Looking at the Woodstock School District’s Building Improvement Process

The lead watchdog of Woodstock School District 200, Susan Handlesman, writes of the Woodstock D200 Facility Review Committee meeting held Monday night:

I attended the second Facility Review Committee meeting last night.

The first meeting was attended by a 9-1 ratio of D200 employees (significantly more Administrators than teachers) to community members.

Wold Architects, the firm who was just paid to conduct a safety review on all D200 buildings and recommend costly upgrades, led the initial meeting, then last week were bused tours of 11 school buildings.

Last night I passed out the flyer pasted below.

The discussion quickly went to which buildings with enrollment markedly below enrollment capacity could be taken off-line, and students re-located into other buildings.

Clay Academy and Dean St. were first to be examined because Clay ‘needs’ $1.5 million capital improvements in the near term, and Dean ‘needs’ a new boiler.

Clay enrollment is stated as 64, and the building’s enrollment capacity is stated as 300.

Clay Academy

Clay Academy houses 12 local students.  Fifty-three are from other districts. The building’s capacity is 300.

Last night it was stated that 12 are local students, 53 are out-of-district tuition students. (64 (or 12) out of 300).

Dean St. School enrollment is stated as 322, and the building’s enrollment capacity is stated as 500. (322 out of 500)


Dean Street Grade School could hold 500 students. It now has 322.

Cost of running each building was stated as around $71,000, without including multiplicative administrative and staff expenses, and without including ‘needed’ capital improvements as stated by Wold Architect Consultants in this year’s paid review.

The D200 Administration Annex is leased at a cost of $70,000 a year, and the OTHER Administrative Annex across the street is owned by the District but could be sold.




National average property tax rate in America is around 1.5% of home’s fair market value.
This property tax rate is 2% more than Chicago, 3.6% higher than Indiana, and triple that national average. This 4.6% property tax rate is the most significant factor driving the fate of our community.


Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey puts average American household property tax expenditure at 3.4% of household income. WOODSTOCK MEDIAN INCOME HOUSEHOLDS PAY OVER 12% of household income to property taxes!!!

In Woodstock, with household median income $57,000 and median home value $152,000; the 4.6% property tax on a fairly assessed home is $6992; 6992/$57,000=.1226.

That is: 12.26% of Woodstock median income households’ budget must be paid in property taxes.

Look at BLS breakdown of household expenditure percentage categories. There simply is no 8+% additional (over and above average American expenditure percentages) to spare.

Woodstock families must give up PETS, and SAVINGS for RETIREMENT, and CHILDREN’S COLLEGE SAVINGS in order to stay in their homes by paying the 4.6% property tax rate demanded here instead.

And worst of all, irrational property tax rate excesses are fully capitalized as negative home value. Each year the value of homes here falls 3% relative to homes across America.


Why would anyone move here, pay 4.6% annual property tax on a home which must depreciate 3% per year relative to homes elsewhere?

Why would any business considering locating here not demand property tax abatements, and/or free money and land from TIF districts? If businesses do not pay property taxes, our death spiral of home values will continue, as homes continue to fall and taxes continue to rise.

Why would prospective businesses assume there will be any citizens (other than public employees with guaranteed defined pensions and health insurance) having disposable income to spend locally, when the 4.6% property tax rate demands such an inordinate chunk of most residents’ household incomes?

Why should any citizen spend money on home upkeep for a depreciating property which, if improved, will be taxed at rates higher than a mortgage interest rate would be to purchase a second home anywhere else?


  • D200 spends $1.32 per student annually for every $1 dollar Huntley 158 spends per student annually…NOT including the massive debt D200 has run up overtly AND covertly (there are millions$$$ every year in unreported interest being accrued on a 2006 $14 million Capital Appreciation Bond. There are Millions in pension liability being accrued annually by this district for retired and current employees).
  • When Lincoln Way HS had a very similar problem (expansion –anticipatory overbuilding schools in 2007, no enrollment increase in subsequent years), they shut down a brand new high school rather than burden their taxpayers with above-3% property tax rate.
  • 3 years ago (2013) D200 got $5.36 million GSA. 2016 GSA was $13.91 million. Enrollment? Down from 2013. Levy? Flat. Where does all that ($8 million+) money go? Would the board provide taxpayers with a specific cost-benefit analysis in return for the demanded sacrifices?


This ‘Facility Review’ Committee was pitched to concerned taxpayers as a review of enrollment capacity (2 high schools near 50%, Clay Academy at 23%) and low-enrollment buildings’ full costs of Ops & Maintenance as they relate to the 4.6% property tax rate.

Instead, the meeting has started out led by highly paid consultants who indicated this was a fact -finding mission for additional spending on ADA compliance and security kiosks.

What is the purpose of this facility review?


Looking at the Woodstock School District’s Building Improvement Process — 24 Comments

  1. Be sure any information presented at the meetings are posted on the website.

    Download any information posted on the website because it may at some point be deleted.

    Any costs given, ask for the break down / drill down of those numbers, preferably on a spreadsheet.

    If they rolled up the numbers, they can drill down the numbers, and present the detail.

  2. Any information includes PowerPoints, handouts, reports, etc.

    Was the Facility Review Committee meeting an open board meeting (open the the public)?

    If so:

    Are they videotaping the meetings and posting them on the website.

    If not, ask them to do so.

    In the Board section of the District 200 website, there is no section for the Facility Review Commmittee?

    Ask them to create a section and post any documents and information presented at the meeting.

  3. NOT a public meeting, in that sense, but members of the public had been invited onto the committee.

    On the first meeting, we were broken into 3 different committees.

    Dont know what the other 2 are up to.

    I am coming to my meetings prepared with data, and have made many copies to pass out of data on finances, enrollment, enrollment capacity, etc. which I have found online.

    Specific cost-cutting ideas would be very welcome! Now is the time to get on record, and be officially ignored (or not, who knows) by a school board with its own agenda.

  4. It would be helpful to get a 10 year history or so of enrollment figures per school on a spreadsheet.

    Using Average Daily Attendance as of the 10th day of school or some other metric.

    Maybe Joe Torio or a reader who knows how to do so can help you develop a website to post documents.

  5. I have.

    Here is enrollment (NOT ADA Which is of course much lower):

    2016-17: 6564
    2015-16: 6649
    2014-15: 6661
    2013-14: 6665
    2012-13: 6675
    2011-12: 6623
    2010-11: 6327
    2009-10: 6635
    2008-09: 6563
    2007-08: 6602
    2006-07: 6579
    2005-06: 6395



  6. The District’s Comprehensive Annual Report contains a lot of supplemental data, including enrollment history. The FY16 CAFR has not yet been posted, but the FY15 is here: http://fin.woodstockschools.org/reports-budgets.

    Historical enrollment data is on page 154.
    Building data (Square footage, capacity, etc.) is on page 152-153.
    Employee Headcount historical data on page 151.

  7. The point being to show enrollment per building before and after the new schools opened.

  8. In Lincoln-Way, as in New Trier decades ago, the new school high school was closed.

  9. The FY 2015 CAFR reports the following enrollment based on “start of year census.”

    2015 – 6,661

    2014 – 6,665

    2013 – 6,675

    2012 – 6,623

    2011 – 6,327

    2010 – 6,635

    2009 – 6,563

    2008 – 6,602

    2007 – 6,579

    2006 – 6,395

  10. That
    matches the enrollment figures above.

    The fiscal year ends June 30th.

    Thus the most recent CAFR posted is for fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.

    That is 16 months ago.

    Maybe they have the FY 2016 CAFR inhouse but have not yet posted it?

    What is th delay in posting the FY 2016 CAFR?

  11. Wold ARCHITECTS who just completed an expensive facility safety review with $10 million recommended upgrades.

  12. The points I take away from enrollment figures:
    More or less flat for a decade as spending ground ever higher, from $55 MIL to $95 MIL annual.

    A huge chunk of enrollment is pre K and K, who h should be calculated as costing $2200 a year.

    When you RE Calculate the cost per pupil per year:

    6500-800 = 5700.

    $95 MIL- $2 MIL = $93 MIL


  13. Pages 152 & 153 of the FY 2015 CAFR contain the capacity, enrollment, and square footage of each school from 2006 – 2015.

    Prairiewood Elementary School was opened in 2007, adding a capacity of 500 students.

    Creekside Middle School was opened in 2007, adding a capacity of 1,000 students.

    Woodstock North High School was opened in 2008, adding a capacity of 1,600 students.

    Verda Dierzen Early Learning Center was expanded in 2007, adding a capacity of 300 students.

    Total expanded capacity for the four schools is 3,400 students.

    Not sure the number of equivalent mobile classrooms, if any, that were displaced by the added building capacity.

  14. $10 million in upgrades at prevailing wage and benefits.

    Ask for the line item detail of the proposed $10 million in upgrades.

  15. Woodstock CUSD 200 2016 Facility Study
    Capital Improvement Needs by Building

    Building Name, Year (of recommended implementation), “Life Safety”, 5 year Total:

    Verda Dierzen Early Learning Center. 2018-$652,463, 2020- $58522, 2021 $34465. LS-$34750 5YT-$780200

    Clay Academy. 2017- $11,439,458, 2018-$20999, 2019-$278752, 2021-$211397, LS-$257433, 5YT-$2,208,039.

    Dean St. 2018-$87338, 2019-$1,303,528, 2020-$262,003, 2021-$263,049, LS-$111850 5YT-$2,027,768.

    Mary Andres. 2018-$37983, LS-$130250, 5YT-$168233.

    Greenwood. 2017-$32841, 2019-$383057, 2020-$115349, 2021-$24264, LS-$139650, 5YT-$695,161.

    Olson. 2019-$96104, 2021-$118593, LS-$175700, 5YT-$390397.

    Prairiewood. LS-$1250.

    Westwood. 2019-$636412, 2021-$202666, LS-$176150, 5YT-$1,015,228.

    Creekside. 2019-$54724, 5yt-$54724.

    Northwood. 2017-$356157, 2018-$31880, 2019-$94075, 2020-$1,070,392, 2021-$106850, LS-$41400, 5yt-$1,700,754.

    WHS. 2017-$87231, 2018-$591404, 2019-$348719, 2021-$560455, LS-$555950, 5yt-$2,143,759.

    WNHS. 2021-$56366, LS-$24450, 5yt-$80816.

    GRAND TOTAL: 2017-$1,915,687. 2018-$1,422,067. 2019-$3,195,371. 2020-$1,506,266. 2021-$1,578,105. Life Safety-$1,648,833. 5 year total- $11,266,329,

  16. Verza Diersen. $780,200 to be spent on building.
    About 400 kindergarten, and about 400 birth-to-5 described enrollment ( split sessions).

    About $2200 tuition rate.

    All students in District are bussed to this single location. This is not cost efficient.

    These students could be re-distributed into elementary schools strategically, to optimize transportation needs. Pre-K students have many choices of pre-k school,services and vouchers are available.

  17. “about 400 birth-to-5 described enrollment ” This is the result of the socialist / communist ‘cradle to grave’ philosophy exercised by the U.S. Dept. of Ed.

    That department is not Constitutional and must be eliminated if we ever want to return to a Representative Republic!

  18. Clay Academy. $2,208,039 to be spent on 100+ year old building.

    Special needs enrollment.
    12 students are local and 53 are out-of-district tuition students.
    The tuition was said to be about $28,000 per student. However ‘breakeven’ costs were not known at recent meeting.

    Because D200 has never seen fit to calculate the true costs of taking out-of-district tuition students, we must make assumptions to estimate this cost.

    Clay Academy web page lists 32 staff. With salaries probably ranging from $25,000 associates to $125,000 administrators, and with benefit obligations At Least 33% of salary, $50,000 per staff member seems reasonable assumption.

    32staff/65students= about 2 students per each staff member. If that is so, each student costs $25,000 of employee salary and benefits ( not counting unfunded pension liability).

    The cost of Clay Academy Ops&Maintenance was quoted as about $70,000 annually.
    $70,000/65students= $1077 per student.
    The cost of Clay Academy Capital Improvements recommended by Wold Architects was $2,208,039.
    $2208039/65students=$33,970 per student.

    So while tuition would cover salary and benefits IF the 32 Clay employees do not exceed $50,000 on average,
    And if Clay does not require services and employee time from non-Clay district resources,
    and we disregard unfunded pension liability,
    And we disregard civil liability of out-of-district lawsuits,
    We still need to spend $33,970 MORE per each (out-of-district) student on this Clay building.

  19. Someone at the meeting said he thought we need to preserve capacity for when Woodsrock grows, and I suggested giving old buildings to Charter Schools.

    That would preserve capacity.


  20. Dean Elementary. $2,027,768 to be spent.

    About 65% of enrollment capacity. 2 or 3 nearby schools can absorb 325-350 enrolled.

  21. 2 Administrative Annex locations. 2 blocks from Woodstock Square.

    One leased at $70,000 cost, the other owned by District.

    Administrators could be housed in either of 2 half empty high schools.

  22. D200 facility review 11-10-16

    1. Clarification that “Operations &Maintenance Fund Costs” data (broken out by individual faculty) distributed at last meeting did not contain many costs listed as line items on school budget.
    Unreported costs per facility include: Salaries, Employee Benefits, Purchased services, Capital Outlay, and Other.
    There may also be errors as the cost totals stated did not correspond to line item totals on Budget.
    Clarification as to District Admin building annual utility cost of $95,992 will be provided next meeting.

    2. Clay Academy cost data distributed:
    2016-17 revenues tuition: $1596352. State personnel reimbursement $211200.
    Expenditures: salaries benefits: $1787092. Building budget: $23072. Ops&maint.: $166518.
    Net cost to operate Clay $169,130.
    11 D200 students, 53 out-of-district students.
    (Alternative) tuition cost (required if sending d200 students to sedom): $35,000 per student.
    Cost per d200 student with current tuition incorporated: $15375.

    *salaries benefits said to include all personnel
    **building budget described as Principal discretionary funds for programs.
    ***Capital Outlay is NOT included in the figure. Past Clay building upkeep expenses was not stated, but projected $1.44 million capital expense need is projected for next budget year.

    It was discussed that the program did not need to take place at the Clay Academy building, but that some tuition students might decide not to come to new location if Clay students absorbed into another facility.

    3. Superintendent Moan outlined the following proposal which had been investigated since the last committee meeting:

    1. Close Clay Academy and move the program to a different facility.
    2. Close Dean and absorb those students into one or more other elementary schools.
    3. Move the WNHS students (around 900) into WHS. Leave WNHS open as a tech campus, and a middle school.
    4. Close one or two middle schools, with one being repurposed. Middle school population would attend WNHS?
    5. Close Administration offices and move into existing facilities.

    4. When asked what HE wanted to do, Superintendent Moan stated:
    This would save about $2.5 million annually.
    “I think we could provide quality education to students doing this”.
    “If I thought we couldn’t do this educationally I would say so”.
    We have to cut costs and lower taxes.

    5. $2.5 million annual savings projected does NOT include savings on Capital expenses projected (For example Clay $1.44 million and Dean new boiler costs).

    If costs savings were to be $3 million, that would lower the levy by 5%.

    It was agreed that any savings realized by consolidation MUST be passed along to taxpayers
    (It was pointed out that in past 3 years, NONE of the $8 million ADDITIONAL annual State funding has been passed along to taxpayers).

    6. A real estate agent consulted implied that the would be no buyers for any old school buildings, nor administrative offices off the Square. The costs of shuttering buildings will be investigated.
    It was suggested that old school buildings could be given to a charter school organization, in order to save upkeep costs on shuttered property and also to preserve enrollment capacity for the future.

    7. Concern was expressed about needing future capacity for enrollment growth.
    It was pointed out that since 2006, more than 3300 student capacity was created, and enrollment is flat. The closures described by Superintendent Moan would take only 1600 capacity offline, leaving over 1700 expansion capacity.

    8. Concern was expressed that consolidating high schools would detract from students ability to access programs.
    It was discussed that merger would re- create the student population below 2000 which existed in 2006 before WNHS existed.
    Dr. Moan cited many high schools in suburban Illinois with populations many thousands of students higher than that, and reiterated that he would not endorse a plan which would harm students educationally.

    9. It was asked what other property the school district owns.
    3 cemeteries.
    40 additional acres at the WNHS campus.
    40 acres in Wonder Lake.

    ( I will seek information on terms of farmland leases and maintenance costs of properties).

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