2-Year Tax Freeze “Killer” for Schools

Capitol Fax is reporting a school superintendent complains that a two-year real estate tax freeze for be a “killer” for schools:

“[Bruce] Rauner wants legislatures to freeze property taxes for 2 straight years,” said Tad Everett, superintendent of the Sterling Public School District. “That would be a killer for us financially. We would have no new revenue or increases in anything budgetary for 2 straight years.”

If so, school administrators must be poor managers.

For next year, the maximum increase in taxes any non-Home Rule government (and that means all schools) is 8/10 of one percent.

PTEL 2015 for 2016

The 8/10 of one percent figure at the bottom of the table is the limit placed on tax hikes for next year’s tax bills by the Property Tax Cap.

So far in 2016, the Consumer Price Index has increased 5/10 of one percent.

Here are the monthly CPI figures for the last year.  The Tax Cap uses the calendar year figures.

Here are the monthly CPI figures for the last year. The Tax Cap uses the calendar year figures.

Show me a manager that can’t cut one percent from his or her budget and I’ll show you one who should be replaced.

This means the whole tax freeze issue is little more than a “headline” opportunity.

Taxpayers won’t save much.

Conversely, tax districts won’t lose much.

But the savings and loses will be “forever,” as the tax district employees continually remind tax district board members.


2-Year Tax Freeze “Killer” for Schools — 14 Comments

  1. The main problem for school districts is that they have completely failed to tie their union salary contracted increases to CPI increases.

    Most district’s base + step increases completely ignore cpi which is what the majority of a district’s revenue growth is tied to.

    Huntley just agreed to something over 4% for its union.

    A district can’t/shouldn’t commit to growing its recurring expenses (like labor costs) at a rate that is 4 to 5 times the rate at which its revenues grow at.

    I quick review of the Sterling School District’s labor contract with its teachers shows that the teachers on the salary table receive between a 4% and 5% increase from their previous year’s salary.

    And now their superintendent is crying that a levy freeze vs a 0.8% increase is a “School District Killer.”

    The real “Killer” is a school board’s complete failure to negotiate appropriate contracts with its unions, not its inability to extract more revenue out of its community.

  2. Get rid of the ability of teachers to strike and districts might I repeat might have a chance during negotiations.

    The system is slanted toward the unions.

    Additionally, the public does not like their kids held out of school for strikes, they need to pay sitters and the students have certain tests to take.

    It might help if we stop treating teachers like saints and treat them like public employees who should not be receiving mandatory yearly raises and paid pensions.

    Let’s make them equal to the taxpayers.

  3. Just another reason to add to the list of why people are fleeing Illinois.

  4. They may have built bigger hikes into their collective bargaining agreements.

    IMRF might hike the employer contribution more.

    Bond debt repayment (principal and interest may be increasing.

    They may have a lot of deferred maintenance.

    But in general every year in good times or bads the public schools and unions claim a crises of one sort or another.

    Since there’s no competition, the main financial objective is how much taxpayer money can they obtain.

    Sure there are exceptions.

  5. During collective bargaining negotiations employee pay is compared to other “benchmark” districts.

    Those school districts are exclusively in state, never out of state.

    Granted teacher are certified to teach in a state, which needs to change.

    Complain about Federal control, but certifying teachers to teach only in a specific state further limits competition of labor in monopoly school districts.

    So in mediation and arbitration, we have mediators and arbitrators, whom are often labor friendly, using only in state comparisons to make a decision.

    The collective bargaining system is broke on many levels.

  6. Some Townships not only froze their levy four years ago but they have actually reduced the amount of the levy.


    Let’s consolidate some Townships to GUARANTEE a tax increase!

  7. While Illinois State law severely tilts in the favor of unionized labor, the real problem is that school board members don’t have the knowledge, expertise, and more importantly, the will power to negotiate labor agreements which are affordable over the long-term for their communities.

    While a 3.5% to 4.5% raise for next year might not sound like a lot, those raises compound very rapidly.

    Add to that the fact that teachers can rapidly advance into new “Lanes” with an advanced degree and they’ve added another 10% bump to their base.

    Given that payroll costs make up about 70% of a district’s operating budget, that compounding effect quickly buries a district financially when tax levy revenue is gowing between 0% and 1.7%.

    And then the State throws a little gas on the fire by cutting funding because of their own financial, self-inflicted problems and a district can quickly get into a situation where their cost structure is not sustainable.

  8. There have been school board members who fought valiantly over long periods of time to come up with a fair financially responsible contract however, the teachers just say no if they don’t get all their demands.

    Then they eventually call a strike and the result is they “win”.

    How many months should unpaid board members sit facing a stone wall?

    You have to stop the ability to strike.

  9. The public school teachers and administrators were averaging 6% pay hikes for many years, maybe decades.

    Very few boards have had a reform majority, typically 4 of 7 members.

    Those who have had a reform majority face all sorts of obstacles to negotiating a deal fair to taxpayers, the district, and the employees.

    The fact that all but .58% (1/2 of 1%) of the employer pension contribution (to the TRS pension fund) comes from the state only worsens the situation, because the school districts are then not responsible for pensions, so don’t concern themselves with pensions, so don’t take responsibility for pensions, and could perversely care less about end of career salary hikes since they are not responsible for the resulting pensions.

    Remember the employees of the school district includes administrators.

    Administrators must make more than teachers.

    So Administrators are typically not very good at reigning in teacher costs, because higher teacher salaries and benefits mean higher administrator salaries and benefits.

    The Board often trusts the administrators and outside legal counsel.

    The administrators often don’t tell the board the whole story.

    The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) do a poor job of helping the Board members reign in costs.

    For the most part it is an insular chummy club at Board meetings between the administration and board members.

    The best school board reformer has probably been Chris Jenner who is now on the MCC board.

    Chris was a member of the Cary Elementary School District 26 board.

    It’s typically easier to get on the board of smaller school districts such as Cary, than medium or large sized school districts; although it is often a challenge for reformers to get on smaller boards too.

    Historically the teacher union had a lot of trust from the public and in many cases still does.

    The teacher union also has incredible monopoly power.

    Many parents move to a house, the biggest investment of their lives, because of the school district, and are very hesitant to speak out against teacher unions and risk any retribution against their child.

    Jack Roeser was an exception to that rule, and there have been other exceptions and those exceptions are growing because of the egregiousness of what has occurred with public school finance and academics.

    The system is broke and broken.

    If you are in Woodstock go to Woodstock school board meetings and meet Susan, she is looking into that school system, which has major problems due to many factors including Woodstock North being a newer school way under capacity.

    You don’t have to agree with all or any of her positions to get involved.

    Or if you are in another school district just start attending board meetings and learning how the system works.

    Unfortunately those who put forth the effort will never recoup financially the amount of time they put in, but such is the nature of many volunteer efforts, be it volunteering in schools, volunteering with PTA, volunteer booster club, volunteer coach, etc.

    No salary, benefits, or pensions for volunteers.

  10. cautiousvoter, township levies shouldn’t have been frozen, they should have been abolished years ago.

    Their necessity to exist runs parallel to their ability to collect pencils for school kids, host spelling bees, touch a truck, put up voting booths, and the myriad of other little non-essential “services” they manufacture that puts them in competition with not for profit organizations and the private sector.

    If they were not the republican power base they’d have been gone long ago.

    As for consolidation guaranteeing a tax increase, that’s the myth that township people (and you most certainly have ties) like to promote.

    Good luck!

    Oh, forgot to mention the important job they do of putting up “begin township” and “end township” road signs on the 50 feet of roadway that might show up on a municiple road.

    Very important work they do!

    And they should be congratulated for freezing their levy????

    Oh, sure.

  11. I agree w rauner on this.

    Schools have gotten too demanding and the entitled mentality is getting old.

  12. Truckin561: Your comment re: “As for consolidation guaranteeing a tax increase, that’s the myth”

    Are you reading and comprehension challenged?

    The County Task Force which looked at the Consolidation proposal ran the numbers and published the spreadsheets which show the tax increase as a result of Consolidation.

  13. The referenced “spreadsheets” are in the McHenry County Task for Township Consolidation pdf board packet on August 25, 2015 which had 3 scenarios for each township with costs increasing or decreasing depending on the scenario and township.

    And since the “spreadsheets” are in the pdf they are not taxpayer friendly.

    It’s easy for the county to post the actual xls or xlsx spreadsheet on the county website, for all taxpayers to access, which the County should do, since taxpayers paid for spreadsheets.

    It’s also easy for the county to create a section on its website for Township Consolidation, rather than requiring taxpayers to waste time searching, hunting, and pecking for information by clicking here and there on the county website.


    The public education system is a mess.

    One of the big problems, is that school districts have all sorts of financial and academic information that would be helpful to taxpayers, parents, board members, the press, and students, but they often don’t publish it in an easy to locate and decipher fashion, for that matter they often don’t even divulge it via FOIA unless the request is precisely worded, for that matter they often are not helpful if they are pretty sure they know what you are looking for but don’t know how to ask for it precisely.

    School districts are typically more focused on image and marketing than transparency.

  14. Oops, cautious voter…

    you sound very much like Cindy..

    better watch your expressions…

    you’ll give yourself away!

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