Scott Coffey Sings Chris Spoerl’s Praises for County Board

This testimonial from current Cary School District Board President Scott Coffey appeared under the article reporting that McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks has nominated Chris Sproel to replace Andrew Gasser on the County Board.

┬áChris Spoerl’s Role in Righting Decimated Finances in the Cary Grade School District

Board members will vote Thursday on whether to ratify Franks’ choice.

To refresh your memory, Mr. Spoerl was elected to the Board in the spring of 2009.

By the end of that year, the State indicated that they would take over D-26 if the district didn’t make substantial changes to its operating cost structure after having run 9 consecutive annual deficits.

That triggered the resignation of several existing members which resulted in Mr. Spoerl becoming president and my appointment to one of the open spots.

The Board immediately began the restructuring process which resulted in the closure of a school, the layoff of more than 100 employees, and the elimination of many programs.

The net effect was a roughly 20% in operating expenses that generated the district’s first balanced budget for FY11 in over 9 years.

With the significant cuts and a balanced budget, the voters approved a working cash bond referendum in November 2010 to recapitalize our balance sheet and prevent the State from taking over the district.

After 9 years of deficits, I believe our Education Fund balance stood at negative $10 million and the successful referendum eliminated our need to issue Tax Anticipation Warrants every year and eliminated the takeover threat.

The Board then immediately pivoted to the renegotiation process of the expiring union contract.

Some may remember how difficult and drawn out those negotiations were.

The process concluded with an affordable and sustainable contract that resulted in a reduction in salaries/benefits and the elimination of the retirement incentives of 4 year/6% spikes and $20K bonuses.

Since Mr. Spoerl’s departure 4 years ago, the Board has been able to build off the groundwork that was done during his tenure to execute the long term plan to move from the restructuring phase, to a rebuild phase, to a position where district is now better off under just about any metric while maintaing an affordable cost structure.

I think Chris has the right skill sets and financial acumen necessary to be extremely successful in this position.

It was no small task in leading the effort in pulling off what one banker told me was a miracle in turning around what was, financially, the worst district in the State.

If County Board members want someone that has a proven record of reducing costs, analyzing alternatives, setting effective long term strategy, and developing consensus, all while operating under the most extreme adverse circumstances, then I can think of no one more qualified than Chris Spoerl.


Scott Coffey Sings Chris Spoerl’s Praises for County Board — 3 Comments

  1. Good relevant information.


    The following is a note about school district finances.

    School districts receive funding from Federal, state, and local sources.

    A big problem is the financial condition of the pension funds (TRS and IMRF) is not considered during local collective bargaining, and not seriously considered during state and local budgets

    The State’s TRS pension pickup (on behalf of the school district), now appears, although not prominently, and not in easy to understand language for the average taxpayer, in school district audited financial reports, per GASB 68.

    It also appears in an annual document released by the pension funds.

    The unfunded liability is referred to in the financial reports as net pension liability.

    The unfunded liability is the taxpayer IOU to the pension fund.

    For decades the local salary hikes, state funding to local school districts (General State Aid aka GSA, and categorical funded such as bus transportation, special education, etc.), legislative pension benefit hikes, and retiree healthcare benefit hikes have not seriously taken into account the pension and retiree healthcare underfunded amount.

    Now the situation has spiraled out of control.

    A huge problem is taxpayers pay interest on that pension unfunded liability.

    The interest on the unfunded liability reflects money is lacking in the pension fund.

    Since the investment return on zero is zero, actuaries add interest to the unfunded liability.

    That interest reflects taxpayers must come up with the money since that investment return was zero.

    That interest is amortized over the funding schedule, which per the Edgar ramp is through the year 2045.

    Actuaries typically recommend a 20 year schedule to get pensions 100% funded, not a 50 year schedule to get pensions 90% funded as in the Edgar Ramp).


    The audited AFR is not the AFR required by and submitted to ISBE.


    Hopefully more people will look at and report on the the net pension liability in school district audited AFRs.

    The net pension liability is reflected on an annual and cumulative basis in the audited AFRs, so it can be confusing to the average taxpayer.

    Good legislation or practice would be to describe the net pension liability to local and state taxpayers.

    But those who created the mess, and those benefiting from the mess right now, are not interested in exposing the mess.

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