Crystal Lake High School District 155 Board member Ron Ludwig, former Principal at Hannah Beardsley Middle School, now finishing up his District 47 career at South Grade School, read a long statement at Tuesday’s meeting.
Since I have written little about District 155 since his 2017 election, I though it might help folks catch up on what’s happening.
Ron’s Timeline on D155 Board
October 2016 I was contacted by a D155 teacher union representative to run for their school board. I truly had no interest, but for some strange reason I agreed. I was told I needed a platform to run on.
This was news to me, but I felt strongly about maintaining all of the great things that are currently being done in the district for the kids. I also truly understand the importance of being fiscally responsible as a board to our taxpayers.
The number one challenge that I had heard, in D155, that the board would need to address was the poor relationship of the former district leader towards his staff.
I did attend the D155 board meeting that was going over the report to save money by closing Central, and the significant money challenges that would be coming the new boards way in the very near future.
Nicole, Dave, Jason and I won our seats to serve on this board. We were sworn in at the May meeting. This is when I started hearing the whispers of our 2nd biggest challenge a 50 million dollars capital need to get all of our facilities up to standards for the next 20 years.
I sent the former superintendent three to four e-mails a week, until right before he left D155 min August, to try to get caught up on the D155 financial situation. He was pretty good about getting back to me with about 60% of the answers to my questions.
August 2017 former superintendent resigns days before first day of school. Mr. Steve Olson steps up to assume the role of interim superintendent. Thank you Mr. Olson.
Mr. Olson set up individual meetings with each board member to discuss D155 and the direction we were heading. I remember asking him what one word is needed to describe all successful leaders. Courage.
Jeff Davis presented the 50 million dollar capital improvement list was to the board and the community. My first thought were all needs justified. My second thought was were is the money going to come from over the next ten years. (5 million needed each year for ten years)
My first thought was are all items on the list truly needed.
After Jeff took me on a tour through all facilities, in my humble opinion, everything on the list was justified. My only question was why this had not begun ten years earlier. I realize D155 did not have Jeff and I also realize, being in the system for the last 30 years, that districts budgets give very little dollars to the infrastructure needs each year. I also noted at this time D47 was looking at a 40 million dollar capital/infrastructure need. So we are in the boat with many other districts.
How does a school district pay for a $50,000,000 project?
- $50,000,000 referendum (McHenry 156) taxpayers
- Re-submit bonds instead of retire (D47)
- Administration (cuts/salary freeze/benefits)
- Certified/support staff(cuts/salary freeze/sincrrease class size)
- Spend savings (Never under 40%)
-Increase levy (taxpayer)No conversation by the board or administration on where the 50 million dollars would be coming from except a November tax increase to our tax payers.
After listening to heartfelt testimony from our taxpayers we passed the 1.7 million dollar tax hike by a vote of 4-3, and then abated 1.5 million back to our tax payers for a net gain of $500,000. At 500,000 a year it would take 100 years to pay for 50 million dollar capital build. Even at 1.7 million a year it would take almost 30 years. I really began to question what was the financial plan.
Superintendent’s contract given to Mr. Olson.
No conversation about financial plan.
Many meetings and time discussing moving Habor Oaks to SHS. After a sale of the property D155 could have a potential annual savings.
We were also told at that the price tag for summer 2018 projects would be over $13 million for this years installment of capital needs. No discussion of future money needed for projects.
Board votes 7-0 to take money out of savings to to off-set $13+ million in project costs.
Board discusses how far we can spend down savings.
Agreed that 30-35% of annual budget (30-35 million) would not be spent on $50 millinois dollar projects.
No discussion of future money needed for projects
Still no real board discussion on cuts needed to pay for the next wave a capital expenditures.
July 2018 I was on vacation
August 2018 Jeff Dauher updates on 18/19 projects. Begins talks about 19/20 projects. Possible $7-$10 million dollars worth of projects.
Still no discussion on how this will be paid.
I sent an e-mail to Adam Guss , last week, about the topics I was planning on bringing up at September meeting, and he passed them along to Steve. Thank you Steve sending out you informational e-mail to the board last week. I was out sick. My presentation would be at October meeting.
One thing that I did take note of was that 2019 capital needs list will cost 7-10 million per Jeff. In Mr. Olson’s e-mail to the board he felt there would be 2.5 million in budget savings to be used for 2019 projects and that he would ask the board for the rest of the 7-10 million dollars. Tax levy or district savings.
I am not looking tonight for any feedback by the board of education or Mr. Olson. I would just like to get on a board meeting agenda for us to bring our thoughts and ideas at more cost saving ideas for D155.
Once again school administration is looking to the board (savings/taxpayers) to pay for the majority of the 7-10 million dollars needed for summer 2019 projects.