By 5-2 Vote McHenry Grade School Board Taxes to the Max

Add McHenry Elementary School District 15 to that list of tax districts planning to take as much money out of local taxpayers’ pockets as state law allows.

The legal publication for the public hearing about the proposed levy said the school district would be asking for 8.74% more than this year.

Gough, Amy D15 testimony

Pam Gough

That spooked one resident, Pam Gough, whose family has lived near Millstream since 1958 big time.

“When I saws that 8.7% increase I didn’t know if I should cry or vomit.”

“The For Sale sign almost went up.”

She told of having to live on $1,300 a month, pointing out she was envisioning having to chose between food, medicine and “turning out the lights for a day.”

“I don’t know what the elderly [on fixed incomes are going to do].

“If I don’t pay my taxes, the government takes my house and says, ‘Go live in a box.'”

School Board Finance Committee Chairman Patrick Miller apologized.

Patrick Miller

District 15 Finance Committee Chairman Patrick Miller

“I am sorry that the levy process requires us to post [figures like 8.74%].”

“I was near tears,” Gough continued.

Miller pointed out that the Property Tax Cap would only allow an inflationary increase of 1.5%.

“I read it on Mr. Skinner’s blog.”

Eric Dowd

Eric Dowd

The only other person to offer public comment was Eric Dowd.

He pointed out that McHenry County is the 29th highest taxed county in the United States.

“Everybody’s piece makes that a really fat pie.

“All we’re asking you to do is live within your means.”

Starting out the hearing was an slide show explanation by Chief Finance Officer Mark Bertolozzi.

He pointed out that the grade school district had levying more than it could obtain last year, but had only received a 1.87% increase.  That figure included new construction.

Adding in what the district levied to pay down borrowed money resulted in an overall 3.11% aggregate tax hike last year.

Mark Bertolozzi

Mark Bertolozzi

This year, when new construction is taken into account, the district expects Tax Capped funds to bring in an additional 1.6% or $737,101. One-tenth of one percent of the 1.6 percentage points represents new construction.

While the percentage calculation was not included on a slide, the amount allocated for paying down debt seems to be increasing over 27%.  [If this is incorrect, I trust a district official will email me with the correct figure.]

Last year’s tax take was $48,371,265.

The increase in Tax Capped funds will add $737,101 to the aggregate tax bill.

Paying down debt will require an additional $634,617.

The total extra money to be taken from taxpayers’ check books will be $1,471,718.

That appears to me to be an aggregate tax hike of over 3%. [Again, if my math is faulty, please correct me, D15 officials.]

One whole slide was devoted to the question, “Why not freeze the levy?”

Bertolozzi pointed to

  • increasing costs
  • the threat of the lose of State Aid to Education (SB 16 would have taken $4.5 million away.)
  • a possible shift of teacher pension costs from the state to the local taxpayer
  • unforeseen expenditures

In addition, he repeated the every popular line of tax district officials about not taking the allowed tax hike in any year means that the money is lost forever.

Echoing his arguments was Finance Chairman Miller.

He explained that, while paying down the debt would increase the total tax bill by more than the cost of living, in the year 2020 the average homeowner would save $330.

Commenting on the 8.74% figure in the legal ad, he said,

“It would be criminal if we actually we would get it.”

He continued to explain the logic of asking for so much more than the rate of inflation allowed by the Real Estate Tax Cap.

“[Because] we won’t get 1.5% from each fund, we’re forced to balloon levy.”

He then used the cost of a cup of coffee analogy to minimize the tax increase being proposed, which he said would amount to $41.27 per year of a cup of non-Starbucks Coffee every two weeks.

The McHenry Grade School Board.

The McHenry Grade School Board.

John O’Neill, one of two who voted, “No,” while sitting behind a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, pointed out,

“We’re making the assumption that we’re entitled to this amount of money.

“If we flat levy for one year we lose that money forever,” he said, repeating the typical tax district official line about the need to get as much money as possible every year.

“Isn’t it true that in the future we could go for a referendum?

“I think that might be a little more fair.”

“The question we have every year is whether we need the increase.

“Why do we have to take it, if we don’t need it.?

“I wish school finance were was easier, but it’s cumbersome,” said Paul Santopadre.

Another “No” vote, Erik Sivertsen, asked about the 5% going into a saving account.

Miller replied that it was for building projects so the district did not have to go for a referendum. He also pointed out that the 2005 referendum passed about 2-1.

Then Miller asserted that the Illinois Constitution requires State government to pay 50% of the cost of education.

[That part of the Constitution has been litigated and found by the Illinois Supreme Court to be hortatory, that is, non-enforceable.]

He also added that good schools help keep the value of local homes up.

After the testimony and commentary, the levies were taken off the consent agenda and voted upon separately.

Each passed 5-2 with Miller, Santopadre, Amanda Geyer, Mike Hettermann and Kimberly Quails voting in favor, O’Neill and Sivertsen voting against.


Comments

By 5-2 Vote McHenry Grade School Board Taxes to the Max — 21 Comments

  1. Thank you to Erik Sivertsen and John O’Neill for voting no.

    Thanks Eric Dowd for speaking up on behalf of the overtaxed citizens of McHenry County.

    These people do not realize the hardships placed on the citizenry by local taxing bodies.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser

  2. Andrew: Do you honestly believe they care?

    Remember its: “For the kids”.

  3. Once again, the PMA Financial Advisors Powerpoint presentation to the board should be posted on the District 15 website.

    In fact, any presentation given to the Board should be posted on the District 15 website.

    Once again, Board meetings should be taped and archived on the District 15 website.

    All the hundreds of millions of dollars the District has received from taxes and referendums, all the school board elections, all the pensions, all the retiree healthcare, yet the school board can’t even do those basic taxpayer accountability measures.

    That shows the majority of the board members either don’t put enough effort into their job, are being snowballed by the administration, are in cahoots with the union or administration or special interest groups, or who knows what else.

    Here repeated from above are the key facts in increasing property taxes of District 15 residents.

    “The increase in Tax Capped funds will add $737,101 to the aggregate tax bill.

    Paying down debt will require an additional $634,617.

    The total extra money to be taken from taxpayers’ check books will be $1,471,718.”

    Just like that, the district is receiving $1.4M more dollars.

    That’s the bottom line.

    No competition.

    Nothing property taxpayers can do about it.

    And the District will claim they don’t have enough money.

    And that they have to remain competitive with other districts.

    While other districts will complain the same.

    It’s an endless circular cycle.

    Two more important quote from above.

    “Miller pointed out that the Property Tax Cap would only allow an inflationary increase of 1.5%.”

    “That appears to me to be an aggregate tax hike of over 3%. [Again, if my math is faulty, please correct me, D15 officials.]”

    Why the difference?

    Is it because the amount District 16 pays to District 15 Bond holders falls outside the tax cap?

    Does Miller’s figure not include bond paymenTs?

    And Skinner’s figure includes bond payments?

    It’s pretty easy for taxing districts to obtain more money from taxpayers, stating it will only cost the average homeowner $41 per year a year.

    Who has time to fight over $41 a year?

    You lose $41.

    They take how much?

    What is the $41 referring to?

    The $737,101 tax cap funds.

    Or the $634,617 non tax capped funds such as bonds?

    Or the $1,471,718 total tax cap funds and non tax cap funds?

    Just like that, the district is receiving $1.4M more dollars.

    Badda Bing Badda Boom.

    Now everyone can get paid what’s in their administrator contracts and collective bargaining agreements and all is good in District 15.

    No real grief from the taxpayers, only two people spoke.

    And the taxpayers were warned about the never ending crisis in public education funding.

    That’s the government monopoly public education machine in action.

    Now there undoubtedly some very talented hard working people working in the machine.

    But the machine has a life of its own.

  4. Government, and its worshipers, miss the overall picture constantly.

    The expressed desire to keep the schools well funded to keep home values up assumes government must tax extraordinary amounts to achieve this end.

    There are brilliant commenters here like Susan and Mark who can run down what vouchers would do to explode this myth, or what the actual administrator to teacher ratios were in the 70’s through today.

    The angle I want to explore is more along the lines of from where community value is actually derived.

    Just like business I believe there is value in consistency, predictability and chaste pursuit of excellent traditional best practices.

    Funding schools well may be a goal worthy of pursuit but does this excellent funding come from a shrinking market due to over taxation?

    Remember, not just the homeowner’s are taxed.

    All property owners are taxed.

    When costs to industrial or commercial pursuits jump too high moving to another location to relieve high costs to bring more to the bottom line becomes a more viable option.

    The property then becomes a blight, jobs leave, public costs go up, public quality of life goes down and then government jumps in and says they can save us from ourselves.

    Good Lord.

    The voters may be stupid but those who inhabit legislative and administrative seats who believe this insipid tripe about raising taxes makes for good community should be trotted out to the public square and read children’s fables until they understand The People make a community through their industry and innovation.

    Government is the leeching horror which drains the lifeblood from these pursuits and destroys communities.

  5. Only one way to improve public education in Illinois: End public sector collective bargaining!!!

    As long as teachers have the right to strike, school boards will continue increasing their right tax!

    Make Illinois a Right to Work State!

  6. Here is something to file away for the next bond referendum.

    What is the total amount this referendum will cost me?

    Bonds, interest, fees.

    Not only the amount each year.

    But the total amount for all years.

    Insist on those figures.

    They will not be able to give you an exact amount during the referendum.

    But they can approximate.

    And keep the approximate figures and match them up to the real figures if the referendum passes and the bonds are issued.

    Taxing districts rarely present voters with all those figures.

    Taxing districts typically try to appear the costs appear as low as possible.

    Voters deserve the all the numbers.

    Bonds.

    Interest.

    Fees.

    Each Year.

    And total for all years.

    You can’t believe how often a taxing district will say the cost of the referendum is only $50 a year for the average homeowner.

    But you look at the proposed debt service schedule, and the payment schedule from the taxing district to the taxing district bond holders reveals a ladder, with payments increasing each year.

    It should be illegal for a taxing district to propose a bond referendum, and not present voters with a clear picture of all annual payments and the total payment, including principal, interest, and fees, and a conversion factor so any given property taxpayer can figure out how much the bonds will cost them.

    Start learning about the bond debt service for all the taxing districts on your property tax bill.

    You can find the bond debt service schedule (that’s the payment plan to bondholders) in the latest Official Statement for the taxing district on the EMMA MSRB website.

    Once you learn the CUSIP for the taxing district, you will be able to do lookups quicker.

    The taxing district also obviously has this information.

    You could alternatively call the taxing district and ask them for this information.

    Their existence is only possible by your taxes.

    They should be more than happy to explain all this to you.

    In fact, they should have all this information posted on their website.

    That should be a state law.

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly and easily see how much money the taxing district will extract each year from taxpayers for the purpose of paying bondholders?

    It would be pretty easy for the taxing district to present this information to taxpayers.

  7. School funding decreases home values, at these levels.

    Why McHenry County real estate can only continue to drop in value:

    1.To obtain a conforming mortgage loan, buyer must prove that monthly payments will not exceed 28% of income.

    2. A $200,000 30-year home loan at 4.10% creates a monthly payment obligation (without including property escrow) of $966

    Adding in the monthly payment due at different property tax rates increases monthly payment to these totals:

    At national average property tax rate of 1.25% of home value: $208+$966= $1174 monthly payment.

    At McHenry area property tax rates of 3% of home value: $500+$966= $1466 monthly payment.

    At western McHenry County (Woodstock CUSD 200) property tax rates of 4% of home value: $666+ $966= $1632 monthly payment.

    3. At national average property tax rate, a home buyer with annual income of $50,314 could get the $200,000 loan.

    In McHenry, to get a $200,000 mortgage the buyer would need to show income of $62,828.

    In Woodstock area the same mortgage would require home buyer to prove income of $69,943.

    What is the argument that spending more and raising taxes can counter this chilling effect on home values?

  8. In Woodstock area, there is a race to the bottom in a death spiral of foreclosures and forced sales.

    At $69,943 annual income the property tax of $8000 represents 11.4% of buyer income, which is an irrational economic decision, and discouraging to buyers…at current price levels…so price levels keep dropping…

  9. A Civic Federation report released in September computed effective property tax rates for Chicago area communities — the property tax rate as a percentage of actual market value. The results are not surprising, yet were still nothing short of shocking.

    The report shows effective tax rates for Woodstock (4.54%) and Harvard (4.01%), which are increases of 93.4% and 74.8%, respectively, over the effective rate in 2003.

    While the report is careful to note that “it is also important to recognize that an increasing effective tax rate does not necessarily translate into increased tax liabilities”, it screams the fact that while property owners have seen their fortunes decline over the last decade, government has not.

    Another way of saying it is that you don’t own your house. You’re renting it from the government, which fixes the rent based upon what it wants, not on any rational basis like underlying value of the property.

    Property tax reform must begin in Springfield, with the Illinois Property Tax code (35 ILCS 200).

    During the campaign, I proposed changing the Property Tax Code to provide for a permanent ceiling on property taxes as a flat percentage of the fair market value of all property in the community, and a cap on annual increases and provisions for overrides and increased taxation for borrowing or capital projects.

    But unless voters within the community agreed by referendum, the limit on increases could not be exceeded, and could never exceed the statutory ceiling.

    It also eliminated unfunded mandates.

    By the time proposals get to a vote at the board level, it’s way too late.

    Those who protested District 15’s tax grab are yelling at the wrong people, they need to point their anger straight at their representative in Springfield.

  10. Wonder if property taxes will ever match mortgage principal and interest payments.

  11. Property taxes would be much higher if the following were true.

    1. Taxing district pensions were fully funded.

    2. Taxing district retiree healthcare benefits were fully funded.

    3. School districts were paying all of the employer pension contribution. For instance last few years, without looking it up, the State of Illinois contribution was over 20%, and the school districts only contributed .58% (less than 1/2 of 1%). The State of Illinois contribution is actually on behalf of the school districts. That’s for school districts outside of Chicago (in Chicago, the State of IL does not make a pension contribution, or if they do it’s small; but Chicago gets more funding than school districts outside Chicago in other funding areas).

    4. Taxing district bond payments to bondholders were level over the term of the bond. Now, bond payments for many taxing districts are laddered, meaning they increase over the term of the bond.

    Pensions, retiree healthcare, and bonds are going to require major drama in the upcoming years.

    Since pensions, retiree healthcare, and bonds have not been adequately explained to taxpayers, you can pretty much conclude taxpayers have been deceived.

    It’s all legal.

  12. At 4% on my home the property tax matches mortgage interest payments, not yet principal payme.

    At the trajectory of percentage tax rate rises in past five years, property tax payments will exceed principal and interest payments within two years.

    It will be interesting to see how the new property owners ( public pensions) decide to fund forward going expenses when no private citizens can afford to rent these homes.

  13. Property Taxes are forcing even retired teachers out of Illinois.

    That should scare the daylights out of you.

    Since retired teachers have better pensions than just about anyone.

    Here is the Forbes article.

    This teacher only taught 15 years, yet retired with 21.6 years of service under the Teachers Retirement System of Illinois (TRS) Early Retirement Option (ERO).

    ERO is one of the many legislative benefit hikes to the TRS pension fund, and after its creation, it in turn has been hiked several times, a common theme in TRS benefit hikes.

    Forbes
    Fleeing Illinois For Tennessee In Retirement
    6/30/2014
    By Ashlea Ebeling
    Forbes Staff

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2014/06/30/fleeing-illinois-for-tennessee-in-retirement

    This teacher taught in Naperville CUSD 203.

    But remember, pensions are funded in large part through State contributions, and in turn, the State derives a large percentage of its revenues from State income taxes.

    So if you think you should not be concerned about teacher and administrator salary increases in Naperville, you are wrong, because the two main drivers to hiking pensions, are hiking salaries, and legislative hiking pension benefits.

    Check out these salary increases for the Junior High School teacher in the Forbes article.

    Year—Salary—–% Increase from Previous Year
    2007—$101,763—3.97%
    2006—$097,875—19.87%
    2005—$081,651—8.46%
    2004—$075,285—10.01%
    2003—$068,435—12.02%
    2002—$061,092—08.63%
    2001—$056,239—02.38%
    2000—$054,930—05.20%
    1999—$052,216—n/a
    Total Salary from 1999 – 2007: $649,660

    Salary Percentage Increase from 1999 – 2007: 94.89% (salary almost doubled).

    So what sort of pension did the teacher receive after working 15 years?

    With ERO contributions (employer contributes twice the amount as employee), Ms. Reed retired with 21.65 years of service.

    In other words, she, with the help of the school district, was able to purchase 6.65 years worked to hike her pension.

    The pension as of 2014 or so (maybe it was 2013) was $51,168.

    It increases 3% COLA per year.

    Some key quotes from the article.

    “The Reeds sat down with their financial advisor at Vanguard and ran a plan showing projections of how likely it was that their assets would carry them through a comfortable retirement.

    They got a disappointing answer: 60%.

    But by making the move to Tennessee, the chances of their money lasting jumped to 80%.

    The main reason: a lower cost of living.”

  14. That same URL has another article.

    The Top 10 States People Are Fleeing.

    The second highest percentage of outbound moves was Illinois.

    Percentage of outbound moves in 2012: 59.5%.

    Number of exits tracked: 5,931.

    The 5,931 exits was the highest number of exists in the Top 10 listing.

    So what happened.

    Hike the salaries.

    Hike the pension benefits via state legislation.

    Hike the retiree healthcare benefits via state legislation.

    All that increases taxes.

    Retire.

    Then the public sector worker with the assistance of a financial adviser from a large nationwide reputable firm determines that even with their public sector pension cannot afford to retire in Illinois, so the public sector worker moves to Tennessee.

    Where by the way they are phasing out the estate tax (death tax).

    As far as your estate is concerned, it’s also expensive to die in Illinois.

    So much for the pension for that public sector worker supporting the local economy in Illinois.

    The money is flowing out of your wallet down to Tennessee.

  15. Another takeaway from this McHenry Elementary District $1.4M tax hike is that the tax hike is apparently greater than the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

    That’s because the CPI limit does not apply to the school district’s bond payments to bondholders.

    So if someone says school district tax hikes are limited to CPI, you know that is not true if the school district has bond debt, which most do.

    The CPI only applies to some funds (the budget is divided into different categories called funds).

    Government accounting utilizes fund accounting, a different type of accounting than private sector accounting, supposedly because there is supposed to be no profit in governmental accounting.

    The employees get to keep all the profit in the form of salaries and benefits, rather than investors in the form of profit.

    Anyways the bond payments having nothing to do with CPI.

    The CPI does not apply to the fund containing bonds.

    So what determines the amount the school district pays to bondholders in any certain year?

    The bond payments adhere to the bond debt service schedule.

    The bond debt service schedule is set at the time the bonds are issued.

    Bonds can be issued by school districts in many different scenarios, including after a successful referendum, deciding to refund / refinance, or board approval to issue non-referendum bonds.

    And there are many different types of school district non-referendum bonds.

    1. Working Cash

    2. Life Safety.

    3. Some more probably.

    Since bonds are a form of borrowing money, it pays to mention another option used by school districts to borrow money.

    That is tax anticipation warrants.

    If the school district runs out of cash in any given year, it can borrow money using future property tax collections as collateral.

    School districts have many more sources of revenue beyond property taxes.

    State General State Aid.
    Other forms of state revenue.
    Federal.
    PTA Money.
    Fundraisers.
    Donations / Contributions from business, estates, etc.

  16. Now who have we not mentioned, that has the most clout in funding schools.

    The teacher union.

    And other unions in the district.

    Why is that.

    Because the teacher union has political clout.

    Why is that.

    Because the teacher union has lots of members.

    Those members pay dues to the local, state, and national union.

    Local Unions.
    McHenry Classroom Teachers’ Association, IEA-NEA
    McHenry Educational Support Personnel (MESP), IEA-NEA
    McHenry School Transportation Association, IEA-NEA

    State Union.
    Illinois Education Association (IEA).

    Federal Union.
    National Education Association (NEA).

    There is another layer in the state union that does not receive dues directly from members, but is very integral as to how the union operates.

    It is a middle layer between the Local Union, and the State Union.

    It’s the regional offices of the IEA.

    McHenry District 15 unions are in IEA Region 23.

    The office for IEA Region 23 is at 2230 Point Boulevard, Suite 400, Elgin.

    The school board members are probably familiar with this office.

    Typically, the local union interviews school board candidates at the regional office.

    The union then makes its recommendations to its members.

    The state IEA union has a Board of Directors.

    One person from each IEA Region is on the IEA Board of Directors.

    For 2014 – 2015, that is Tammy Mootz for IEA Region 23.

    Ms. Mootz is a teacher in Crystal Lake Elementary District 47.

    So as you have probably surmised, an IEA Region contains several school districts.

    The IEA has full time employees that are paid lobbyists in Springfield.

    Around five or so.

    The NEA has full time employees that are paid lobbyists in Washington DC.

    The union machine works behind the scenes to obtain Federal, State, and Local money to fund government monopoly schools to benefit its members.

    The school district financial adviser, the administration, and the union are all well versed in school district finance, typically in that order.

    The school board members especially and the school board association are typically pretty weak in school district finance.

    After all, board members are not paid and very rarely have the same specialized financial training and experience in school district law as the financial adviser and the administration.

    And on the bottom rung of those with the most expertise in school district finance, and with the least amount of clout.

    The unorganized taxpayers.

    Therein lies perhaps the biggest problem.

    The taxpayers are not organized.

    They have little clout.

    No lobbyists.

    In general no meaningful way to analyze school district finances to counter whatever the school district financial adviser, the school district CFO, the Superintendent, the Union, etc. have to say about taxes.

    We are a long way away from the one room school house with one teacher that was the backbone of the government school district monopoly when it was created.

  17. From the above article.

    “Starting out the hearing was a slide show explanation by Chief Finance Officer Mark Bertolozzi.”

    Let’s take a look at Mr. Bertolozzi’s TRS pensionable earnings.

    Fiscal Year — Pensionable Earnings — Years Worked — District
    2015 ———- ???????? ————— 7 ————– McHenry Elementary District 15
    2014 ———- see below ————– 6 ————– McHenry Elementary District 15
    2013 ———- $110,493 ————— 5 ————– McHenry Elementary District 15
    2012 ———- $104,634 ————— 4 ————– Wood Dale Elementary District 7
    2011 ———- $099,337 ————— 3 ————– Wood Dale Elementary District 7
    2010 ———- $099,337 ————— 2 ————– Wood Dale Elementary District 7
    2009 ———- Unknown ————— 1 ————– Unknown

    It seems Mr. Bertolozzi received a big pay hike in 2014.

    Looking at the “EIS Administrator and Teacher Salary and Benefits Report – School Year 2014” report on the McHenry Elementary District 15 website.

    http://www.d15.org > Human Resources > Human Resource Files > PL Act 096 -0434 and PL Act 097-0256.

    Presumably this report refers to the period July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014.

    Could be wrong on that.

    From the report.

    Get ready to be outraged.

    Base Salary: $143,487.
    Vacation Days: 20.
    Sick Days: 50.
    Annuities: $10,726.89.
    Other Benefits: $3,784.15.

    So pensionable earnings are at least $143,487.

    Probably more.

    50 sick days is crazy.

    That is very high.

    The Superintendent only receives 25 sick days.

    That’s bad enough.

    50 sick days is outrageous.

    You have to understand Sick Days in Illinois School Districts.

    That’s money in the bank.

    It’s a form of compensation.

    They sick days can be rolled over from year to year.

    They can be exchanged for Years of Service Credit upon retirement (a TRS pension year is 170 days).

    Or thehy can be exchanged for cash upon retirement, at the employees ending pensionable earning rate (as opposed to the pensionable earning rate when they were granted the sick days.

    So why so many sick days.

    What is the board’s logic?

    Any District 15 taxpayer should demand an answer from the District 15 Board.

    That is a very legitimate question.

    There is nothing normal about receiving 50 sick days.

    It is not unheard of.

    But it is not normal.

    And when it occurs, usually most taxpayers are not aware, just as in District 15, they are probably not aware.

    I wonder how many Board members know Mr. Bertolozzi was granted 50 sick days in 2014.

    50 sick days.

    Plus 20 vacation days.

    That’s 70 personal days!

    There are only 52 weeks x 5 days per week = 260 days in a year.

    70 / 260 = 27%.

    District 15 is asking this employee to work only 73% of the year?

    CFO’s and the chief business officer in a school District such as District 15 work year round.

    They don’t get 10 weeks off in the summer like teachers.

    So 70 personal days is nuts.

    Plus holidays.

    How does that benefit children?

    It doesn’t.

    It seems to be taking aware of taxpayers.

    Moving on.

    Notice there is no record for the first year worked.

    Highly unusual to have no record of the first year worked in the public databases on teacher pay.

    Not sure what that is all about.

    TRS Pensionable Earnings for 2013 came from OpenTheBooks.com.

    Years 2010 – 2012 came from the ISBE TSR.

    TRS Pensionable Earnings for 2014 and 2015 are not yet available from public sources such as BetterGov.org, OpenTheBooks.com, and FamilyTaxpayers.org.

    The Pensionable Earnings would have to be obtained via a FOIA from District 15 or TRS.

    TRS Pensionable Earnings used to be easily obtained from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Teacher Service Record (TSR).

    But ISBE is no longer requiring school districts to submit pensionable earnings to ISBE.

    Rather, as of FY 2013, school districts are required to submit Base Salary to ISBE.

    Pensionable earnings are typically greater than base salary and include pension pickups (school district picks up the employee’s pension contribution), stipends, extra duty pay, etc.

    There were various state laws passed that require school districts to post salary and benefit figures on the district website.

    However, none of those laws require pensionable earnings to be posted.

    Rather, Base salary is listed, along with some benefits itemized, and a catchall category called Other Benefits for those benefits not itemized.

    The report is referred to by the ISBE as the Administrator and Teacher Salary and Benefit Report (ATSB).

    Read about it here.

    http://www.isbe.net/research/htmls/salary_report.htm

    That is all fine.

    But in addition, the state laws should include Pensionable Earnings.

    That is a major flaw in the various state laws.

    The reason is that some benefits are pensionable, and some are not.

    Since there are so many different types of benefits, it’s very difficult for the average person to figure out pensionable earnings, unless there is actually a line item listing pensionable earnings.

    One other note about teacher pay and benefits.

    BetterGov.org lists “Data Year.”

    “Data Year” is a year only meaningful to Better Government Association.

    It’s the year BGA received the data.

    Not the Fiscal Year.

    Keep that in mind if looking up salary and pensions on that source.

    A note on school district Fiscal Year.

    Almost always, a school district year is from July 1 through June 30th of the following year.

    For example, July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015.

    Thus a school district year is rarely equivalent to a calendar year, but spans calendar years.

    Fiscal Year 2015, or Year 2015, thus refers to July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015.

    When Year is referenced in a school district, such as Year 2015, it almost always refers to the end Year (2015), not the start of the fiscal year or school year (2014).

  18. So the first step is to determine that the report does not contain a typo.

    “EIS Administrator and Teacher Salary and Benefits Report – School Year 2014″ report on the McHenry Elementary District 15 website.

    http://www.d15.org > Human Resources > Human Resource Files > PL Act 096 -0434 and PL Act 097-0256.

    Did McHenry Elementary Chief Finance Officer Mark Bertolozzi really receive 50 sick days in his contract.

    Who can tell us.

    The Board members can find out.

    Kimberly Qualls – President
    Patrick Miller – Vice President
    John O’Neill – Secretary
    Mike ​Hettermann
    Paul Santopadre
    Amanda Geyer
    Erik Sivertsen​

    Alternatively Mark Bertolozzi’s employment contracts could be obtained via a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request).

    Wonder who else in Illinois or the United States government received 50 sick days in 2014?

    How many people in District 15 and how many District 15 taxpayers knew that Mark Bertolozzi received 50 sick days in 2014.

    If in fact it’s not a typo.

  19. Since no one is saying the report on the McHenry District 15 website is incorrect about CFO Mark Betolozzi receiving 50 sick days in 2014, let’s assume it’s correct.

    What can Mark Betolozzi do with 50 sick days?

    First of all, it’s not use it or lose it.

    According to state law, if he doesn’t use the sick days, they are likely rolled over until retirement.

    What can Mark Betolozzi do with 50 sick days upon retirement?

    According to state law, he has two choices.

    1. Exchange them for years of service credit.

    2. Exchange them for cash.

    Let’s explore both options.

    Exchanging sick leave for years of service credit.

    A teacher year, and an administrator year, according to TRS pension rules is 170 days.

    Up to 340 sick days, can be exchanged for up to 340 Years of Service credit.

    340 sick days = 2 years of service credit.

    Why would a teacher or administrator want 2 years of service credit?

    Because Years of Service credit are treated as years worked.

    So 2 years of service credit allows the employee to retire two years earlier.

    Full retirement is 35 years worked.

    So exchanging with 2 years of service credit, employee can retire after 33 years worked.

    But receive benefits as if they had worked 35 years.

    In that scenario, 33 years worked is 35 years of service credit.

    In that scenario, the cost of providing the 50 sick days is funded by state taxpayers (primarily from income taxes), not by District 15 property taxpayers.

    That’s because state taxpayers are the primary contributors to the TRS pension fund.

    Now let’s explore option 2.

    Exchanging sick days for Cash.

    In that scenario, upon retirement, the employee exchanges sick days with the school district for cash.

    The amount of cash per sick days is based on the terms in his contract.

    Commonly, that’s ending salary.

    In summary, the 50 days sick leave is a form of deferred compensation not reflected in the $143,487 base salary.

    Here’s a reminder of CFO Mark Betolozzi’s compensation for 2014.

    Base Salary: $143,487.
    Vacation Days: 20.
    Sick Days: 50.
    Annuities: $10,726.89.
    Other Benefits: $3,784.15.

    For more information on the state law regarding sick days, read chapter 6 of the TRS Employer Guide.

    http://www.trs.illinois.gov/employers/guide/guide.pdf

    Chapter 6 is titled, “Service Credit.”

    Any school board member should familiarize themselves with Chapter 6 of the TRS Employer Guide, because state law allows flexibility for school districts to create board policy regarding Service Credit.

    TRS categorizes sick days as a form of Service Credit.

    How many school board members and taxpayers have read Chapter 6 of the TRS Employer Guide?

    Just one of the many options in the Illinois Pension Code (TRS Section) and Illinois School Code that allow for local control.

    But there are so many options, control is not really in the hands of taxpayers and school board members, because no one can keep up with all the options.

    Rather control is in the hand of special interests.

    So what can taxpayers do.

    Well if taxpayers do nothing, local control is not being exercised by the taxpayers, so what good is it.

    District 15 taxpayers can demand that no employee be granted more sick days than what’s in the teachers collective bargaining agreement.

    Level the playing field between the administration and teachers.

    That’s a start.

    What else can local taxpayers do.

    Demand that the number of sick days be reduced in the collective bargaining agreement.

    Really, the whole notion of allowing teachers and administrators to roll over sick days from year to the next all the way through retirement, needs to be eliminated.

    The state and local taxpayers cannot afford it.

    If teachers and administrators want to lie and call in sick when they are really not sick, because they can no longer roll over days (an argument frequently used to defend the practice) well, that speaks to the honesty of the profession.

    All taxpayers in Illinois should demand an end to allowing teacher and administrator sick days to be rolled over from year to year.

    It’s just one more benefit that’s been hiked through state legislation over the years.

    Another benefit hike, even as pensions were nowhere close to being fully funded at the time of the benefit hikes (there’s been more than one hike to Service Credit by state legislators).

    Politics for special interests not for the good of the State of Illinois.

    There is a reason Illinois is in such a financial mess.

    And the 50 sick days Mr. Bertolozzi received in 2014 is one of the many examples.

    Taxes will continue to go up until these games are reigned in.

  20. Why do property taxes go up?

    One reason is to repay the principal and interest on bond debt.

    Here is a Forbes contributor in the bond industry whose advice is to not purchase municipal bonds (school district bonds are municipal bonds) in Illinois, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico at today’s interest rates.

    Forbes
    Investors, Just Say No To Illinois, NJ And PR Muni Bonds
    By Marilyn Cohen, Contributor
    12/11/2014
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/investor/2014/12/11/investors-just-say-no-to-illinois-nj-and-pr-muni-bonds

    Whomever follows that logic, will not purchase the bonds until a higher interest rate is offered to offset the risk.

    Higher interest rates increase taxes.

    That would affect the taxing district issuing future debt.

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