D155 Teachers Union Considers Challenging Board Candidates Scott Coffey’s & Meghan Tillson’s Letter Scandalous

Cary Grade School Board President Scott Coffey sent the following letter on behalf of his candidacy.

From the reply from the Crystal Lake teachers union, you can see it was not considered favorable.  The reply is below the letter.

The District 155 board is rife with conflicts of interest.

Six of the members are either retired teachers, teachers in nearby districts, or have relatives who work for District 155.

And the board just voted to give teachers a 12% raise over the next three years.

While enrollment has fallen 12.7% from the peak, expenditures per pupil have gone from $11,766 to $15,685 a 33% increase!

Worse, the District budget has run a massive deficit for the second year in a row.

If things don’t change, District 155 is simply going to run out of money.

We need common sense leadership on the board, people who will watch out for the students and the community.

You’re not going to get that from the people who caused this problem.

If you want a District that works, and members who care, please vote for Meghan Tillson and Scott Coffey.

Scott has served on the Cary 26 school board for nine years.

He was one of the people responsible for bring D26 back from the brink when it was nearly insolvent.

Scott is a CPA and his knowledge of school finance is extremely deep.

Scott and his wife are local business owners.

They’ve lived in the community for 29 years and all three of their children graduated from Cary Grove High School.

Meghan and her husband both grew up in McHenry County and moved back here to raise their two children, both of whom attend Deer Path Elementary School.

She has been active in the PTO, as a school volunteer, and as a coach.

She got her degree in Finance from NIU and works in data systems for a local business.

Both are committed to making sure District 155 continues to offer great education, which it can only do if it remains solvent.

They are committed to balancing the budget without further tax increases.

Please vote for Meghan Tillson and Scott Coffey in the upcoming election.

Paid for by Coffey Election Campaign and Committee for M. Tillson

Here is the teachers union’s reply:


D155 Teachers Union Considers Challenging Board Candidates Scott Coffey’s & Meghan Tillson’s Letter Scandalous — 26 Comments

  1. Pass on MEG DEB.

    We don’t need anymore of Andrew Gasser’s supporters in office, even in a different department.

  2. Can anyone answer what is false in the Coffey/Tillson letter?

    The union is claiming misinformation in their response, but what exactly is that?

  3. So “slanderous” to inform residents of teacher raises and deficit spending!

    Meanwhile in the same Facebook post the teacher’s union is touting

    “Keeping the levy flat TWICE”
    -In what time frame is not mentioned by the union.

    “Abated money to taxpayers ONCE”
    -To the taxpayers?

    “No other district in the area has been as conservative.”
    -Of course they don’t mention D155’s cost per student is higher that some schools in the county.

    “Out district is fixed
    Don’t let them break it”
    -Nowhere in the Coffey/Tillson letter is “fixed” mentioned, even though the union mentions it in their rebuttal. Union must know the board is “fixed” already?

  4. The fact that the teacher’s union responded in defense of the current board is at the very least telling.

    The degree to which they defend this board and sound as if they were the board says even more.

    While D155 has great schools, they fall short of “excellent,” especially given expectations based on per-pupil spending.

    Such a response solidifies my vote for Coffey and Tillson.

    For those of us desperate for taxpayer accountability in D155, it’s incumbent upon us to educate our community.

  5. The only specific and factually accurate information on school budgets I have ever encountered locally over the past decade was transmitted by S. Coffey.

    If voters are unwilling to look up specifics of this District’s budgets and particular relevant funding issues, I urge them to at least withhold votes for this office.

    20 years of Woodstock property value deterioration relative to homes everywhere in America,
    and steadily rising property tax rates relative to everywhere in America,
    and steadily disparate unemployment rates coupled with falling median household incomes relative to Illinois and America
    provide the basis of my belief that it is likely CL will follow Woodstock down that path to ruin.

  6. 1.

    “Six of the members are either retired teachers, teachers in nearby districts, or have relatives who work for District 155.”


    The current Crystal Lake High School District 155 board members, along with known relatives in the teaching profession, are:

    Jason Blake.

    Sharon L Blake is the wife of Jason Blake.

    Sharon Blake is an English teacher at Cary Grove High School in CHSD 155.

    2017 was her 23rd year teaching.

    7 of those 23 years she taught part time, but apparently that counts as a full year for TRS pension purposes.

    2017 – $115,915

    2016 – $112,631

    2015 – $113,887

    2014 – $111,608

    2013 – ?

    2012 – $102,114 (Note the following figures are not pensionable income and are thus likely artificially

    2011 – $98,927

    2010 – $94,022

    2009 – $84,997

    2008 – $84,848

    2007 – $39,116 (part time, apparently counts as full time for pension purposes)

    2006 – $37,250 (part time, apparently counts as full time for pension purposes)

    2005 – $34,743 (part time, apparently counts as full time for pension purposes)

    2004 – $32,443 (part time, apparently counts as full time for pension purposes)

    2003 – $35,084 (part time, apparently counts as full time for pension purposes)

    2002 – $28,068 (part time, apparently counts as full time for pension purposes)

    2001 – $30,998 (.58 time, apparently counts as full time for pension purposes)

    2000 – $50,322

    2001 – $46,191


    1. openthebooks.com > click Illinois on the map > Salaries: State and Local Employee Salaries > Area of Government: School District > Employer Name: Community Hsd 155 > Blake Sharon L > View Results

    2. ISBE TSR on ISBE website

    3. Family Taxpayers website which was discontinued with the passing of Jack Roeser.

    Note: The pensionable figures for all years can be obtained by submitting a FOIA request to the Teachers Retirement System of the State of Illinois (TRS).

    TRS obviously reports pensionable income, as it is a pension fund.


    Higher pensionable income, means higher starting pension.

    This is why in the past lobbyists lobbied for more money to salaries, and less to pensions.

    The pensions are guaranteed not to be diminished or impaired in the state constitution, so who cares how funded they are, was apparently the thought process.

    Instead we want more funding to increase salaries now, because that also results in higher pensions.


    Less money to salary hikes and more money to pension contributions would have been the taxpayer friendly approach and retirement security approach.


    Ms. Blake is in Tier 1.

    Starting Tier 1 TRS pension is 75%, of the average of the last 4 years worked.

    With 35 years of service.

    35 years of service is full retirement benefits (75% of the average of the last 4 years worked).

    Less than 35 years of service, and that 75% multiplier decreases.


    Teachers can exchange up to two years of unused sick leave, for 2 years of service credit.

    1 year of unused sick leave for TRS purposes is 170 days.

    Thus 2 TRS years of sick days is 340 days.

    So a teacher could work 33 years, exchange 2 years of unused sick leave, for 35 years of service credit, and retire with full benefits.


    The number of sick days a teacher earns per year is stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement.


    Thus, if she never receives another raise, which is virtually impossible, and obtains 35 years of service, starting pension would be ballparked at:

    $115,915 x .75 = $86,936.

    Starting pension would be $86,936 in that hypothetical situation.


    Pension increases 3% per year in retirement.

    This is known as the compound cost of living allowance (COLA).

    So year 2 pension would be $86,936 x 1.03 = $89,544.


    TRS is less than 40% funded.

    That is a really big problem for taxpayers.

    Thus 60% of the money that actuaries calculate should be in the fund RIGHT NOW, is not in the fund.

    So the old bogus line by the teacher union that the unfunded liability is not all do right now only confused people, because they didn’t bother to explain, the longer one delays fully funding the unfunded liability, the more interest taxpayers must eventually pay.

    Which results in more costly pensions.

    Sort of like saying your credit card bill is not all due right now.

    That’s true, but you pay more in interest if you don’t pay in full right now.

    That means there is zero investment return on the 60% MISSING FUNDS.

    The missing investment returns can be thought of as interest.

    Thus the unfunded liability consists of a principal and interest component.

    Taxpayers are responsible for 100% of the unfunded liability.

    There is not unfunded liability for employees.


    The state makes a contribution to the TRS pension fund every year.

    However, in most cases, the state makes an artificially low contribution as designated in state law, not an actuarial required contribution.


    The JB Pritzker administration has said the state contributions to the state pension funds is too high.

    They are looking for ways to reduce it.

    Perhaps by extending the 90% funding by 2045 goal, to 90% funding by 2052.

    Well, that just results in more pension interest that will ultimately have to be paid, resulting in more expensive pensions in the long run.

    An analogy would be extending any loan, be it a car loan or mortgage on a house.

    The longer the payment period, the more interest that is ultimately paid.


    So in the name of educating children, Illinois has created massive debt for children.

    At some point will it become unbearable?

    Look at all this interest:

    1. Home Loan

    2. Car Loan

    3. Student Loan

    4. Pension unfunded liability.

    5. Retiree healthcare unfunded liability.

    6. Past due bills.

    7. Bonds.

    That’s a lot of interest.

    In other words the taxpayer is highly leveraged.

    Should be fun sorting through this mess.

    Who in CHSD 155 is educating students about all that debt?

  7. The CAFR and reports on actual spending is a better source than budgets.

    Budgets are a forecast of anticipated spending and easier to manipulate than CAFR.

    Truth in Accounting for example looks at the CAFR and not budgets.

    They don’t even bother wasting their time on budgets.

  8. The teacher union’s Facebook post states the board kept the tax levy flat twice in the last four years, and abated money to the taxpayers once in that time.

    The teacher union Facebook post said nothing about expenses or deficit spending.


    The Illinois State Board of Education has a website called iLearn that does track school district revenues and expenses.


    According to that website, CHSD 155 expenses exceeded revenues in the last 5 years by a cumulative of $31 million dollars.

    As reported by McHenry Times on July 27, 2018, who obtained their information from that ISBE website:

    Year – Revenue – Spending – (Deficit) or Surplus

    2008 – $085,277,774 – $078,999,851 = +$06,277,873

    2009 – $086,935,505 – $085,443,212 = +$01,492,293

    2010 – $089,130,106 – $088,799,236 = +$00,330,870

    2011 – $089,018,124 – $087,347,319 = +$01,670,805

    2012 – $089,578,479 – $089,490,186 = +$00,088,293

    2013 – $088,371,783 – $093,924,143 = ($05,552,360)

    2014 – $092,251,308 – $099,264,999 = ($07,013,691)

    2015 – $096,865,696 – $112,360,336 = ($15,494,640)

    2016 – $099,670,212 – $108,061,209 = ($08,390,997)

    2017 – $101,121,914 – $106,308,433 = ($05,186,519)

    Total $918,220,851 – $949,998,924 = ($31,778,073)

    Total 18.6% – 34.6%

    Revenue and Spending are total (federal, state, local) and expressed as nominal.

    So the total deficit over 10 years was $31,778,073.

    The deficit over the last 5 years was $41,638,207.

    The surplus from 2008 – 2012 resulted in the 10 year deficit being lower than the 5 year deficit.

  9. 2nd CHSD 155 Board member connection to an educator.


    Board member Amy Blazier’s father in law is Robert P Blazier.

    Bob Blazier is a former Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 Superintendent.

    Mr. Blazier retired with 37 years of service and a pension start date of June 29, 1985.

    His 2017 TRS pension was $118,113.

    Hopefully he is doing well after 34 years in retirement.

  10. 3rd education connection for a current CHSD 155 board member.


    Wendy H Guss is the wife of Board Member Adam Guss.

    Wendy Guss is an Art Teacher at Cary Grove High School in CHSD 155.

    In 2017 Wendy Guss earned $106,914 in her 19th year teaching.

    Source: Open the Books and ISBE TSR.

  11. 4th Education connection for a CHSD 155 Board member is Rosemary Kurtz.

    Rosemary is a former State Rep and teacher.

    Her combined 2016 pensions were $65,125 for over 27 years of service (years of service for one of the pensions is missing from the database).

    She is not running for re-election.

    She will question the status quo and is more a reformer than a rubber stamper.

    Her daughter Donna, a former McHenry County Board member, was defeated, along with two other reform candidates, running as a reformer for CHSD 155 school board 2 years ago.

  12. The next CHSD 155 board member with a connection to the education community is Ronald P Ludwig.

    Mr Ludwig, his wife, his son, his daughter, his daughter in law, and his son in law are all teachers at CHSD 155 (2 of the 6) or Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 (4 of the 6).


    Ron Ludwig is a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher in Crystal Lake Elementary District 47.

    He earned $82,829 in 2017 in his 30th year teaching (about 2 years out of the state, 1 year out of the district, and 27 years in the district.


    Ron Ludwig’s wife Rita Ludwig earned $58,080 as a 2nd Grade Teacher at Indian Prairie Elementary in CCSD 47 in her 14th year teaching in 2017.


    Ron Ludwig’s son Ryan Ludwig earned $85,995 at Cary Grove HS in CHSD 155 in his 8th year teaching 2017.

    He was promoted from a Special Education Teacher to a Dean of Students (TOSA), and is also a football coach at Cary-Grove HS.


    Ron Ludwig’s daughter in law (Ryan’s wife) Jessica M DaMore Ludwig earned $49,100 in 2017 as a teacher at Lundahl Middle School in Crystal Lake CCSD 47.

    She’s been teaching 9 years.


    Ron Ludwig’s daughter Alexandria G Ludwig Mayers earned $57,943 in 2017 as a 4th & 5th grade teacher for the cross categorical program at Indian Prairie Elementary School in Crystal Lake CCSD 47.

    She began teaching in 2011.


    Ron Ludwig’s son in law (Alexandria’s husband) Michael T Mayers (Mike Mayers) earned $63,279 in 2016 teaching Special Education at Cary Grove HS in CHSD 155.

  13. ‘Serena’, jealous?

    Coffey and Tillson are the best candidates the citizens have going for them!

  14. The next CHSD 155 Board member with a connection to an educator is Nicole Pavoris.

    As is the case with Ronald Ludwig, she is currently employed as a teacher by a public school district.

    Ms. Pavoris is a Social Studies teacher at Larkin High School in Elgin in School District U-46.

    Ms. Pavoris earned $75,239 in 2017 in her 15th year teaching.

    Source: Open the Books and ISBE TSR.

  15. The next 7th and final CHSD 155 Board member is David Secrest.

    Patti Secrest is the wife of David Secrest.

    Mrs. Secrest is a nurse at Prairie Ridge High School in CHSD 155.

    She is a licensed school nurse, is covered by the teacher collective bargaining agreement, and a participating member in the TRS pension fund.

    Patricia M Secrest earned $121,132 in her 18th year as a nurse.


    Angela J Secrest Welder is the daughter of David Secrest.

    Mrs. Welder is an English teacher at Crystal Lake Central HS in CHSD 155.

    Mrs. Welder earned $104,853 in her 19th year teaching in 2017.


    That wraps up the CHSD 155 board members whose family members are employed as educators.

    There may be other relatives, friends, friends of children, friends of spouses, etc. employed by the district or a vendor or contractor to the district.


    The incumbent school board members running for re-election on the April 2, 2019 ballot are Adam Guss and Amy Blazier.

    The teacher union supports them along with Tom Vaclavek.


    The reform candidates are Scott Coffey and Meghan Tillson.

    The other candidate on the ballot is Jacob Justen.


    The union updated its Facebook post that appeared on this blog.

    They now have some verbiage about expenses are also low.

    Maybe someone has time to dig into those particulars.

    The union has not had a response to the deficit spending statistics though.

  16. Jake Justen is a good guy and should included as one of the reformers.

    Bachelor’s Degree, Columbia College of Missouri with emphasis on Accounting, Business Management and Financial Planning

    10 years experiences as Financial Analyst and Loan Underwriter

    Cub Scout Den Leader

    Grew up in McHenry County

    Moved to Crystal Lake in 2009

    Married 10 years, 3 children- Cade age 7, Addison age 7, and Maggie age 3

    Member of St Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church

    Endorsed by:

    Allen Skillicorn, Illinois State Representative

    Rick Mack, Ringwood Village President

  17. Anybody endorsed by Mack is BAD!!!!

    Mutton is correct. Bravo!

  18. Camp Lake — Black Sheep that follow their Shepherd Gasser around do not belong on the board.

  19. Serena, Can you please try and get a life? Oh, and use your real name!

    You are a union shill.

  20. And what is ‘Matta’?! Lol

    Is your daughter Meg Deb freaking out that much Deborah?

    You’re all not fooling the voters out here.


  21. Regarding enrollment.

    From pdf page v of the audited 2018 CHSD 155 CAFR, available on the CHSD 155 website.

    Historical and Projected Student Enrollment

    After peaking at 7,134 students during the 2009 – 2010 school year, the district’s total enrollment has decreased for the past eight years.

    For the decade beginning with the 2007 – 2008 school year, District 155’s enrollment has decreased by 905 students.

    During the period, Crystal Lake Central High School has experienced an increase of 53 students while Cary – Grove (-182), Crystal Lake South (-498), and Prairie Ridge (-278) have decreased.

    The district’s alternative education center, Haber Oaks, now located within Crystal Lake South High School, opened in 2008 – 2009 with an enrollment of 58 and currently serves approximately 90 students annually.

    Projections created by demographer Dr. John Kasarda have proven reliable to this point and indicate a continued declining enrollment until 2024 – 2025 at which point the study projects an enrollment of 5,255 students – a decrease of 1,879 students since the district’s peak.


  22. Facilities (building upkeep)

    Page iii of CHSD 155’s 2018 CAFR.

    “Additionally, many of the District’s facilities have significant levels of deferred maintenance.

    As such, the District has developed a 10-year Facilities Condition Assessment (FCA) in an effort to repair its aging facilities.

    The FAC forecasts about $50 million in necessary repairs over the next 10 years.

    The FCA is reviewed and updated annually.”


    Can’t locate the FCA on the district website.

    A taxpayer friendly board would request the Administration place the FCA on the district website.

    Can obtain it via FOIA request.


    As indicated in budget presentations, the board hopes to fund the facilities through additional evidence based funding from the State of Illinois (the State may or may not deliver that revenue, need a plan B) and fund transfers.

    So where is the fund transfer plan?

    How much, from what funds, when?


    Existing debt is found on pdf page 12.

    “The year-end long-term debt is compromised of the following: $16,374,767 general obligation bonds payable and premiums, $836,659 for other post-employment benefits payable, and $8,738,446 for net pension (IMRF and TRS) liability outstanding.”


    And so it goes.

    Like most school districts, no detailed plan available to the taxpayers on the district website about how all this will work.


    Deferred maintenance is a common kick the can down the road technique by school districts.

    Via fund transfers, diversions, and reallocations, less money for maintenance can mean more for salary and benefit hikes.

    That’s why someone like a Scott Coffey is needed on the board who has the talent and initiative to sort through it all.

    And it seems like Meghan Tillson and the other non union recommendation candidate would assist.


    Get the FCA.

    That is a start.

    The taxpayers paid for the FCA.

    The taxpayers fund facilities upkeep.

    The students are educated in facilities

    The FCA should be easily accessible to the taxpayers on the district website.

    That’s common sense.

  23. I’m voting for reform !

    coffey or tillison will be my consideration!

    nobody is going to care about what i have to say ,but if my taxes go up more the next 3 years i have have to sell my home!

    And how is it that the teachers get to vote on their pay raises?

    is that true?

  24. No CHSD 155 teachers are on the CHSD 155 board.


    Three members of the CHSD 155 board have relatives working in CHSD 155:

    – The son of Ron Ludwig is Dean of Students and a football coach at Cary Grove HS.

    – The son-in-law of Ron Ludwig is a special education teacher at Cary Grove HS.

    – The wife of Board President Adam Guss is an art teacher at Cary Grove HS.

    – The wife of David Secrest is a nurse (a teacher union covered position) at Prairie Ridge HS.

    – The daughter of David Secrest is an English teacher at Crystal Lake Central HS.


    Teacher contracts (aka collective bargaining agreements aka cba) are typically for a period of 3 years or so.

    Some are 5 years, an extreme outlier is 10 years.

    The most recent CHSD 155 board vote on a cba was Thursday, January 24, 2019.

    The board members voted as follows:

    Aye (yes, in favor of the proposed agreement): Jason Blake, Adam Guss, Nicole Pavoris, Dave Secrest

    Nay (no, vote to reject the proposed agreement): Rosemary Kurtz, Ron Ludwig

    Absent (did not vote): Amy Blazier


    More information about that meeting and the collective bargaining agreement can be found on the CHSD 155 website.




  25. Missed one.

    Here’s the updated list.


    Four members of the CHSD 155 board have one or more teacher relatives employed by CHSD 155:

    1.0 – The wife of Jason Blake is an English teacher at Cary Grove HS.

    2.0 – The son of Ron Ludwig is Dean of Students and a football coach at Cary Grove HS.

    2.5 – The son-in-law of Ron Ludwig is a special education teacher at Cary Grove HS.

    3.0 – The wife of Board President Adam Guss is an art teacher at Cary Grove HS.

    4.0 – The wife of David Secrest is a nurse (a teacher union covered position) at Prairie Ridge HS.

    4.5 – The daughter of David Secrest is an English teacher at Crystal Lake Central HS.


    Board member Nicole Pavoris is a teacher in another school district (Elgin District U-46).

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