Looking at Costs and Benefits of Consolidating McHenry & Wonder Lake School Districts

The topic of consolidating elementary and high school districts into a unit school district keeps coming up.

Anytime a politician uses the work “consolidate” in connection with multiple tax districts, the public assumes there will be cost savings.

That is not necessarily true.

Take, for example, McHenry High School District 156 and its two feeder grade school districts, McHenry and Wonder Lake.

The Illinois Report Card has data that can be used to perform an elementary cost-benefit analysis.

First, let’s look at 2016 teacher salaries.

The high school district has 137 (Full Time Equivalent) teachers.

They earn an average of $70,051.

Harrison Grade School District 36 has 29 instructors earning an average of $40,878.

McHenry Elementary School District 15 has 137 teachers who earn, on average, $60,878.

If the three districts were combined, grade school teachers would dominate the resulting combined union.

337 elementary school teachers and 137 high school teachers.

So, what to do with salaries.

The grade school teachers, controlling the union, would insist on leveling up to what the high school teachers now earn.

The cost of equalization?

  • $3,044,272 for current McHenry Grade School teachers
  • $846,017 for those now in the Wonder Lake Grade School district



Looking at Costs and Benefits of Consolidating McHenry & Wonder Lake School Districts — 8 Comments

  1. Would need to know the average years of service for a more accurate calculation of equalizing salaries but the basic premises are still the same.

    That being, there are more elementary (preschool, grade school, middle school) teachers than high school teachers.

    And high school districts almost always pay better than elementary districts, if both the schools are in the same geographic area.

    In the past the state had given 3 or 4 year subsidies to the local school districts to offset the hiked costs in the early years.

    Not bothering to make it crystal clear the effect of the subsidies and the fact the subsidy would go away.

    And ignoring the fact that teacher pensions were underfunded and benefits had been hiked to those underfunded pensions for decades, so the state was once again acting fiscally irresponsible.


    There are many more factors to consider in consolidations / reorganizations.

    When a serious consolidation / reorganization effort is considered, a study is performed.

    But in any school district, the biggest costs are employee salaries and benefits.

  2. Plain and simple there are absolutely NO cost savings by consolidating elementary and high school districts.

    This has been studied for generations and the result is always the same.

    In 1988 the then governor ordered all counties to perform a “School District Reorganization” Study.

    Every school district in the State was involved.

    The results were the same through out the State.


    In McHenry County, the study resulted in the consolidation of the Union elementary district into the Marengo elementary district.

    The problem with this subject is that no one remember the previous studies because they were so long ago.

  3. You’d have to start all over with wages and the union’s would be against that.

    No one would want that if they are directly effected.

    Admin is payed relative to teachers so they would even want a freeze in wages.

    Without a total game of hard ball by tax payers, parents included, it’s CATCH 22.

  4. There is no way to know what the incremental labor costs would be.

    The analysis would require placing each individual teacher under the new agreement for components such as: Salary (based on a new Salary Table), Insurance, TRS pickup, Retirement incentives, etc.

    My guess would be that the D-36 teachers migrating to a new agreement would add cost.

    As to cost savings, there would be minimal savings coming out of D-36 administrative functions given its small size.

    One would have to look at whether an elementary school could be closed to generate any significant savings.

    Lastly, the voters of D-36 would have to approve the consolidation and which might be difficult given the fact that the D-15 Operating Tax Rate is slightly higher than their current D-36 tax rate.

  5. To really look at this from all angles,

    – We always complain that taxes are lower in Wisconsin and Indiana. Which they are. What is a budget like in an Indiana school district where there is separate high school and elementary districts, and the budget where there are ones combined as well? How are the teachers paid there and what is the overhead for the administration?

    – For every dollar we spend on schools in Crystal Lake, what is the percentage that goes to teachers and buildings, and what goes to admin? I know that was discussed before. Bottom line, the Huntley school district, which is combined, has a lower overall tax burden than the two districts in Crystal Lake. I checked.

    Of course, this would take a boatload of research to make sure there is apples to apples. And some of those districts may be funded differently by their respective states. And like Cal said, there’s the issue of teacher salaries if you were to consolidate.

  6. How bout this grade school teachers that “insist on leveling up”?

    Double the class size, cut administration by 20% and convert rediculous pensions to 401 K with what you actually contributed. Not the fairy tale pension, idiot school boards and Pols fantasized, to buy votes and placate freeloader parents.

    I’m done paying for other peoples free daycare.

  7. Shell game to cover

    For Mismanagement.

    I leave clear solution is forced early retirement for current crop of over pension employees, reduction on management roles and replacement with a large

    Pool of recent graduates with teaching degrees that cannot find work.

    The alternative is an unaffordable pension system that because of property taxes has forced many top earners who can leave are.

    3 more years and I am out.

    Already sold a high property taxes home for a much smaller tiny home saving $6k a year on property taxes alone.

    I was glad it sold, and can’t believe I was stupid enough to pay 10k a year in property taxes or that any new owner would.

    Turning point came from a relative with a 3500 sq ft home on 10 acres in southern Wisconsin told me they are paying 3000/year in taxes.

    They are just over an hour from Chicago.

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