CL Chamber Hosts Tax District Officials – Part 1

C of C panel 9-24-15

Participating on the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce panel of local governmental officials at Park Place were, from left to right, Crystal Lake Assistant Director of Community Economic Development James Richter, Crystal Lake Park District Executive Director Jason Herbster, McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller, Crystal Lake High School Board President Ted Wagner, District 155 Superintendent Johnnie Thomas, Crystal Lake Library Board President Terri Reece, Library Director Kathryn Martens, Crystal Lake Grade School Board President Jeff Mason, and District 47 Superintendent Kathy Hinz.

The Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce held its first Town Hall meeting Thursday morning.

It was the usual time for such meetings, set so business people can attend before business hours.

This time the public was allowed to come.  There was plenty of room.

Representatives from local governments faced Chamber members and the public.

Katheryn Martens

Kathryn Martens

City Librarian Kathryn Martens said something that caught my attention.

“Each of us taxing bodies have different service areas.”

Not, that seems elementary to me, but it obviously is not to newcomers and probably a good number of long-time residents.

She pointed out that the Crystal Lake Library does not serve the greater Crystal Lake area as the Park District does.

It serves only the residents of Crystal Lake, although Crystal Lake businesses are eligible for a library card.

Toni Reece

Terri Reece

Library Board President Terri Reece gave a comprehensive outline of services the Library provides, which I have asked her to forward for a future article.

The one that jumped out at me was a course in Excel that Giorgio’s requested and was provided.

Representatives of both School District 47 and 155 explained how their students were doing much better than average.

Ted Wagner

Ted Wagner

District 155 Board President Ted Wagner, for instance, pointed out that two of the four high schools are ranked among the top 500 of the country’s 21,000 high schools.

“Our kids are getting into the top schools.

“We’ve been in the paper lately,” he added.

“Are we perfect? No.”

Thomas, Johhnie looking at campaer facing a bit leftSuperintendent Johnnie Thomas explained that District 155’s budget was about $93 million, as are revenues.

“About as close to balanced as it possible,” he observed.

Thomas said that the high school district is “one of the stronger districts in the State of Illinois.”

96% of the Crystal Lake High School District’s student graduate and 93% go on to higher education.

McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller pointed out that over the last three years $10 million was left in people’s pockets because the Board did not take the extra taxes that the Property Tax Cap allows.

Reducing the work force by 170 employees was part of the reason that was possible, he said.

After brief introductory remarks, questions took up the next fifty or so  minutes.

Kathy Hinz

Kathy Hinz

Elementary School District 47 Superintendent Kathy Hinz characterized the goal as creating problem solvers, team members.

It was pointed out that math and English scores were up.

“We are always looking at new ways to use the tax dollars [productively].

Joe Gottemoller

Joe Gottemoller

Gottemoller explained County services and described the courts as “problem solvers.”

He mentioned that the budget was about $30 million less than it was three years ago.  This year the total budget is about $211 million.

[Checking the numbers, Gottemoller found he exaggerated the cut.  The 2012 county budget was $256 million.  In 2016 (this year) it’s $233 million.  The math shows about a $23 million decrease.]

Executive Director Jason Herbster pointed out that the Park District amounts to just under 5% of the tax dollar.

Two years ago, he said, the Board kept the levy flat.

The budget is now comprised of about 50% from property taxes and 50% from user fees.

Herbster told the audience that the Board’s goal was to move toward having 60-70% of the revenue come from user fees.

James Richter, Assistant Director of Community Economic Development, represented Crystal Lake.

He said that the City had one of the lowest property tax rates (Lakewood’s is lower since the golf course bonds were paid off).  The city’s share is about 10% of the total bill.

Jeff Mason

Jeff Mason

A question was asked concerning declining school enrollments and when that would translate into lower school taxes.

Thomas pointed out that budgets are decreasing, but not as fast as student population.

District 47 Board President Jeff Mason talked of bringing back special education students from SEDOM to local schools.

= = = = =
Tomorrow, the answer to this question:

“From 2009 through 2012, Countywide Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) dropped from $10.4 Billion to $7.9 Billion, a 24% decrease.

“Meanwhile, levies increased from $752 Million to $797 Million, or 6%.

“This caused the aggregate tax rate to climb from 7.2% to 10.08%, almost 40%.

“As values begin to return, is there any coordinated effort to hold or reduce levies among taxing bodies so the rate drops faster and people start to feel some relief?”

Saturday, the biggest misconceptions and things governmental officials wish people knew.


CL Chamber Hosts Tax District Officials – Part 1 — 15 Comments

  1. “96% of the Crystal Lake High School District’s student graduate and 93% go on to higher education.”

    Note how that sentence is phrased.

    It’s in the definitive as in that’s what happened.

    Why is that important?

    Ask the Superintendent for the source of the statistics.

    Then, submit a FOIA request for documentation supporting those statistics.

    There is no way for him to know that without cost prohibitive research.

    Typically such statistics are based on what current students say they will do upon graduation, coupled with post graduate follow survey of some sort, and the response rates on both surveys are what?

    The way he likely presented the statistic is misleading and common by school districts.

    If he had presented such misleading data in his phd thesis he wouldn’t have a phd.

    But once they have their phd they have no problem misleading the public.

  2. Next, the two most important taxpayer concerns for future higher taxes and sustainable taxes at current service levels are pensions and bonds.

    Did any of them provide detailed data on pensions and bonds.


    Taxing districts virtually never do.

    What is the unfunded pension liability for that taxing district for each pension fund (school districts for example have IMRF and TRS).

    In terms of school districts, the fact that TRS unfunded liability is a state responsibility is noteworthy but nonetheless will impact General State Aid to the school district in the future if not reformed so it’s necessary information in terms of overall taxpayer money flowing to the school district.

    What was the employer contribution to each pension fund over each of the last 10 years.

    What was the employee contribution to the pension fund over each of the last 10 years.

    What was the state (for school districts) contribution to the pension fund on behalf of the school district over each of the last 10 years (more difficult to calculate but can be done).

    What is the bond, principal, and total payment schedule each year until all the bonds are retired.

    Where is the 10 year revenue schedule, showing for each of the last 10 years, for each revenue source, the amount of revenue that flowed to the school district, including, local property taxes, state PPRT, State GSA (school districts), Federal, bonds, etc.

    How about the total budget for each of the last 10 years.

    These types of meetings are typically cheerleader meetings and not taxpayer meetings in any meaningful sense of the word.

  3. “James Richter, Assistant Director of Community Economic Development, represented Crystal Lake.

    He said that the City had one of the lowest property tax rates (Lakewood’s is lower since the golf course bonds were paid off). The city’s share is about 10% of the total bill.”

    Crystal Lake fire and police pension funds are underfunded.

    If the pensions were fully funded, taxes would be higher.

    He didn’t say that though, did he?

    Probably not.

    It’s a culture.

    They seldom tell the full story but always claim they tell the truth but don’t tell you they are not telling you the full story because then you would ask for the full story and they don’t want to tell you the full story.

  4. There are lots of students in Crystal Lake High School District 155 that require remedial level math and / or English once they arrive at college.

    Where is that statistic.

    If they Phd Superintendent who doubled the height of bleachers and doesn’t post the IMRF compensation report on the district website for employees earning over $75,000 annually can tell you what percentage of kids go to college, can he also tell you what percentage of kids require remedial level English and or math once they arrive in college.

    Or is that too difficult for a Phd to figure out because maybe he thinks taxpayers who shelled out $3,000 per year property taxes that go to CHSD 155 x 12 years of school = $36,000 in property taxes to educate their kid only to find out the kid surprisingly needs a remedial level class(es) in college but the school district never bothered to tell them their child was potentially tracking for a remedial level college class.

    The school district instead just tells the $36,000 taxpayer how great the school district is the taxpayer keeps paying $36,000 in property taxes and does not question generous school district salary and benefits and pensions which are unaffordable at current government service levels.

    What about remedial level classes, was information about that presented at the meeting?


  5. One other thing the school districts never tell parents.

    The state of Illinois contribution to the TRS pension fund is never included in the cost to educate a child.

    So the cost to educate a child is more than the school districts tell taxpayers.

    The school district budget does not include the state of Illinois contribution to the TRS pension fund, becuase it’s a state budget item, not a school district budget item.

    But it definitely is a taxpayer cost to educate a child.

    NCES and other education statistics also do not include the state of Illinois contribution to the TRS pension plan as a cost to educate a child.

    That’s why it’s necessary to break down the state of Illinois contribution to the TRS pension plan by school district.

    Then you will more accurately understand the cost to educate a child in Illinois.

    The single biggest financial problem in the State of Illinois is the unfunded liability in the TRS pension fund.

  6. “It was pointed out that math and English scores were up.”

    What math and English scores for what time period, hopefully she included that information.

    Now she almost certainly is not talking about the ISAT because that has gone away.

    But let’s talk about the ISAT.

    But over the years taxpayers, parents, and students have been incredibly misled by the Illinois State Board of Education, school districts, and teachers.

    It’s called dumbing down the ISAT (Illinois Standard Achievement Test).

    And it was only done to make the test scores look good to parents and NCLB statistics.

    Lower the bar and it’s easier to hit the bar.

    Isn’t that just great.

    Wasn’t that a nice way for the state government to spend your hard earned tax dollars, dumb down a standardized test to fool you and the Federal government, and then the school districts told everyone how great they were doing.

    The new test is the PARCC.

    All kinds of controversy about the PARCC.

    For sure it’s more rigerous than the ISAT.

    It would be nice if they could spend less time on preparing for tests in the classroom, let the kids prepare for tests at home or some spare time such as before or after school or during lunch or a break if they want to.

    It would be great if the best lessons from the best teachers were put on YouTube, and during class, the kids focus on more interesting and individualized activities.

    It would be great if IHSA athletes were not required to take gym and instead get whatever academic help or class would be more useful in their life, maybe how to watch government finances since it seems not many people understand how to do that or the importance or they just think they can’t do it or it won’t make a difference and give up.

    But one thing you can be sure of if it’s a meeting with someone in education they will say how great the student or class or school or district is doing, and all over the state, they all say the same thing, from Kindergarten through high school, everyone is great every meeting.

  7. No Twh reps on the panel?

    I suppose such as small part of the tax bill isn’t so important?

  8. These people, in their own sad little world, think among themselves that they’re important.

    What a joke.

  9. I think Mark excluded one important component of Public Education, we graduate students with the highest self-esteem in the world!

  10. OK.

    The Taxpayers paid $1.2 million to build it.

    It will cost a lot to tear down and rebuild.

    Who will lose their jobs over this debacle?

    Will the School Board’s attorney be replaced?

  11. James Richter, Assistant Director of Community Economic Development, represented Crystal Lake.

    He said that the City had one of the lowest property tax rates (Lakewood’s is lower since the golf course bonds were paid off). The city’s share is about 10% of the total bill.

    I am assuming that he is comparing property tax rates to other cities and villages in McHenry County.

    This is like comparing one rotten apple in the barrel to other rotten apples in the barrel – Crystal Lake is a “little less rotten”.

    It would be nice if he compared the city’s tax rate to comparable sized cities in other states, like Indiana.

  12. The public schools overall thankfully typically do a good job with building student self esteem.

    Typically no improvement needed there, except it’s sometimes hard to change or dismiss the outlier teachers who for whatever reason tear down or pick on select kids (they usually are not mean to all kids), or whom administration protects for whatever reason.

    But overall public schools do a great job with building student self esteem and that’s very helpful in preparing a student for life.

  13. @The NOB- we did not include Townships because we are represented by 4 different townships.

    This was an information forum for the Chamber of Commerce membership.

    We invited the public to join us.

    To add four more units would have been to difficult to manage.


    Mary Margaret Maule, President Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce.

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