School Board President Reflects on Not Being Able to Raise Levies Without a Referendum

Cary Grade School Board President cogitates on what tax districts having to pass a referendum before raising their tax levies would look like:

It’s interesting to extrapolate what things would look like after several years of freezes.

I think most taxing bodies (i.e. Villages, Counties, Park districts, Libraries, etc.) can modify their spending to live in an environment of no levy growth.

However, given that school districts are the most reliant on property taxes to fund operations (usually 75+%), I think you’ll see deficits almost immediately in many districts.

School boards are reluctant to implement operating expense reductions to match revenues combined with long-term labor contracts which carry guaranteed salary increases over 3% and most districts will quickly find themselves with an unsustainable financial structure.

If the legislature further compounds the problem by passing legislation to modify school funding resulting in a re-distribution of funding away from suburban districts and into Chicago and downstate districts, you’ll find very few districts able to keep their head above water.

And finally, if the legislature pushes more cost onto the districts to prop up the massively unfunded pension funds, you would be hard-pressed to find anybody that wouldn’t be running in the red.

Its not hard to envisage a scenario 4-5 years from now when a voter looks at their ballot and finds 7-10 referenda for their consideration from each taxing body, each asking for a tax increase.

(The County wants 3%, the school district wants 4%, the village wants 2%, Park district wants 5% … etc.)

How is the average voter supposed to effectively evaluate the merits of each request and vote appropriately?


School Board President Reflects on Not Being Able to Raise Levies Without a Referendum — 8 Comments

  1. Teachers’ unions would lose much of their ability to pit one local school district against another, and their ability to extort wage increases from school boards would be greatly diminished.

    Teachers who wanted to make more money would have a choice of trying to get hired by a wealthier district, or else changing careers and moving into the private sector.

    There, they would soon discover that even a graduate level degree in education won’t buy them much respect in the job market.

  2. While the post is an insightful analysis, objections to imperfections are no longer relevant.

    At property tax rates higher than mortgage interest rates, triple the national average, we have been pushed into survival mode.

    Taxpayers pushed against the wall must grasp at any straw offered.

  3. I’m for any BINDING measure that will cut taxes.

    In the real world, we base spending decisions on how much money we have.

    In the government, they base taxing decisions on how much money they want to spend.

    This has to change.

  4. I’m a bit disappointed in this reflection, and this highlights the need for a tax freeze!

    You point out that boards are reluctant to reduce cost, or consider long-term impacts of employment contracts – and I agree with you, BUT this points out why something needs to be done to force a change in thinking.

    D26 did not just decide to improve their finances, they were backed in to a corner.

    It was necessity that led to improvements, we need this same necessity and urgency within all our taxing bodies.

    And the average voter?

    Maybe when they have control over who gets their tax money this year, they will spend some time to get educated on the issues – and learn if they elected the right people to office!

    Maybe more people will actually come out and vote when they have direct control over their property taxes.

    But it may take the next step – when they (the tax payer) starts to feel the pain, as their kids classroom is forced to 35 kids, or services they took for granted are cut – before they take steps to become involved.

  5. What pushed District 26 into a corner was the teachers’ union gaining control of the school board.

  6. They (the administrators) must learn to run the schools on the money we give them, not the money they think they can TAKE from us. As of now the tail is wagging the dog.

  7. Understand one thing people: Freeze property tax and you will see an onslaught of teacher ads demanding more State Level funding.

    You will see school children parents marching with teacher unions to demand an increase in state level funding,

    In other words, this is an end run to increase the income tax, freeze property tax but do NOTHING to slow down or stop the wasteful spending in public education.

    Start reducing cost by eliminating ALL those social workers in schools!!

  8. The teachers can whine and hold their breath until they’re blue in the face, but I don’t think that there is much chance that the State of Illinois is going to come up with a bunch of new money to bail out the schools. Illinois would still be broke even if the General Assembly passes a massive tax increase.

    I hope they keep the income tax where it is and we let the pension funds die on the vine. We will find out once and for all whether or not the Illinois Supreme Court really has the power to force the legislature to raise taxes. I’m betting no.

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