Encouragement To Attend District 155 Tax Hike Meeting Tonight

From a Friend of McHenry County Blog:

Hey Everyone,

I hope some of you can join John Peltz at this meeting tonight. [Board Policy Committee Meeting Agenda, November 14, 2017, 7:30 p.m., Center for Education, One South Virginia Road, Crystal Lake.]

(NOTE to John Pletz, thank you for all your awesome work!!).

Based on the agenda (as you all probably have figured out) I think the D155 Board wants to appease us, the taxpayer, by giving us an abatement of some, or all of the tax levy that they will vote on later in the month.

An abatement is sort of a phony way to deal with the tax increase, because an abatement permits the taxing body in question to RAISE the levy, but then not actually charge the taxpayer some or all of the increase for that year.

Now the following year the taxing body is positioned to raise the levy at the increased level from the last year.

Thus, the hit is far more substantial, and worse yet, they are positioned to continue their overcharging of the taxpayer at a time when taxpayers are furious and when enrollment has been steadily going down!

Your comments can help them to rethink their strategy and to let them know of your concerns as well.

Rosemary Kurtz and Jason Blake are the two board members who stated they will NOT vote for the levy increase. So we only need 2 more votes to vote down the levy increase.

Here are some facts to quote or may help you illustrate concerns you have:

1) Since the height of enrollment in D155 in 2009 when enrollment was at 6,988, enrollment has DECLINED to 6,516 in 2016 (see p. 109 in CAFR – which is attached). A total of 472 students, or approx. 7% fewer students now attend as of 2016. 2017 was projected to be even fewer numbers of students that are currently attending. (see the data on Historical and Projected enrollment, p. vi).

2) While enrollment has gone down, during the same period, employment has increased.

# of Administrators: 2009 = 28 / 2016 = 56 – 100% increase

Total # of Employees: 2009 = 668 / 2016 = 737 – Approx. 10%
(p. 107 of CAFR)

3) Amount of Days of Cash on Hand (Most School Districts have a policy stating 90 to 120 days of Cash on Hand is sufficient, i.e. District 47 and District 300) versus D155 which has 359 days of cash on hand! (p. 108 in the CAFR).

Editorial comment: Having this much cash on hand amounts to overcharging the taxpayer by taking more money than necessary and keeping it in the bank.

The responsible approach is to spend this reserve down to the 90 -120 days.

The CAFR is the Comprehensive Accounting and Financial Report, 2016.

It is a required report for all Illinois units of government and is extremely interesting.

Lots of good stuff to learn about. I have attached a copy.


Encouragement To Attend District 155 Tax Hike Meeting Tonight — 15 Comments

  1. One budget problem is pensions.


    Paying more money to teachers and administrators via the local school district budget impacts the underfunded TRS pension, which is a state liability.

    Thus a local salary hikes results in more money that state taxpayers owe to the TRS pension fund.

    The underfunded TRS pension is the single largest taxpayer problem in Illinois.

    One sentence was added to the state constitution in 1970, stating the public sector pension benefits are contractual and cannot be diminished or impaired.


    Restated, taxpayers, not local taxpayers, owe money to TRS for the unfunded liability for CHSD 155 teachers and administrator pensions.

    That is a problematic dynamic.


    The teacher and administrator pension game that has been played for decades is as follows.

    State hiked pension benefits.

    Local hikes salaries.

    State blames local for the salary hikes.

    Local blamed state for the pension benefit hikes.


    The taxpayers get the bill while state and local quibble.

    The special interest groups help reelect the quibblers.

    The state constitution enables the scheme.


    The disclosure on unfunded pension and retiree healthcare liabilities attributed to school districts is convoluted:

    – Two pension systems (TRS & IMRF)

    – TRS unfunded liability is a state liability

    – TRIP / THIS retiree healthcare

    – Some districts award special retiree healthcare to administrators


    The best source of information on all that is the audited annual financial report or comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) of the local school district.


    The most current CHSD 155 CAFR is dated June 30, 2016.

    The fiscal year for school districts ends June 30th.



    The TRS unfunded liability attributed to CHSD 155 is $177 million and is found here:

    CHSD 155 FY 2016 CAFR

    pdf page 61 (document page 43)


    Here is the verbiage from that page:

    Employer’s proportionate share of the net pension liability – $4,813,820

    State’s proportionate share of the net pension liability associated with the employer – $172,772,961

    Total – $177,586,781


    State taxpayers owe $177,586,781 for the TRS unfunded liability attributed to CHSD 155 operations.


    Let’s add in the Crystal Lake Police and Fire unfunded liabilities from a previous comment in another blog post today, and the percent funded.



    State and local taxpayer IOUs to pension funds as the result of government operations in Crystal Lake

    pension fund – unfunded liability – percent funded

    TRS attributed to CHSD 155 (state taxpayers) – $172,772,961 – less than 40% funded (60% unfunded)

    Crystal Lake Fire (local taxpayers) – $12,992,518 – 70% funded (30% unfunded)

    Crystal Lake Police (local taxpayers) – $24,596,154 – 59% funded (61% unfunded)

    Total – $210,361,633

    That is a partial list and does not include IMRF, and does not include other units of government, and does not include Federal.


    Why is TRS so important if it is a state liability?

    Because the state funds various local units of government.

    More money to pensions results in less money for other purposes.


    Local and state will keep hiking taxes and fees over the long term.

    Where do you think pensions funds are going to get $210 million.

    From the taxpayers that remain in Illinois, unless some other solution is found.


    Since he is the most visible local politician to support cutting property taxes, and he has an actual campaign to cut property taxes named Cut 10, what is the Jack Franks solution to find $210 million just for some Crystal Lake pensions (parts of CHSD 155 are in other municipalities such as Cary, Fox River Grove, etc.).

    Now Mr. Franks is proposing school districts cut their budget.

    However, Mr. Franks is not proposing how to fully fund pensions and retiree healthcare while cutting property taxes.

    How does CHSD 155 and the City of Crystal Lake, cut its budget and yet fully fund pensions?

    Impossible over the long haul.

    Any short term cut is a gimmick.


    While most school districts could be run more efficiently, as Mr. Coffey has described many times, another problem is the underfunded pensions.

    Unless pension benefits are cut for existing employees, there will be a need to eventually hike taxes.

    Since the public sector employees do not want to cut their hiked benefits, one option is for local units of government to eventually run out of money to operate.

    Even if that does eventually happen, taxes will be hiked and services cut until that point is reached.


    The solution to the underfunded pensions will first play out in some struggling community in Illinois.

    No doubt the public sector employees hope for a state or Federal bailout, which would mean more taxpayer money to fund benefits that were hiked while pensions were underfunded.

  2. Restated, state taxpayers, not local taxpayers, owe money to TRS for the unfunded liability for CHSD 155 teacher and administrator pensions.

  3. Here is another correction.

    State and local taxpayer IOUs to pension funds as the result of government operations in Crystal Lake:

    Pension Fund – Unfunded Liability – Percent Funded

    TRS attributed to CHSD 155 (state taxpayers) – $177,586,781 – less than 40% funded (60% unfunded)

    Crystal Lake Fire (local taxpayers) – $12,992,518 – 70% funded (30% unfunded)

    Crystal Lake Police (local taxpayers) – $24,596,154 – 59% funded (61% unfunded)

    Total – $215,175,453

    That is a partial list and does not include IMRF, and does not include other units of government, and does not include Federal.


    Another way to look at it is taxpayers owe $215 million right now to 3 pension funds.

    That is the amount that should be in the pension funds, but is not.

    Since the investment return on zero is zero, the money that is not in the pension fund, is earning zero investment return.

    The taxpayers are eventually forced to make up the lost investment returns in the form of interest payments.

  4. Following is a document containing an explanation of how the levy fits into the property tax cycle in Illinois.

    In a nutshell, the levy and EAV is used by the County Clerk to calculate the tax rate for each property taxing district.

    The tax rates and taxes will appear on property tax bills which are due June 1, 2018 and September 1, 2018.


    Illinois Department of Revenue

    The Illinois Property Tax System

    document number PTAX-1004 (R-03/17)

    Page 8

    Budget, Levy, Tax Extension, and Collection Cycle


  5. Once again, a major problem with CHSD 155 is they do not produce a board agenda packet.

    A board agenda packet would contain all the documents to be discussed at the board meeting, on one pdf.

    To make matters worse, CHSD 155 does not even bother to post all the documents to be discussed at the board meeting, much less consolidate the documents into one pdf.


    Board agenda packets should have the following two characteristics.

    1. Searchable using the find feature in Adobe.

    2. Allow copy from the document and paste to another document, to consolidate information.


    Here is the CHSD 155 School Board website that does not contain board agenda packets.

    http://www.d155.org > School Board


    Here are the CHSD 155 school board members who do not feel the urge to post the documents to be discussed at regular board meetings:

    Adam Guss – President

    Jason Blake – Vice-President

    Amy Blazier

    Rosemary Kurtz

    Ron Ludwig

    Nicole Pavoris

    Dave Secrest


    Some of the people who read this blog not doubt have attended a business meeting.

    Could you imagine going to the meeting, and not having access to the documents being discussed at the meeting?

  6. Here is the current convoluted URL to the CHSD 155 Board of Education Meeting Agendas.


    That URL contains the few documents the board posts for board meetings.


    Also funny in a twisted way.

    Taxpayers wonder why their property taxes are high.

    Could a contributing factor be because CHSD does not adequately disclose documents at board meetings?

    Not illegal, but not transparent.

    The taxpayer would have to know what documents to FOIA, and then submit a FOIA request for the documents.


    The convoluted URL’s are another problem in CHSD 155.

    The URL’s should be simplified.

  7. Beginning on April 18, 2017, the CHSD 155 Board did begin videotaping and archiving regular board meetings.


    Many other school districts have been doing so for many years.

    Here is the URL to the CHSD 155 Board channel on YouTube which contain an archive of the videotaped board meetings.



    The URL to that channel could also be simplified.


    The regular board meetings begin with a rah rah session about the schools, featuring administration, teachers, and / or students.

    That is telling in the context the board does not provide a board agenda packet.

    So begin the meeting with rah rah, but do not provide taxpayers with the documents to be discussed at the meeting.

    The board feels it is more important to provide rah rah sessions than provide documentation to taxpayers on what is being discussed at the board meeting.

    Rah rah over transparency in CHSD 155.

    Can’t imagine why taxes might be high in that unit of government.

  8. No clue.

    That would be a complicated calculation as there are active employees and retirees, each with a unique life expectancy, final average salary, years of service, etc.

    Do not believe anyone has ever attempted such a calculation of the proportionate share of a pension unfunded liability attributed to a specific or employee or even the average for all employees and retirees.


    There is no state produced report, which discloses clearly and in plain language capable of being understood by an average taxpayer, the unfunded pension liability allocated to each school district.

    The TRS Actuary Reports contain technical data that the average taxpayer cannot interpret.

    Thus, it is impossible for most taxpayers to look at a TRS actuarial report and determine the unfunded liability attributed to a specific school district.

    The vocabulary is not taxpayer friendly, it changes, and the location of the data changes from year to year in the report.

    Furthermore, once the numbers are located, there are huge changes from year to year, with no explanation, at least in the case of CHSD 155.


    Some history.

    School districts first began reporting employer and state “proportionate share” of the TRS unfunded liability in fiscal year 2015 CAFRs.

    The school district report is based on the TRS actuary report from the prior year.

    Thus a school district FY 2016 CAFR contains unfunded liability data from a TRS FY 2015 actuary report.


    The verbiage found in the school district CAFRs which lists the TRS unfunded liability allocated to that school district, indicated in a previous comment above, is:

    “Employer’s proportionate share of the net pension liability” – x

    “State’s proportionate share of the net pension liability associated with the employer” – y

    “Total” – z.

    Total means the total unfunded liability allocated (attributed) to that school district, the majority of which is a state liability.


    The unfunded liability verbiage in school district CAFRs is different than the verbiage in the TRS GASB 68 actuary reports.

    The TRS GASB 68 actuary reports are found here:



    First the TRS GASB 68 actuary report for TRS FY 2014.


    GASB period for year ending 2014

    Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois

    Information Required Under Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement No. 68

    Based on Measurement Period Ending June 30, 2014

    Report released August 11, 2015

    by Buck Consultants, division of Xerox.

    Table 3.1 Summary of Results by Employer and State of Illinois

    Look at page 23 to locate CHSD 155.

    TRS identifies CHSD 155 as “Community HSD 155” and TRS Code “063-1550.”

    First the TRS unfunded liability for CHSD 155 that is allocated to the school district; per the school district CAFR:

    “Employer’s proportionate share of the net pension liability” in the FY 2015 school district CAFR.

    Next the verbiage from the TRS 68 actuary report is, “Current Net Pension Liability at Current Discount Rate (7.50%)” which is column 6 in the 2014 TRS actuarial report on page 23.

    That number is $8,028,083.


    Next the TRS unfunded liability allocated to CHSD 155 that is a state responsibility.

    In the FY 2015 school district CAFR, that information is identified as, “State’s proportionate share of the net pension liability associated with the employer.

    In the FY 2014 TRS GASB 68 actuarial report, that information is identified as, “Employer’s Share of State’s Current Year NPL for RSI, per Paragraph 81” which is the last column on page 23 of the FY 2014 TRS actuarial report.

    That number is $429,875,886


    Have not located the total of those two figures in the FY 2014 TRS GASB 68 actuarial report.

    The total $437,903,969 is found in the school district FY 2015 CAFR.


    Next the FY 2015 TRS GASB 68 Actuary Report is similar in format to the FY 2014 report.

    However, the numbers are drastically different.

    Instead of using the format above, let’s summarize all the years.


    Here is a table summarizing the CHSD 155 unfunded liability reported in the TRS GASB 68 Actuary Reports.

    TRS GASB 68 Actuary Report Year / School District CAFR Year – school district allocation + state allocation = total allocation

    2014 / 2015 – $8,028,083 + $429,875,886 = $437,903,969

    2015 / 2016 – $4,813,820 + $172,772,961 = $177,586,781

    2016 / 2017 – $7,517,636 + $390,396,605 = $397,914,241


    Those are huge swings in the TRS unfunded liability allocated to CHSD 155.


    More confusion to the average taxpayer, with no clear explanation to the taxpayer, is found in the TRS GASB 68 Actuary report.

    In particular, the employer allocation of the TRS unfunded liability.

    That allocation is in quotes below.

    Note the verbiage changes.


    2014 – “Current Net Pension Liability at Current Discount Rate (7.50%)” – column 6, page 23.

    2015 – “Current Net Pension Liability at Current Discount Rate (7.47%)” – column 5, page 23.

    2016 – “Net Pension Liability” – column 4, page 43.

    In 2016, current discount rate must be calculated by subtracting the next two columns.

    That discount rate is 6.83%.


    The name of the table in which that data is located also changes.

    2014 – 3.1 Summary of Results by Employer and State of Illinois

    2015 – 3.1 Summary of Results by Employer and State of Illinois

    2016 – EXHIBIT E Schedule of Pension Amounts by Employer as of June 30, 2016


    The name of the consultant hired to prepare the report also changed

    2014 – Buck Consultants, division of Xerox

    2015 – Buck Consultants, division of Xerox

    2016 – Segal Consulting


    The most current figure is taxpayers owe $397,914,241 to TRS for CHSD 155 TRS pensions.

  9. So here’s the updated chart of the amount taxpayers owe CHSD 155 (TRS only), Crystal Lake Fire, and Crystal Lake Police pensions.

    CHSD 155 (state taxpayers) – $397,914,241 (from 2016 TRS GASB 68 actuary report) – less than 40% funded.

    Crystal Lake Fire (local taxpayers) – $12,992,518 (from IL Dept of Insurance Public Pension Division 2017 Biennial Report covering years 2015 & 2016) – 70% funded (30% unfunded)

    Crystal Lake Police (local taxpayers) – $24,596,154 (form IL Dept of Insurance Public Pension Division 2017 Biennial Report covering years 2015 & 2016) – 59% funded (61% unfunded)

    Total – $435,502,913


    That is $435 million dollars that should be in the pension funds but is not.

    Remember the investment return on zero is zero.

    Remember, taxpayers make up 100% of the lost investment returns, as these are defined benefit pension funds.

    Let’s use a 5% rate of return, which is lower than the expected return for those pension funds.

    $435,000,000 x .05 = $21,750,000.

    That is $21 million dollars in lost investment returns, aka pension interest.

    This is the problem with an unfunded liability.

    Taxpayers at some point are liable for pension interest.


    There is a cost to an unfunded liability, just as there is a cost to a car loan, bond referendum, or credit card.

    An unfunded pension liability means taxpayers are financing a shortfall in the pension fund.

    An unfunded pension liability means in the long run, the pensions are more expensive.

    An analogy is when one purchases something with a credit card and does not pay off the balance that billing period, the item purchased becomes more expensive.

  10. Tax increases for everyone.

    The teachers won one more tax increase.

    And please, it Pletz, like” lets’ be friends, with a P at the front and a Z at the end.

    Mark, you are a numbers guy and I like people who get the numbers.

    Thanks for the bump Cal, you helped fill the room.

  11. They once again ignored taxpayers.

    Shame on this school board.

    Let’s hope they all get voted out next election.

  12. A recap of some of some events pertaining to the CHSD 155 2017 Tax Levy.

    If CHSD 155 posted a board agenda packet for its regular board meetings, the “Resolutions Authorizing the Final Tax Levy for Year 2017” would have been in the packet for public viewing prior to last nights board meeting.

    Convincing the CHSD 155 Board to post a board agenda packet prior to board meetings would be in the best interest of CHSD 155 taxpayers.

    There is no good reason for the board not to post a board agenda packet.

    Not posting a board agenda packet allows the board to hide documents to be discussed at board meetings from the public.


    McHenry County Blog

    District 155 Announces 13 Layoffs

    March 22, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    CL District 155 Teachers’ Slate Leading “Tax Cutting” Candidates

    April 4, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    Teacher Union Candidates Win in CL District 155

    April 5, 2017


    Of the four winning candidates, three were endorsed by the teacher union, and the fourth was invited to a teacher union event which invited only the four winning candidates.

    The winning candidates were Ron Ludwig, Jason Blake, David Secrest, and Nicole Pavoris.


    McHenry County Blog

    Franks Loses Three Races

    April 5, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    Two Days After Election, Crystal Lake High School District Announces Fee Increases for Books & Athletics

    April 7, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    Operation Click Car Giveaways Start Thursday in CL, But Without Founding Crystal Lake District 155

    April 11, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    New Principal Named for Cary-Grove High School

    April 19, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    Josh Nobilio Named South High School Principal

    April 19, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    CL High School District Offering Course Leading to Pilot Vocation

    April 26, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    Advice for New District 155 School Board

    May 12, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    District 155 Superintendent Resigns

    August 8, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    CL High School Board Meeting in Emergency Session Tonight

    August 9, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    CLCHS Principal Steve Olson Given Control of High School District 155

    August 9, 2017



    CHSD 155 had a public hearing on its fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) budget on August 15, 2017.

    FY 2018 is from July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018.

    The budget is one document used to determine whether or not to hike the levy.

    The budget submitted to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is located at d155.org > Finance & Operations > Finance > Finance Documents > Annual Budgets > FY18 Budget.


    The CHSD 155 Board’s Budget, Planning, Finance and Audit Committee met on September 5, 2017 at 7PM at the district’s administration building.

    The public can attend board committee meetings.

    The CHSD 155 board does not videotape board committee meetings.

    Attending such meetings allows one to learn more about district finances and probably reasons as to why they might want to hike the tax levy.

    The district produced a 26 page Powerpoint presentation titled, “2017 Tax Levy Discussion” for that meeting.



    McHenry County Blog

    Tax Determination Time for Crystal Lake High School District

    October 16, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    With Budget Meeting Tonight Rep. Allen Skillicorn Asks D155 Board for 10% Tax Cut

    October 17, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

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

    October 26, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    Crystal Lake High School District 155 School Report Card

    October 27, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    John Pletz in a Paul Revere Mode: District 155 Taxes Are Going Up, If You Don’t Call Your School Board Member

    October 27, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    Scott Coffey Critiques District 155 School District Budget

    October 30, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    Readers Say District 155 Board Members’ Relatives Work for School District

    October 31, 2017



    McHenry County Blog

    Illinois Leaks Looking at CL High School District

    November 17, 2017


  13. These school boards seem to all go by the NEW MATH.

    That is, less students = more money and administration.

    Just wait and see what happens at contract time.

    My money is on big raises for all.

    Especially since the board is loaded with direct interest members.

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