Debt at Woodstock School District 200

Inspired by Diane Rado’s Sunday Chicago Tribune article about school debt, District 200 taxpayer Susan Handelsman has written the following about it indebtedness:

The Obvious Debt Load of District 200

Debt headerDebt WoodstockWoodstock CUSD 200 has $115 million overt debt, roughly $30 million covert debt (accruing unpaid interest in 2006 capital appreciation bonds), and an uncalculated amount of liability for unfunded teacher and employee pensions and health insurance benefits.

At 6,500 students, known debt is more than $22,400 per pupil.

If there are  roughly 11,000 households in the district, and 80% of tax burden falls to residential (rather than commercial/industrial) property taxpayers, then each household is encumbered by over $10,500 school debt. ($10,500 per household would be adjusted up or down relative to property value).

Woodstock's District 200 is on the right hand side of this Tribune chart analyzing school debt.

Woodstock’s District 200 is on the right hand side of this Tribune chart analyzing school debt.

At the latest school board meeting at which the Mayor of Woodstock spoke to vigorously support the waiver of transition fees for a new residential development, the school board president defended her yes vote in part with the proclamation that in the last year her board had ‘kept the levy flat’.

This statement was made with the pride of a child announcing her first toilet turd to mommy. It is an embarrassment to hear an adult exhibit such a lack of comprehension of adult considerations.

Woodstock D200 keeping levy flat dooms citizens to another year of 4.6% tax rate or higher.

The Mayor of Woodstock spoke with solemn gravity about ‘balance’, now being the time for increasing revenue rather than cutting expenditures, indicating that he and the board had been through the wars together, cutting to the bone.

(That premise is absurd. While even Greece pared back spending, Woodstock D200 has nearly doubled expenditures since 2006, with nearly flat enrollment).

The Mayor’s pride in “…like a family making a budget around the kitchen table….spending no more than we take in”, mirrored in the face of the school board chairwoman, was offensive and embarrassing:

exhibiting a complete lack of understanding that when you take in too much in order to spend too much, it should be a source of shame.

After meeting with the D200 Superintendent and CFO, and being mollified with promises of actions which never took place, citizens are left to look for more  radical survival mechanisms such as seeking dissolution of the Unit District in order to install fiscal managers who are responsive to the desperate needs of the community for tax relief.


Debt at Woodstock School District 200 — 10 Comments

  1. We stop them by getting involved.

    Folks like Susan and Joe spend a great deal of time and effort bringing these issues to the our attention.

    The very least that can be done is to attend the board meetings and SPEAK UP.

    Susan is educating the public… learn from all her work.

    And, run for the position yourself… and don’t be cowed into going along with the guys running the show.

  2. School district AFR’s that are GASB 68 compliant contain the TRS & IMRF pension liability attributed to CUSD 200.

  3. The GASB 68 pension liability information can also be found in the following TRS document.

    Prepared by Buck Consultants, a Xerox Company for Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois

    Information Required Under Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement No. 68 Based on Measurement Period Ending June 30, 2014

    Date of Report: August 11, 2015

  4. Imagine too much debt when you put mahogany on the walls?


    Or you decide to install cut face cinder block as opposed to the inexpensive stuff that was fine 20 years ago.

    Who knew?

    The only member of the board with a brain is Jerry Miceli.

    He’s new and was a write in last time.

    The rest of that bunch like Camile Goodwin and thier liberal wacko ideas need to go!

    Unfortunately even if we punt them we still have the debt they thought was a good idea.

    Interesting enough I passed by a Catholic school in Rockford that had a sign that read “the State of Illinois doesn’t owe us any money”.

    At the same time District 200 schools were complaining about delays by the State of Illinois.

    Teacher pay has ran away with compounded growth unparalleled in the private sector.

    This board even started construction projects just before the Marba contracts expired and then they entered into labor agreements with Local 150 to get projects done.

    Now the school district has a contract requiring use of union labor for work.

    And what do these geniuses do they start focusing on expanding the roll of government in the schools with clinics and the like.

    F That!

    Let’s get a new board!

  5. There are 2 high schools running near half of enrollment capacity.

    There is Clay Academy running below 25% of enrollment capacity.

    There are plans to spend $1.5 million capital improvements on Clay building which is very old and not worth that amount if put up for sale.

    There are 17 Speech Language Pathologists on payroll.

    FTEs in past decade have risen 24%, with enrollment up 2-7% depending on whether you use ISBE numbers or D200 numbers.

    For the past three years which the school board chairwoman brags about keeping levy flat or near flat:


    So you see, taxpayers will never even be told that those flat levies hide higher spending of additional State funding which might instead have alleviated some of taxpayer burden.

    Every school board meeting I have attended in the past two years has been showcasing some new software program (purchase), some new program installed or desiring to be installed (at great additional cost), new hiring, union negotiations celebrating COLAs and benefits with no correlation to private sector earning standards.

    I have heard zero board discussions of the crisis of debt, gravity of impact of 4.6% property tax rate on the CHILDREN of the community, or any specific proposals to cut spending at all.

    Not only is there no acknowledgement of our community’s financial crisis condition as it directly relates to D200 spending, no due diligence appears to be performed by board chairwoman when project petitioners appeal for more D200 public funding.

    She talks about new residential development bringing in revenues, without having calculated that low priced housing units will each require subsidies by existing taxpayers, because the new per-pupil-cost generated is not covered by 4.6% property tax rate on low priced housing.

  6. Meanwhile, Riley School district has no debt.

    There is generally a lot of ‘chatter’ on this blog and others to hold referendums on most everything and “let the voters decide”.

    Voters continually approve Bond Issues which create the majority of school debt.

    Voters are never given the cold hard facts by the polticians.

    This applies to every unit of government in the County.

    Insofar as the mayor of Woodstock, is he not reching full vestment in his second public pension?

    1st one at MCC and now one at Rock Valley?

    No one in the public sector should be permitted to be vested in more than one public pension (imo).

  7. Just looking at their CAFR is a nightmare. First, there are significant inconsistencies between the Annual Debt Service graph by year on page 11 vs the Debt Service Requirement by Year schedule on p. 38 vs the individual Bond service schedules on pages 114-127. Specifically, the year 2022 reflects total debt service expense of roughly $19 million, but the Debt Service Requirement schedule on p.38 shows only $4.1 million, and the individual bonds summed up equal $19.2 million. A $15.1 million variance seems to be a big disparity to me.
    Second, the coming debt bomb between 2021-26, where annual debt service spikes from $10 mil/year to $20-$28 mil/year (depending on what numbers are right), should keep people up at night. The only thing they have been doing has been to refinance existing debt and extending the repayment periods now out almost 20 years (2034). When this debt matures in the early 2020’s, they’re going to have to issue more debt to make the payments with a repayment schedule extending into the 2040’s or they crush the taxpayers when the debt service levy has to spike by more than double in order to make the payments.
    Per the FY15 CAFR, the district has 14 different bonds outstanding. Eight of which have been issued in the last 5 years with a principal amount of $77.4 million. It might be interesting to know what the total bond issuance costs that have been incurred in just the last 5 years alone. I’d set the over/under at $2 million.
    They should be aggressively saving now to conserve cash to deal with the pending debt bomb. All of the incremental GSA they are receiving from the State driven by D=200’s plummeting EAV should be conserved in the Debt Fund to help mitigate the dire circumstances to be seen in 2021 through 2026. There’s no guarantee the district can issue the debt needed during that time period. And certainly, there’s no guarantee that the prevailing interest rates that might exist then are anywhere near what they are today.

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