Former CL High School School Board Candidate Calls Out Board Members Who Beat Him

In an extensive article by former Northwest Herald Editor Dan McCabe, now working for the Illinois News Network under former NWH Managing Editor Chris Krug, McCabe sites the impending tax hike vote on the Crystal Lake High School District 155 Board.

John Peltz ran for that school board in April’s election, but lost.

Unlike most unsuccessful candidates, Peltz did not sit at home in a funk.

He continuing attending Board meetings.

Yesterday he wrote a letter to the NWH urging people to contact high school board members.

And McCaleb weighed in as well.

Here’s what he wrote about the high school district he still works in:

McCaleb: Illinois state motto should be changed to ‘More’

Dan McCaleb, 2012 photo.

Case in point: It’s tax-levy season in Illinois, which means many local governing bodies will be deciding whether they want to increase, decrease, or hold steady the amount of property taxes they collect from their home and business owners next year.

And my local high school district – yes, like many Illinoisans, I pay property taxes to two separate school districts – is a prime example of the “more” mentality.

Enrollment has been shrinking at Crystal Lake-based School District 155’s four primary high schools since 2009, by nearly 500 students in total, or 7 percent.

A consultant hired by the district is predicting accelerated enrollment decline for the next 10 years, or a 30 percent reduction overall.

It recommends consolidating the district’s four high schools into three, which would save the district $4 million in annual operating costs.

The consultant also said D-155 has more administrators in all four schools and its central office than other districts.

Crystal Lake Central High School could be closed, if a consultant’s suggestion is followed.

And according to ISBE, D-155 has enough money in reserve to fund operations for about a full calendar year if it didn’t receive another dime of tax revenue.

Despite all of this, a majority of District 155 school board members say the district still needs more money from taxpayers.

Board members in support and the district’s administration say the tax increase is needed to fund about $50 million in maintenance projects that have been put off in recent years.

It’s, well, outrageous.

In front of a crowded room of taxpayers who said they can’t possibly give more, the board ignored them last week and tentatively approved a 4.45 percent levy increase that would raise property taxes on beleaguered homeowners by $3.2 million across the district.

The district’s governing body will make its final decision next month.

Like me, many of the district’s other taxpayers aren’t buying it.

Crystal Lake resident and business owner John Pletz questions the need for a levy increase.

John Peltz, when a candidate for the Crystal Lake High School Board.

Pletz, who ran for a seat on the school board in the spring and lost, said the district does a good job educating students, but noted its expenses have increased significantly over the past several years despite enrollment declines and a handful of teacher reductions.

“Nine years ago, it cost about $9,000 a year to teach a student” in D-155, Pletz said.

“Now, it’s $16,000. We get a great product.

“The problem is, why does it cost 60 percent more?”

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You can find more Illinois News Network stories here.

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Here’s the Cut 10 logo being used in Jack Franks’ campaign. It’s carries a promise that Lying Jack Franks has not begun to deliver.

A commenter calls me out for not reprinting Jack Franks’ quote about being able to find money to cut in the budget.

Why would I doubt that he would come to the meeting with specific suggestions?

The same reason I criticized him for his bogus Cut 10 campaign.

Impressionable voters were led to believe that the real estate taxes on their homes would be cut 10%, if he were elected.

Those with but a small understanding of the property tax system knew that a County Board Chairman would have no impact whatsoever on the levies of school districts.

I welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong.

Let Franks show how the District 155 budget can be cut 10% and, then, convince his allies and supporters on the school board to vote such a cut.


Former CL High School School Board Candidate Calls Out Board Members Who Beat Him — 19 Comments

  1. Sickening abuse.

    We need to stop electing former teachers and spouses to the school boards.

  2. Cal,
    You missed a quote from the article – don’t worry, I’ll shin some sun on this sunshine blog:

    “Franks, seemingly one of the few Illinois politicians who understands that less is actually more, challenged the school board to do what’s best for taxpayers in the district.

    “If we [the county] can do 11, I guarantee they can do it,” he said. “Even though the county is cutting 11 percent, if you live in that area, you’re going to see a property tax increase. … Let me look at their budget. I bet I can find a few million dollars.”

    Pay attention to what your local units of government are doing with their tax levies.

    Chances are, at least some are increasing them so they can have more.”

  3. He has enough time to point out suggested savings.

    If Allen Skillicorn can attend a meeting to ask for cuts, I would think Jack Franks could, too.

  4. What a laughable excuse.

    You literally included all the ext of the article UP TO Franks’ mentioning.

    Five Pinnochios for you, Junior.

  5. I have been trying to get Franks to weigh in on Woodstock CUSD 200 for 4 years and he has remained silent in word, deed, electronically, in written form, and any other medium which might be recorded by the human ear or eye.

    If he has something to say, or do, or will help, for god’s sake please I beg YOU, I beg HIM, I beg ANYONE in this County who ever encounters him, TELL FRANKS:


    WE ARE IN A SEVERE CRISIS, at 4.2% PROPERTY TAX RATES, A CONTINUALLY DECLINING EAV (aside from Equalization Factors which do not equate to property values justifying higher sales’ prices), declining enrollment, and refusal by D200 Administration and School Board to EVER cut spending at all.

    HELP US!

  6. I will kiss his ass on the Courthouse Square if he does ANYTHING to pressure Woodstock D200 Admin/School Board to lower their levy below the statutory maximums in their Education Fund, Ops&Maintenance Fund, Special Ed Fund, or Life&Safety Fund in the next budget.

  7. Three points:

    1) D155 hired a consultant? The best estimate of the number of high school seniors in ten years is the number of 3rd graders in the district today, and that number is known. Hiring a consultant was pure waste.

    2) According to the Illinois Report Card, D155’s average teacher salary in FY2016 was over $87,000. The average teacher salary at Richmond-Burton CHSD 157 was $55,600, at Marengo CHSD 154, $68,000, and at McHenry CHSD 156, $70,000.

    3) At the risk of blaspheming, D155 does NOT do a good job educating our students. If they did a good job, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards would be higher than average. Sadly, that percentage is lower than average.

    According to the Illinois Report Card, only 23.4% of D155’s students meet or exceed standards and are ready for the next grade. The state average — and that includes Chicago — is 34%.

    Worse, such statistics are most closely correlated with income in the community, a useful proxy for which is the percentage of students who are low income: 15.7% in D155 versus 22% for the state.

    So D155 has fewer low income students but worse than average test scores and far higher than average teacher salaries.

  8. I’m sorry, I had a typo:

    “Cal literally included all the text of the article UP TO Franks’ mentioning. Five Pinocchios for, Junior.”

    @Susan – Maybe if you want to work to cut taxes, you can work with the board. Or, you can run for office. Granted if both the board and the voters don’t want you as a citizen evangelist, then possibly maybe it’s not them, it’s you…. just a thought.

  9. I did run.

    I lost by 10% of a 15% voter turnout.

    My notations are time stamped records of history.

    I know the bad guys always win, but I want to at least try to leave a footprint on the sand, that some people tried to stop them.

  10. Work with the board?

    I have showed up at almost all meetings in past several years.

    I have presented source-cited evidence of the profligacy of their decade-long overspending and the comparisons of other districts all over the county state and country achieving better results with lower expenditures.

  11. Bell California is a good case study comparison for the point Fairplay(Moderate-reboot) is inferring:
    a low-voter-turnout community is ripe to be strip-mined by public employees who can pay themselves extraordinary amounts without recourse, and any citizen who points out these anomalies is to be attacked.

    But the original point was:


  12. I have two points:

    I’m sure Jack Franks is for reigning in spending and you should continue your fight because it does benefit us all.


    Cal Skinner omitted the only positive Jack Franks part of the article because Jack didn’t attend the meeting. Cal’s actions are, frankly speaking, as hilarious as they are petty.

  13. HOW are you sure JF is for reining in spending?

    can you exert pressure on him to make his efforts more public?

    Thank you for the help, I mean that from my heart.

  14. If “Fair Play” knows this little about what Susan Handlesman has done over the years to save money in District 200, he or she is certainly started reading McHenry County Blog recently.

  15. One of the district’s key problems is inflated teacher salaries which is self-inflicted.

    In fact, the levy presentation indicated that one of the two main reasons for the max levy request was the contractual increases built into the teacher’s contract.

    This is further exacerbated by the relentless decline in enrollment.

    The impact of de-leveraging is crushing when the Board fails to adjust appropriately.

    I don’t fault the Board for hiring an independent consulting firm to analyze facilities options.

    Neither the administration or the board members have the capability to adequately perform that analysis.

    What I do fault the Board on is the complete failure to move forward upon the recommendations generated from the study.

    It is completely clear that one of the buildings needs to be closed due to declining enrollment and the significant future capital expenditures that will be required in a building like CL Central HS.

    As to the study’s recommendation to outsource food service at the remaining two schools, the Board completely screwed that up as well.

    They voted to outsource the service but failed to eliminate the 16+ district food service positions at those two schools.

    So the savings will be ZERO.

    I spent some time on the phone with their CFO on this topic and I give him credit for trying to defend the indefensible.

    Which brings us to the second reason identified for the max levy request, which was the need to fund a significant stream of capital expenditures over the next 6 years totalling $48.8 million.

    This is on top of the $45+ million in CapEx the district spent over just the past 4 years.

    That’s $94.2 million over a 10 year stretch.

    In fact D-155 issued $19 million in debt in ’14 and ’15 to provide the cash necessary for some of those projects.

    These bonds won’t be paid off (or come off the tax levy) until 2033.

    I seriously question the wisdom of issuing 20-year debt with interest rates maxing out at 5% when the district is sitting on more than $100 million in Cash yielding less than 1%.

    This voracious pace of capital spending is a serious management problem.

    D-155 spent $11.1 million last year and is prepared to spend at least $11.3 million this year.

    I asked the CFO when the last time the Board approved a Request For Qualifications for architectural services.

    He did not know.

    his is something Boards should do periodically, and, I think, a part of the problem.

    The district’s architects have been a significant beneficiary of the district’s robust capital spending the last several years.

    They have been receiving approximately $1 million/year in fees over the last 4 years per the district’s Annual Statement of Affairs reports.

    Thus, it should come as no surprise that the key document, the Facilities Condition Analysis report (FCA), produced by the architects, would suggest spending another $48.8 million over the next 6 years.

    This FCA report provides the foundation for the justification of the levy request presentation.

    Two problems exist for using it in this manner, other than the obvious conflict of interest in the firm that produced it, is that:

    1) The administration adopted the numbers without evaluating, adjusting or editing any of the proposed projects which is standard practice. They incorporated them into the levy presentation as published. And,

    2) The FCA report has not yet even been presented to the Board for review. So, the Board voted to increase our taxes the maximum allowed under the law predicated on projections from a report that they have not yet seen or approved.

    Lastly, regarding any discussion on fund balance levels, it looks like D-155 finished FY17 with a fund balance of $55.1 million, subject to any audit adjustments.

    It should be noted that D-155 employs a levy revenue recognition accounting principle of deferring 100% of their levy revenue.

    In other words, the annual levy of roughly $73 million, of which half is received in June of 2017 and the remaining half is received in September of 2017, is entirely deferred into the 17-18 school year even though half of it was received in the 16-17 school year.

    Many districts utilize a 50/50 recognition principle based upon constructive receipt of that first levy payment.

    The effect of a 100% deferral principle is to understate year-end fund balance, in this case about $36.5 million.

    The deferrals explain most of the variance between the district’s usual Cash balance of $100+ million at year-end and its Fund balance of $55-$60 million.

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