Looking at the Woodstock School District

Commenter Susan has extracted a lot of data about Woodstock School District 200,

Here it is for you analysis:

Woodstock CUSD 200

(According to Edfin.ed.gov)

Spends $1,805 per year per student on administration.

Peer Average is $942.

Spends $14,248 per year per student.

Peer Average is $10,868.

$1,516 Capital Outlay per year per student.

Peer Average is $1,063.

$1,386 Construction per year per student.

Peer Average is $835.

$896 Interest on Debt per year per student.

Peer Average is $410.

D200 Debt is over $150 million when accrued unpaid interest is included.

One example:

A 2006 CAB which borrowed $14 million principal.

In 2015 the total accrued interest on the $14 million debt exceeds $14 million, so the total debt TODAY is almost $30 million.

Yet the debt is listed on reports as $14 million. (That is the principal amount. Accrued unpaid interest is allowed to be obscured from public reports).

This debt is accruing interest at nearly $3 million a year now.

There will be a balloon payment due in 2023-2026.

The latest tax extension was $60 million.

When THIS ($14 million) debt comes due it will be $64 million owed ($50 million interest on a 20 year $14 million loan).

That would be DOUBLE the latest tax extension—JUST TO PAY THIS ONE BOND DEBT!!!

The latest tax extension caused a property tax rate of 2.7% of home value (JUST FOR THE SCHOOOL!!! NOT including all other taxes due for other County taxing bodies).

Can ANY HOMEOWNER IN WOODSTOCK AFFORD a TAX RATE OF 6.5% of total home value? (2.7% doubled, plus another 2% for all the other taxing bodies)???

Put another way, can any homeowner in Woodstock afford a 13% tax rate… as a function of 6.5% rate on a home value dropping in half again because of tax-to-value disparity between the prudent budgeting of all the rest of America compared to the irrational spending practices in this District in this County?

In 2005, D200 had $55.7 million principal debt.

The District borrowed over $100 million to build 2 schools.

After 9 years of debt service, we owe about the same amount as 10 years ago.

Bond Refinancing has been extensive, to keep extruding the debt and debt payments, and each time it occurs it incurs about 1.5% fees to lawyers and financial firms.

For the past 9 years, the schools have operated at low capacity ratios.

By the District’s reported numbers, two High Schools are operating at 54% and 58% capacity.

Another school is operating at 23% capacity. (This for at least the past 6 years).

By the capacity ratio of:

“School Construction Law Project Standards, State of Illinois Capital Board”

(“List of Eligible School Construction Program Expenditures For Construction of School Facilities October 2001 Revised October 2010”):

For one example:

Woodstock North High School

Woodstock North High School

A High School listed by D200 with capacity of 1,600 students (and stated enrollment of 929 in 2014) actually has a capacity of ,2223 students.

(600 students per 96,000 sq. feet; remaining 211,000 square feet another 1623 students).

That High School has a stated enrollment of 929.

929 out of Capacity of 2,223 is operating at 42% of Capacity.

EAV in the District (per Bond Official Statements):

  • 2005 $878 million
  • 2013 $758 million
  • 2014 forward…lower EAV

Spending rose and rose despite 8 years declining EAV number of employees rose

Admin spending rose at anomalous rates.

Total employees 2013 over 1,000.

2005 vs. 2014 Total expenses/cost per pupil/teaching staff/pupil-teacher ratio

2014: $97.8 million/$14,686/ 412/ 16.17

2005: $58 million/ $9496/ 350/ 17.72

2014: 1,120 employees

2005: 797 employees


  • 2014: 6,661 per D200; per ISBE INCLUDING PRE-Kindergarten: 6,569 (EXCLUDING Pre-K: 6215)
  • 2005/06: 6,395 per D200; per ISBE INCLUDING PRE-Kindergarten: 6,258 (EXCLUDING Pre-K: 5992)

(That’s a lot more teachers and employees per student than average alleged enrollment increase ratios indicate)

There are also disparities between what D200 claims as enrollment and what Illinois State Board of Education claims as enrollment in D200.

Much disparity centers around Pre Kindergarten students.

The tuition (and the cost at Montessori school by comparison) is around $2,200 per school year for this Pre-K enrollment.

But D200 COUNTS about 400 students in their general calculation of cost per pupil per year.

If you take $14,686 (cost represented by District per student per year) minus $2200 (actual cost per Pre-K student at Montessori or the tuition charged by D200)you get 400 (student) multiplied by $12,486 (cost of students beyond Pre-K) and you get about $5 million to amortized over about 6200 students (ISBE enrollment figure) and you find each student is actually costing $800 more per year than the District has stated.

D200 has taxed 2.7% of total home value this year.

Woodstock property tax is 4.6% of total home value this year.


Looking at the Woodstock School District — 33 Comments

  1. Only way to change this – change the Board and Illinois Labor laws relative to binding arbitration after you change the attitude of the ‘public at large’ who will start to scream if a strike or stoppage interferes with the taxpayer subsidized baby sitter called “public school”. No! Charter schools are not the magic answer. What would your response be if a religious group takes over your Charter School Board? The members are not elected.

  2. When I saw this comment, the debt was sickening. We owe it ourselves to investigate other municipalities and school districts. It’s time to get involved.

  3. When I saw this comment, the debt was sickening. We owe it to ourselves to investigate other municipalities and school districts. It’s time to get involved.

  4. Debt as percentage of total home value is 6.5%.

    Statutory debt cap (13.8% of EAV) is meant to keep schools from borrowing more than 4.6% of total home value.

    While the debt was accumulated technically within the law, it was structured in a way indicating knowledge of clever strategy to evade the spirit of statutory debt maximums.

    to get to edfin site (National Center for Education Statistics):
    Go to: nces.ed.gov
    Click top toolbar “Data &Tools”
    Choose “Peer Comparison Tools” from dropdown menu.
    Click “Public School District Finance Peer Search”
    Enter Woodstock CUSD (or any other) and choose selection from search results.
    Find various spending , revenue, and demographic specifics under different tabs in results.

  6. Compare the percentage increase of new employees versus the percentage of enrollment increase.
    (Number of employees up 25%. Enrollment up 4%. Enrollment flat if consideration given that 200 new enrollment are Pre Kindergarten at annual cost of $2200 rather than $14686).

    Compare the ratio of total expenditure cost increase to the ratio of student population increase between 2005 and 2014 (latest available stats).
    (Spending up 69% enrollment up no more than 4%).

    Contrast the increased spending amounts to the lower value of property in 2013 vs 2005.
    (Spending up 69%) (EAV down 14%)

  7. Susan,
    Excellent comments. Thank you.
    Which raises a question…how in the world can they justify a $900,000+ athletic field? The money can certainly be put to good/better use elsewhere in the district.
    Why are the CUSD 200 costs so high?
    This school board is way out of sync with realty.

  8. Building astroturf fields is a trend in school districts and park districts all over chicagoland.

    They justify the expenditure with the cost to maintain regular turf, plus the desires of special interest groups (athletic teams and their families) using the fields.

    Probably the best course of action, since Susan has so many statistics to make people angry, is to get an organized group of people who are willing to figure out a course of action.

    School districts and taxing districts usually will not respond too much to one person, although over time they might make some changes as they are concerned about their image.

    The key is to get organized.

    The school district will refute and marginalize some of Susan’s statistics, and some of their criticism will have more merit than others, as they have more data and experience than Susan.

    That’s just how school districts and taxing districts operate.

    So it’s usually some back and forth and there will be some disagreement.

    The alternative is to just let them continue on their path, and given the financial situation of the state, and Federal, there will likely be some service cuts by the school district, and hiked taxes.

    The pension unfunded liability and bond debt and unfunded healthcare liabilities and in lots of schools deferred maintenance, the collective bargaining agreements and pay hikes over time, it’s all taking its toll.

    It seems Woodstock got hit hard by the housing bust and maybe they overbuilt Woodstock North anticipating more growth that didn’t materialize.

    It’s bad enough now with taxes, can’t imagine in 10 or 20 years.

  9. There is so much to analyze.

    The balloon payments.

    Obviously it was never meant to be paid.

    It will be refinanced, and taxpayers will pay refinance costs.

    How is that good for taxpayers.


    Prevailing wage.

    Labor deserves a fair wage.

    In Illinois prevailing wage has spiraled out of control in many probably not all instances.

    Unfortunately Illinois Policy Institute didn’t go into enough detail with this article, but the numbers none the less are eye opening and just one more reason why prevailing wage needs to be further examined.

    Prevailing wage gives 6-figure salaries to workers on public projects in DuPage County
    June 9, 2015


    We are in big taxpayer trouble in Illinois.

    The state has not been run by either Republicans or Democrats or locally (in many instances) in a sustainable fashion.

    It’s been an image PR, money grab, satisfy the special interests for political gain, marginalize opposition, discredit opposition, game.

    So taxpayers need to become organized.

    Boards need watchdogs.

  10. Don’t forget that Pre-K in D200 is tuition based, except for low income students.

    I wonder how much money they also bring in from tuition.

  11. What school districts are in the “peer average?”

    More and more school districts are charging for all day kindergarten and pre-k, except for low income students.

    And the percentage of low income students has been increasing in many districts.

  12. Remember that the higher the enrollment figure can be made, the lower the publicized ‘annual cost per pupil’ can be made to seem. (‘Cost per pupil’ formula: expenditures/number of students)

    Including Pre-K students in full enrollment disguises the fact that cost per student as stated is too low.

    Expenditures were $98 million.

    Property tax revenue was $60 million. Most of the other $38 million came from government 9other tax dollars).

    I believe that tuition received (from all sources, private, State federal) for all fee-based services (special Ed, Pre-K)was around $2.5 million.

  13. Here is where I obtained almost all data about D200 borrowing, spending, claimed enrollment, school capacity, debt:

    1. go to Municipal Bond website: emma.msrb.org

    2. type CUSIP number of Woodstock CUSD200 into search box: 581158

    3. choose a bond listing, I chose the most recently issued bond (March 2015).

    4. choose ‘Official Statements’ tab.

    5. download the official statement. It’s almost 300 pages. Read them all. There is a lot of info. Go all the way to the back, you’ll see a lot of specific info about the schools.

  14. CAMPBELL CO, KY (grades PK – 12)
    Elementary/secondary school system

    COWETA, OK (grades PK – 12)
    Elementary/secondary school system

    CRANDALL ISD, TX (grades PK – 12)
    Elementary/secondary school system

    DONEGAL SD, PA (grades KG – 12)
    Elementary/secondary school system

    ISLE OF WIGHT CO PBLC SCHS, VA (grades PK – 12)
    Elementary/secondary school system


    Elementary/secondary school system OCONEE COUNTY, GA (grades PK – 12)

    Elementary/secondary school system
    Elementary/secondary school system

    IN (grades PK – 12)
    Elementary/secondary school system

    WOODSTOCK CUSD 200, IL (grades PK – 12)
    Elementary/secondary school system

    What is the Peer Tool for?

    The peer tool is intended to compare the financial and demographic characteristics of a single school district with a set of its peers.

    It displays the information in graphical format in the form of bar charts and pie charts as well as in numeric format. It is intended for simple research and comparisons.

    How Does it Choose Peers?

    When peers are selected automatically, the peer search tool selects peer districts based on five variables:

    1 – district type,

    2 – locale,

    3 – total enrollment,

    4 – student/teacher ratio, and

    5 – the percentage of children in poverty.

    Peers must be of the same district type and locale. Each of the continuous variables (enrollment, s/t ratio and poverty) are assigned a weight based on the difference of each district’s value from the average value and divided by the standard deviation of the variable, or:

    weight = (1 + ABS(district value – mean(all values) ) ) / std dev( all values)

    All districts in the database are ranked by the sum of these three weights.

    Peers are the districts with a combined weight closest to the combined weight of the focus district.

    The effect of this process is to select peers based on the outstanding characteristic of the district:

    extremely large districts will be assigned peers based primarily on enrollment, whereas extremely poor schools will be assigned peers based primarily on their poverty level.

  15. The peer tool helpful as it’s good to know how IL compares to other states, but is there some way to override the automatic selection of peers and input user selected peers from say the Chicago metro area, Rockford metro area, etc.?

  16. I’m sure you could write an article every week about District 200 for the blog and people would learn a lot.

    And it probably would make a difference, like shaking out the rug, who knew there was so much dust in that rug.

  17. Perhaps Huntley D-158 might be a good comparison.

    They are also a unit district located in McHenry county.

    Enrollment is 9,436 vs 6,498.

    You might want to go to ISBE’s school report card site

    http://www.illinoisreportcard.com/Default.aspx which contains some relevant data by district.

    If you want to pull any district’s Annual Financial Report submitted to ISBE, you can find it here:


    Woodstock’s reporting number is: 44-063-2000-26

    Huntley’s number is: 44-063-1580-22

    From the report card data, a couple of things jump out from the main summary:

    # of Schools for Huntley’s 9,436 kids is 8 vs Woodstock’s 6,498 students in 11 Schools.

    Instructional Spending/Student for D-158: $4,797, D-200: $6,063.

    If Woodstock had the same Instructional Spend/Student as D-158, D-200 would save $8,226,468 per year.

    The AFR data is helpful to look at the spending by each functional area.

    This data shows that D-200 with 3 more schools spends more on School Admin even though D-158’s enrollment is 45% higher.

    While D-158 spends about 25% more in the Trans Fund, I would’ve thought that disparity would have been MUCH higher given that:

    1)D-158’s enrollment is 45% higher,

    2) with the increased geographic coverage of 11 schools D-200 should have a much higher percentage of “walkers” vs “busers” (i.e. lower percentage of students requiring bus service),

    3) I think D-158 has a much larger boundary footprint than D-200 which means more bus routes and longer routes, and

    4) D-158 only has 1 High School (located in the middle of nowhere) which means a huge percentage of all of the high school students are required to be bused.

    As to the Debt Fund, both experienced a lot of growth resulting in a lot of borrowing for new construction.

    In looking at D-200’s CAFR


    The Debt Service schedule on pg 38 in truly frightening.

    Total debt service out to 2035 is $225,955,179!!

    Current annual debt service is relatively flat at $10.4 million/year until 2022 when it skyrockets to $19.7 million and continues to grow through 2026.

    One last fun fact from the CAFR indicates that as of June 30, 2014 the statutory debt limit for the District was $104,640,993 providing a legal debt margin of ($14,157,217). With 6/30/14 total debt of $125.6 million in outstanding debt, they have blown through their legal debt limit by $14.2 million.

  18. I’ve contacted every representative about the statutory debt cap being functionally circumvented because only principal is considered when calculating debt limit margins.

    (Accrued, unpaid interest is not factored in, so incentive is for debt to be structured to defer interest payments).

    Althoff Wheeler Tryon and Rainer did not reply.

    Jack Franks replied.

    He said if I email a specific suggestion (“include accrued Interest in debt when calculating statutory cap, in this case 13.8% of EAV”) he would pass it to the legal team for consideration.

  19. Given that Woodstock is currently in a state where they have exceeded their legal debt cap by $14.2 million, I’m wondering what the repurcussions are for the district in order to bring the district into compliance with the law?

  20. This issue of the district exceeding its legal debt limit has me wondering how D-200 was able to legally enter into new capital leases and incur technology loans during the course of FY14 since the district was already over their debt limit as of 6/30/13 by $6.8 million.

    For FY14 they added $325,000 in new technology loans and $249,345 in capital leases.

    Plus, I going to guess that they entered into additional leases and technology loans during the course of FY15 since it appears that is a standard financing practice of the district.

  21. The debt cap was borrowed to the brim (on basis of a well-marketed 2006 referendum) in the years the real estate market was known to crash, but was not in technical breach because the EAV from prior years held higher evaluations.
    So as EAV (denominator) fell, and debt (numerator) stayed relatively constant, the percentage rose.

    So the borrowings only exceeded debt cap in subsequent years as EAV fell.

    Borrowings for Fire&Safety seems excessive, having occurred twice at high amounts, but I believe there is no statutory limit for this type of debt, nor for the other specific types of debt you mentioned above. (I am fairly sure, but could be wrong, that these classifications of debt are outside and in addition to the 13.8% of EAV debt cap).

    Interesting you mentioned the technology loan.

    Last month or so there was a NWHerald editorial ‘thumbs up’ for D200 purchasing tablets/pads for students.

    The headline for the article was something like D200 finds money in budget for tablets or notebooks for students.

    In the body of the article it indicated they would be issuing yet more debt to purchase the tablets.

    It stated the schools for which it would be purchasing tablets, and the net projected cost.

    I looked up the enrollment at the stated middle schools on Official Statements of bonds issued by D200 in 2015.

    Dividing the projected cost by the number of students affected, I found that the District intended to spend about $700 per tablet per student.

    In ads at Walmart that day, the recent popular tablets ranged in price (retail) from $160-$500.

    I searched NWHerald for other tech articles at local schools.

    There had been a somewhat recent NWHerald article describing CL schools updated tech and issued tablets, at FAR lower cost-per-pupil.

    The original ‘thumbs-up’ to D200 implied that D200 students needed internet access.

    I looked on D200 website.

    There is a Technology Report from 2014, of their own devise, indicating that over 96% of their student population has internet access at home.

  22. Don’t you just love government efficiency!

    They are so stupid – they think no one is going to call them out on their ridiculous spending projects.

    Maybe we need to start a school for school districts to teach them some common sense.

  23. Susan,

    The Legal Debt Margin Calculation for FY14 can be found on page 136 of Woodstock’s CAFR referenced above.

    The debt applicable to the limit is: General Obligation Bonds $124,700,940, Technology Loans $397,334 and Capital Leases $514,338.

    So, since the leases and technology loans are subject to the statutory limit, this is why I wondered how the district could legally add new loans and leases during FY14 when they were already over the legal debt limit coming into FY14.

    And, you are right that the rate of EAV decline, and therefore the statutory debt limit, is declining faster than the rate at which the district is paying off principal.

    Thus the amount that they are over the debt limit continues to grow each year.

    Of course, this is compounded by the fact that they continue to ADD to the debt through new technology loans and capital leases each year.

    As a side note, given that the district has the cash on hand to outright purchase technology instead of lease and/or borrow, one has to wonder why the district would incur the additional interest expense by financing these purchases.

    While the technology loans carry a rate of 2%, they can’t possibly be earning anywhere near that rate on that same amount of cash that is sitting in a district bank account.

    That’s just more money down the drain.

  24. Good catch Razor I agree with your conclusion.

    Have you heard of a “tax rate objection”?

  25. And, can you think of any cogent reason why the Chairwoman of D200 school Board is reluctant ( putting it lightly) to engaging in an objection to Lakewood tif ?

    Lakewood tif, the only logical place to stick low income housing for compliance with Illinois Affordable Housing Act , can predictably be expected to add 60 students total cost burden to D200 in very near future.

    ( all Lakewood children attend CL schools, all Lakewood property owners pay taxes to CL schools. D200 taxpayers will bear entire cost burden of new tif students, as tif EAV at present is near zero and all incremental taxes will be sent to Lakewood managers to distribute to developers).

    60 students at $15000 per pupil annual cost (first year…cost per pupil per year have been rising parabolically) will add $900,000 annual cost burden to Woodstock taxpayers.

    Why would the School Board Chairwoman not try to protect her District from this tax dump incursion?

  26. And, can you think of any cogent reason why the Chairwoman of D200 school Board is reluctant ( putting it lightly) to engaging in an objection to Lakewood tif ?

    Lakewood tif, the only logical place to stick low income housing for compliance with Illinois Affordable Housing Act, can predictably be expected to add 60 students total cost burden to D200 in very near future.

    ( all Lakewood children attend CL schools, all Lakewood property owners pay taxes to CL schools. D200 taxpayers will bear entire cost burden of new tif students, as tif EAV at present is near zero and all incremental taxes will be sent to Lakewood managers to distribute to developers).

    60 students at $15,000 per pupil annual cost (first year…cost per pupil per year have been rising parabolically) will add $900,000 annual cost burden to Woodstock taxpayers.

    Why would the School Board Chairwoman not try to protect her District from this tax dump incursion?

  27. I am not up to speed on the Lakewood TIF that you mentioned.

    I’m not sure why they would need a TIF if they’re going to put in affordable housing developments under an IHDA program.

    Those projects already get preferential tax credits and reduced property tax benefits.

    See: Pedcor in Crystal Lake and Cary.

    The impact on enrollment for those projects can be calculated with this table:

    Based on the number and size of apartments/townhomes/etc, this table estimates the incremental number of students coming into a school district.

    For those incremental students, do not use the district’s average cost per student to determine its financial affect on the district.

    Most of that number represents fixed costs.

    As to the chairwoman’s lack of interest in objecting to the TIF district (assuming its for affordable housing), my guess is that since she is running a district that is woefully under-utilized, adding to enrollment would help fill up schools that have siginificant excess capacity today.

    Of course, there is an inherent financial gamble that since there would be no incremental property tax revenue coming into the district from a TIF-based affordable housing development, she must be hoping that whatever incremental State Aid the district receives for those new students offsets whatever incremental expenses the district incurs to teach those new students.

    Which is probably a big gamble given the state’s financial woes, pending pension cost shift to the district, and pending legislation that would reallocate current funding away from districts like D-200.

    The second alternative is that she (and perhaps the rest of the board) doesn’t know what she is doing.

    And given the district’s financial performance, I think there is plenty of evidence of that as well.

  28. There was a tax rate objection case just recently against Crystal Lake that was successful.

    You’ll need a lawyer.

    You might be able to challenge the debt service levy since they have been over the cap since FY13.

    And yet they continue to issue new debt in the form of capital leases and technology loans.

    Also, I’d be willing to wager that the district didn’t comply with their duty to notify ISBE of their issuing this new debt under the following:

    105 ILCS 5/19-1 (q)

    A school district must notify the State Board of
    Education prior to issuing any form of long-term or short-term debt that will result in outstanding debt that exceeds 75% of the debt limit specified in this Section or any other provision of law.

    You could FOIA the district and/or ISBE to see if they submitted any notification when they incurred debt by entering into new leases and technology loans during FY13-FY15.

  29. Imo, the Lakewood tif is intended to be operated as a for-profit tax burden shift.

    Tifs last 24 years, then are ( rubber stamps) extended another 12 years.

    The schoolchildren will be shifted to another district so Lakewood citizens will not suffer the property tax burden., and are less likely to object to Village officials promoting this tif.

    The tif district land is a golf course and farmland, so virtually all development will be ‘tax increment’ and so virtually all property tax revenue subject to diversion from normal tax collection/distribution channels to Lakewood management control for disposition.

    Yes, D200 has operated several schools at well below capacity for many years.

    But we D200 taxpayers have paid the tax burden, and suffered the consequences of creating that excess capacity, and did not do so to now fill these schools with ‘non-paying customers’.

    We will not placidly, obsequiously subsidize the profits of Lakewood— we would be better off to shut down schools and lower our own tax rate, and let Lakewood pay for the education costs engendered by their tif by redistricting the tif into the school districts attended by Lakewood children.

    If the remaining parcels of developable land in D200 are filled with tifs ( and Lakewood tif ensures that this will be the case; what idiot developer will not now insist on public money giveaways when they have to compete with tif developments given public money giveaways?):

    We are at higher than 4% tax rate now, and this tif will raise the tax burden, which will further crush property values, which will further raise the tax rate, which will further crush property values…the death spiral is ensured.

  30. Razor, here are the clever but dishonorable incentives for Lakewood to place low income housing into this tif:

    1. Cake -And-Eat-It: they get to stick all the children of the housing project into a school district which will not commingle with their own children. AND, all education costs of the tif children will be the tax burden of another school district. Elegant escape for Lakewood citizens who might otherwise object to tif. Incentive for Village Managers: The higher the tax rate goes in the other school District, the higher the profit (incremental property tax revenue) to Lakewood City managers for their discretionary dispersal.

    2. Lakewood property is pricey, and any low income housing proposal would not be highest-use or, I predict, well received by Lakewood neighbors. This tif is separated from Lakewood proper by a moat: Rte 47.

  31. I feel absolutely trapped.

    I’m paying $6800/yr in property taxes for an 1867 sq ft home in District 200, just got my assessment which raised the value by 11.24% so at a minimum I’ll be paying $764/yr more and THAT’s if they don’t raise the rates.

    Who the heck would want to buy a house with that kind of tax rate?

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