speakers during public comments period of the Woodstock School Board on Tuesday night.
Most centered on the high property tax rate in Woodstock affecting seniors, low income renters, and driving home prices even lower.
One speaker wondered about specifics of the special Ed program and how many of D200 enrollment were students from other districts paying tuition: what were specific revenues and costs per out-of-district student?
Another speaker asked that the decision to place a health clinic within the high school be postponed until the public was thoroughly informed about the details of this clinic, and appropriate public input was obtained.
The point was made that Woodstock is not considered a medically underserved community.
The school board remarked that the public comments about budget would be more appropriate at the levy meeting in November.
One board member expressed that no one seems to understand how difficult it is to create a school budget, that money doesn’t come in all at once, and that he has seen school districts whose finances were a mess.
The finance manager remarked that if certain anticipated State money didn’t come in they would have to make cuts.
The budget passed unanimously.
Another agenda item was to drop the price once again of a building owned by the district; it wasn’t selling and the listing realtor had cited the many foreclosed homes nearby as a factor.
McHenry County College Board member said the following in the public comment period:
I must believe that you all are well-read and informed members of the community. Informed well enough to know that we suffer under some of the highest taxes in the country.
And yet, you come to us with a budget asking for a nearly 5% increase?
Our enrollment is projected to shrink by 20 students, and yet you are requesting an increase of nearly $4 Million?
Do you hear how ridiculous that sounds?
Salaries are taking the biggest bite at nearly a 4% increase, adding $2 Million to total expenditures.
I have the hardest time making sense of this!
You’re either adding staff to a district that’s not growing and/or you’re rewarding employees with pay increases greater than should be allowed.
The Federal Government has limited its raises to 1.3% in the coming year and the experts expect an average 3% increase for the rest of us?
What is so special about the employees of D200 that warrants such increases?
How do you expect to be paid more, when those who are paying you, are getting paid less? ?…especially when the academic accomplishment in the district lags behind the state ISAT average?
You need to take this budget back and “sharpen your pencils” and come back with something that just makes more sense.
McHenry County Recorder of Deeds candidate Joe Tirio added the following:
On page 169 of the full budget, you summarize the long-term needs of the district facilities. In the pages that follow you show the detail for each location. Among them, you show that Clay Academy will need to spend approximately one point five million dollars for an HVAC replacement and Woodstock High School will need a new roof at a cost of approximately one million dollars.
Given the low utilization of these two properties and the looming expense, wouldn’t it make sense to consider decommissioning these buildings?
According to a 2007 study on maintenance and operations of schools, the annual cost to simply run these two schools is well into the millions of dollars.
As your Oath states that you will “…respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district’s assets…” It would seem to me that you would be duty-bound to pursue such obvious, low-hanging fruit.
In the executive summary of the full budget document, you mention that “Property values since 2008 have declined 36% in district 200” and go on to say “It is likely that the tax rate will continue to rise until the housing market in McHenry County recovers and property assessments begin to rise”
How can you possibly expect that the housing market will recover when our taxes continue to rise, due in large part to D200? And when those prospective homebuyers take a closer look and see that we are buying laptops and tablets for first graders, how could they possibly choose our area over another that is showing more fiscal discipline, like Huntley, for example?
D200 needs innovative solutions to this crisis. Yes, I said crisis. It is no longer a threat or a challenge or an opportunity area, it is a crisis,. When the people of this county pay more than 99% of the rest of the country in property taxes, and those taxes continue to increase, we have a crisis.
When our leaders’ strategy seems to be waiting for the market to recover, well, that’s not leadership, that’s cowardly.
I challenge you to bring back a budget with no increase in expenditures. Until you do more as leaders to bring down taxes in this area, you will be largely responsible for its demise.
Susan Handelsman said the following:
• This school Board’s cordiality to tif’s indicates we should expect no increase in commercial property tax revenue in the future. Tif’s divert all property tax revenues to developers, and other businesses know they can threaten jobs if not granted similar property tax abatements and public money giveaways.
Residential development cannot be reasonably anticipated, with Woodstock property tax rate at 5% while the national average is 1.5%, and as Woodstock’s aberrant high property tax is a significant deterrent to median income potential homebuyers’ abilities to qualify for a conventional mortgage loan.
Should new residential development occur, it would have to generate more than $6000 annual property tax per unit in order to break even with new costs generated. It is more likely that new residential development will require subsidization by existing homeowners.
• At 5% property tax rate, median household income families living in median priced homes must pay over 14% of household income to property taxes.
Compare this to national average of 3.6% of household expenditures for property taxes.
Woodstock residents must spend 10% more of expendable income than other Americans on property taxes. And that 10% has to come out of some other spending category.
Ironically that additional 10% more than wipes out the budget allocation that other private sector citizens are allowed to save for personal retirement.
• Where will the revenue for this school district come from in the future? Your 2012 budget projected EAV for this year at $1.08 billion. That projection was too high by over 40% as our EAV this year is $719 million.
Again ironically your devastating effect on property values has won you the ability to suspend statutory rate caps without referendum. You are taxing the maximum rate by law in these categories:
- Education Fund
- Operations and Maintenance Fund
- Special Education Fund
The tax rate cap has been lifted on the Transportation Fund so you are able to overtax in that category then transfer money to a different Fund later. But you will hit a ceiling there too, as established case law in Illinois leaves you civilly liable for excess accumulation in such funds.
• Maximum tax rate caps were established to protect taxpayers from overspending by those empowered to do so.
Creative accounting in order to bypass those protections might be needed when spending is for crucial needs and no other alternatives exist.
But examination of D200 spending category comparisons to other districts does not indicate crucial need.
Huntley D158, with 2800 more students than D200, spends the same as D200 on Operations and Maintenance. 2800 more students means Huntley serves 143% of D200’s enrollment (for the same cost).
Huntley D158 spends $360,000 less on School Administration than D200. That is, Huntley D158 spends 9% LESS than D200, although Huntley has 43% more students to administer to than D200.
We ask you to examine this budget in detail. Find ethical and constructive solutions to save money for taxpayers of Woodstock. You may not find any, but the appearance of making an effort would be good for town morale.