From Seneca Township resident Susan Handelsman:
After 14 years of taxation for debt payments, $120 million becomes $160 million debt
Woodstock D200 is expressing ‘concern ‘ about property taxes due to an imminent increase in current debt.
They have 3 choices to forestall some portion of the spiked levy:
1. Refinance debt. This is what their past performance indicates as likely course of action. Naturally that causes perpetual eternal debt and all the attendent fees and interest cost.
2. Use reserves. Only a partial solution and one they should do in any case. I assume they will use a modest amount for the sake of appearances.
3. Cut costs. They have been getting more money from the State for a decade, and spending every penny. They have the same underutilization of facilities, along with overstaffing, as they have had since 2006 when enrollment failed to increase. And I believe they have taken on new cost burdens with Challenger Center and infant care/preschool services. There are costs to cut, but they will not do so.
So what are odds tax bills will increase?
I believe 100% chance, at the next levy cycle.
This is largely due to $50 million in interest on a 2006 $14 million loan coming due over the next few years.
This debt was never a secret, except to taxpayers.
Interest accruing on CABs (capital appreciation bonds) is not listed in financial statements as debt, nor considered when calculating borrowing limits under Statutory maximum limits.
Now D200 school board will likely follow historical patterns, which are to maximize debt burdens for taxpayers and extrude debt into eternity.
Note how D200 school board has consistently overspent the means of its taxed community over the past 14 years, without regard for taxpayers’ abilities to afford the relentless increases.
Note also that enrollment is virtually flat during this period of time, and our property values lower than 14 years ago, while spending and hiring exploded.
Note that in 2006, D200 had $120 million of debt.
In 2020, there is now over $160 million of debt.
In 2006, enrollment was 6201.
In 2019 (latest available) enrollment was 6374 (up 2.8%).
2006 tax levy was $37 million 2019 tax levy was $57 million (up 54%).
2006 Taxable property value (EAV) was $878 million.
2019 EAV $844 million (down 3.9% from 2006).
Taxing a higher levy on lower property values causes higher property tax rates: 2006 D200 school property tax rate 4.5% of EAV.
2019 school property tax rate 6.7% of EAV (up 49%).
D200 Spending rose far in excess of inflation during this period:
2006-2019 enrollment 6201 -6374, up 2.8%.
2006-2019 cumulative inflation 31%.
2006 expenditures $60 million.
2019 expenditures $125 million (up 108%).
2006 Cost per pupil $9,675.
2019 Cost per pupil $19,592 (up 103%).
2006 total employees 797.
2019 total employees “over 1100” (up 38%).
2006 (different data reported) FTE teachers 351.
2019 teaching staff 423 FTE 938.
2006 pupil-teacher ratio 17.7.
2019 pupil-teacher ratio 15.06.
Woodstock D200 refinanced debt ($120 million as of 2006) many times in the past 14 years and topped it off in the process.
And here we are with lower property values and debt far higher despite 14 years of tax levies to ‘pay down’ debt.
Now the board is said to consider cutting spending.
This report mentioned in a recent Woodstock Independent article, about administrators recommending how staff can be cut, sounds like the Facility Review Committee of 2017.
The committee was formed to recommend whether several school buildings being operated severely below capacity might be consolidated to save taxpayers money.
The committee was made up primarily of members collecting remuneration in one form or another from D200.
Yet, a majority recommended Clay Academy be closed and students moved into another half empty building.
But a super majority vote was needed, so Clay Academy stands.
(It is worth noting that Clay Academy operates with over 80% out-of-district enrollment, serving to provide discounted services to other taxpayers’ students at Woodstock taxpayers’ expense. Woodstock taxpayers are burdened with 100% of the cost of keeping the building up to code, and bear the burden of ALL OPEBs for Clay Academy staff. These extra costs are incurred by Woodstock taxpayers for benefit of the taxpayers from other districts sending roughly 60 out of 75 students here. Woodstock taxpayers’ burden to benefit these other taxing districts is several hundred thousand dollars a year.)
Next, the Facility Review Committee recommended Dean St,. School to be closed, voting passed by a supermajority.
Dean St. School did not close.
Finally, no discussion or voting was allowed on the topic of consolidation of the two half-empty high schools.
This was after data was requested as to cost savings, data was submitted indicating millions per year in taxpayer savings.
Quickly a sub-committee voted to bar any discussion of consolidation of the 2 high school’s sports teams, effectively ending any high school consolidation talks at all.
The savings on simply consolidating the football programs would have been half a million annually, which would have meant annual savings of roughly $42 per $200,000 home.
So, there appears to be an extremely low likelihood that this school administration or school board will find any costs to cut or headcount they are willing to reduce.
To recap, in the period since the 2006 bonded debt instruments which are causing this new crisis were issued:
Enrollment is up by 163 students (2.8%).
Spending per pupil is up by $9,917 (103%).
Tax levy is up by $20 million (54%).
Total jobs at D200 are up by more than 303 (38%).
Our home and property values have fallen by 3.8%.
(All data asserted herein can be found in Woodstock D200 CAFRs found on their website, or the Official Statement of the 2006 Capital Appreciation Bonds posted at Emma.msrb.org )