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District 203 passes its tax levy

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Rather than let this be an offshoot of the School Report Cards thread lets move the conversation here.
The district voted to approve its 2010 tax levy and taxes are going up for district residents. Most will see about a 2.4% increase over last year.
No one in the audience Monday night spoke about this issue. Anyone feel like talking now?

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Sun editor,

You wordtheopening like speaking at the meetings actually means, or accomplishes, something.

Newsflash: It does not!

I have spoken many times at the SB meetings. Unfortunately there is no actual dialogue as theBoardmemebrsrefuse to speak with, or even acknowledge, anything that is said.

In fact, SB Presisent Jaensch has no qualms about actualy announcing that it isnota dialogue and nothing brought up will be spoken to.

In short, they have effectively created a system/situation where actually trying to create a dialogue is lost effort.


Where did my post about FEES go from this AM?


(d203 tax levy..fee discussion)


Here's a great example where the squeaky wheel (parent who will call the district directly) gets the grease, general taxpayer be damned!!

This is also a case where I think Susan Crotty asked a very important question for which the taxpayer has received an inadequate answer in the above document.

Kudos to Mrs. Crotty for asking why different teams have what appear to be very different costs but similar fees.

Let me quote:

Naperville CUSD #203 School Fees have consistently been below those charged by surrounding Districts. With this proposed change, Naperville will still have the lowest fee in the area and will be 5% to 10% below the average fee charged.


Fee surveys indicate our general fees are consistently below the average charged by other school districts - by about 20%. We are certainly aware that our parents and students are under economic stress. While it would be possible to increase general fees and still remain close to or below most other school districts, it would be an additional burden to our parents and students at this time.

Let me get this perfectly straight.

D203 does not want to burden the parents of students despite burdening and continuing to burden the rest of the taxpayers?

The taxpayers without students somehow are not under economic stress?

SUN .. please ask about this tonight.

Please ask about the fairness of fees to all board candidates.

Ask them about who should be bearing the costs of extra-curricular activities.

Participation fees will contribute about $800,000 to the budget. Fees charged for a specific class (usually at the high school level) are entirely distributed to those classrooms and subjects. Fees for activities (such as athletics) are parially distributed to individual schools (about $150,000) and partially held in the general Education Fund (about $650,000). At the school level, these fees are used to offset the costs associated with the activity. For example, the athletic participation fees - along with gate receipts - are in the athletic department budget and used toward the cost of officials, supplies, uniforms, travel expenses, etc. The cost of coaches, club sponsors and associated benefits are entirely borne by the school district (not the individual school) - a cost of about $3.4 milion per year.

Why don't people get a chit as they walk into a sporting event and drop it in the bucket of the reason they are there?

The Cheerleaders, the Band, the SportsTeam

divy it up.

Also note that the non-athletic clubs end up paying relatively more than the sports teams. Fair? Nope!


The cop in my example was a boy toy!


Your numbers don't work. I would assume a $92k teacher has 20 years of experience while a cop starts at $65k. Let's assume that both are 20 year employees so $92k, and $110k with OT for thc cop = $202k.

Bend over and touch your toes, citizens.........

Let's look at the dollars: You are 54, have 3 kids, and live in an average single family home in 203 and make $100k per year in your household.

OOps! Let me up that ---- one parent is a teacher making $92k, and the other is a police officer making $65k.

So, yu now make$157k.

Your average additional tax bill due to the activities of our elected jerks over the past 2 weeks?

Approximatley $3,400! Of course, thatis assuming you still have a job after all this to make money to still pay taxes.

Great, the state is going to double the income tax rate and corporate income tax rate and 203 is going to keep raising taxes too. This state is nuts, I am outta here!!!

Higgins pretends he knows what he is talking about.

The teachers union pretends there is a bottomless pit of money to feed all of their wants and desires.

Mitrovich pretends he has a real doctorate degree.

Caudill pretends he wrote a graduation address.

The SD203 board pretends the voters are stupid and clueless.

Next election I'm going to pretend to vote for each of the incumbents!

This sounds just like our local school board. Totally clueless.

I'm still waiting for a response from Higgins. According to Zillow my home price has fallen 30% from it's peak. Since the schools were the reason (according to Higgins) for my great real estate values, does the corollary now apply? It must, using Higgins logic. The schools must really be going in the dumps now that real estate values have fallen drastically.

Experienced wrote:

You cannot make tax deferred contributions to an individual retirement arrangements (IRA's) if you are covered by an employer retirement plan.

I agree, but you should clarify that the employer retirement plan restriction covers both defined benefit plans, such as traditional pensions, and defined contribution plans, such as 401k's and 403b's. Also Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deferred, so teachers and pretty much anybody else with an income can contribute to one. This is not some additional benefit that teachers have that is off limits to the rest of us.

You cannot make tax deferred contributions to an individual retirement arrangements (IRA's) if you are covered by an employer retirement plan. The easy way to determine this is whether or not the box in No. 13 of the w-2 is checked. TRS is an employer retirement plan.

Teachers absolutely can open their own IRA accounts. Most private employees don't get any BENEFITS anymore either. It's time teachers took cuts in their pensions.


I'm pretty sure teachers can have Roth IRA's, just like anybody else. All IRA's, Roth or otherwise, are completely self-funded, though.


Teacher's can't have ira's because they get TRS. They can, however, have 403b's

I thought that anyone could open their own IRA (traditional or Roth) with the only limitation being their annual salary? I know teachers wouldn't contribute this through payroll, but open it on their own with their own cash.

Exprienced wrote:

Teacher's can't have ira's because they get TRS. They can, however, have 403b's

Where is this coming from? Do you mean they cannot make contributions to tax-deferred savings plans beyond a certain limit. TRS doesn't seem to apply to the IRS-allowable tax-deferred contribution limit into 403(b) and other plans.

It seems to make sense to max out the 403(b) before doing anything else, but I don't see the preclusion argument you make. Maybe I am missing something. Please link.

To Anonymous: Having a program IN PLACE is considered a benefit even though there is no employer match. If you do not think it is a benefit, maybe you could ask the NUEA to ask D203 to abolish it.


Teacher's can't have ira's because they get TRS. They can, however, have 403b's

Teachers pay into their own Roth's and 403bs. The district does not pay into those at all. They are setting aside some of the money from their paycheck. It is not a "benefit" since it is not patched by their employer in any way.

Wait, you mean teachers not only get huge pensions they can also have 403(b)'s and IRA's (roth and regular) too!!! I never knew that!!! I was always told the private sector had much better pay and benefits than teachers. Guess I was lied to.

I am very worried about our 203 schools now. My home has fallen in price by about 30% (according to Zillow) from it's peak price. At it's peak the 203 schools were outstanding but now that my home price has fallen by 30% I am very worried about the quality of my kids education in 203. The schools must be doing very bad since my home price has fallen so much.

Excellent question anonymous. Higgins has been telling us for the last 10 years our property values are so good due to our good schools. Does that mean the schools are really falling behind now since real estate has plummeted in price in Naperville? Mr. Higgins where are you?

The Chicago Tribune editorial today also noted education spending rose 66.7% during a decade of very low inflation. If increases had been limited to CPI the increases would have around half of 66.7%. Our property taxes would be much lower and deficit spending in 203 wouldn't loom on the horizon every 5 years or so. This current board is absolutely clueless and beholden to the teachers union. Until citizens get off their butts and vote nothing will change.

The easiest way to explain why your property tax bill won't go down is as follows. Let's say all the property in Naperville is worth $100,000,000 and the school needs to have $1,000,000 every year to run the school so in 2010 the aggregate tax rate is 1%. (This is just an example, not using real numbers). Let's say the real estate market tanks and in 2011 the Naperville aggregate property values fall 20%, so now the value of all real estate in Naperville is $80,000,000 BUT the school tax collection doesn't FALL 20% in fact it rises 5% to meet salary increases!! So now 203 needs to raise $1,050,000 for 2011. If you take $1,050,000/$80,000,000 = 1.3125% !!!!

203 has given out unsustainable high annual pay raises for over 10 years lead by folks like Suzyn Price, clueless Susan Crotty, Weber, etc and supported by Thom Higgins and Peter Shulman at QE203. No one complained (except the taxpayers ticket guys) when the city was on a roll and the good times rocked on.

Dan Denys, Mike Davitt, and Jerry Busch warned everyone this was going to happen in 2007 yet the Titanic sailed on blissfully until the proverbial $#$@! hit the fan. Now Higgins and Shulman told us that our schools were the reason why our home values were so good. I guess now I can argue 203 schools stink since my home has plummeted in price. See how goofy Higgins argument really is?

So how come my property tax bill won't drop back down to what it was when my home was worth 300K? This is outrageous that the school board gave away the store to the teachers now they have no way to lower property taxes!

There is an old saying that once taxes go up taxes never go back down and another one that says once a tax gets established it never goes away. There is a lot of historic truth to both of these two sayings. Once politicians and bureaucrats get comfortable with a certain size pot of money they never can manage to get by on anything less.

Our property values have fallen and our elected assessor has been loath to make any kind of fair valuation adjustments to reflect current market values. Once his hand is forced to adjust property values downward that doesn't change the appetite of any of our local taxing bodies. All it does is change the tax rate upward so they can continue to spend as much as they did last year or even more. We all end up paying the same or if they have their usual way maybe a little more. The cur rent set of politicians in office will take some grief over having "raised taxes" even though the net amount out of our pockets will turn out to be about the same as last year.

Don't ever expect your taxes to go down. If you do you are just dreaming. It's just not going to happen.

The REAL danger that we have to be leery of and on guard against is when the market begins to recover. The same assessor who was slow to lower our property values is going to be Johnny on the spot to raise values back up again. Any one want to bet values will rise a whole lot faster than they fell? And when our property values start to rise the tax rate has absolutely got to go back down again! We have got to make it perfectly clear to all of the politicians that this can only be a temporary tax rate increase! Otherwise once our property values start to rise our taxes will shoot through the roof when coupled with the higher tax rate!

Yes, some companies do match (up to a point) a certain amount of the employee’s contribution to a 401k.

The big difference? The money committed is NOT from then public trough, is NOT union strong-armed, IS based in economic realities (ie profits, not losses), and the results are NOT guaranteed.

I, for one, as a taxpayer would be elated to see teacher’s pensions switched over to a combo of social security and 401k programs.

Looks like Mike Madigan finally took the Taxpayers Ticket's advice and is going to push through legislation to outlaw teachers strikes and get rid of tenure in Illinois Public Schools. Higgins was on the wrong side of the debate once again. I wonder how Higgins and that odd duck Shulman will spin this one?

Case Shiller index indicates housing has more to fall. Just wait until that Naperville house that was worth $475,000 and is now worth $300,000 and your tax bill goes UP!!!! But of course Mr. Higgins never addresses that issue.

In 2007 we had 3 great candidates that saw this coming and Higgins fought them tooth and nail. Turns out they were right and Higgins was wrong. This town is going to rue the day they never listened to the Taxpayers Ticket.

Challenge to Mr. Higgins

I suggest the following.

1. Formulate the top three to five campaign issues for the upcoming campaign.

2. Solicit a common questionnaire for these issues.

3. Place them on a common web site for all to review.

In reality, the Sun should be doing this by February 1, they don't. Their superficial endorsement process hurts the community.

Are you game? Would you commmit to complete in time and not nine months later?

Or are you going to continue to be the mouthpiece for the union?

I have no horse in this race, I know you have three. You would think that you would want people who support education since you have children in the system, I don't.

As a candidtate, I felt that all of the forums and other processes were not productive in differentiating the candidates. And we can take the union money off the table.

Interested in integrity?

Responding to various comments:

I believe the Sun Times had a webpage that you could download data. From that I created an excel spreadsheet with the TRS pension amounts of 739 current retired D203 teachers and administrators (including principals and dist. officials). From that I derived the Average and the Median numbers. So yes, currently, those 739 retirees have an average annual payment referenced above.

I have no idea when they retired, and no one knows who will be retiring in the next “x” years. We do know that the average increase in teachers salaries has been approx 3.5%, so, it is logical to assume that the averages will be going up around that percentage annually. Everyone needs to realize that not everyone is a career teacher, or that they max out in salary as one, thereby maxing out on their pension.

The admin people skew these averages upward. The highest pension is to Donald Weber (Ex. Supt) and below I see other admin officials and principals. Btw, Alan Leis, who was D203 Supt. for 6 years, gets ZERO as a pension as he didn’t work here long enough to vest. I suspect that will hold true for the current Supt. as well.


Everyone’s situation is different, but it is common for employers in the private sector to match (say 3%) of an employees 401K contribution. I have friends working for a large Fortune 100 companies that have both a small defined benefit pension (company puts in 3%) and a 401K that the employer matches (5% up to $5K a year). The point being, that workers in the private sector have additional avenues for retirement savings that is subsidized by their employer plus SS, as opposed to teachers who have only their pension.

I’ll also comment that from what from what I’ve heard, it is not a good deal if you work part of your career paying into SS, and then become a teacher.

Thom Higgins


Another quick comment regarding pensions:

I don't know the source or even the accuracy of the alleged "average" 203 pension being $56.3K or the median being $61.5K. It would seem that either figure is more than generous... to the point of being golden... for what really is part-time, seasonal work and is actually excessive when compared to other government workers with similar education and who put in a 40 hour / 52 week work year.

Truthfully, if these figures include everyone retiring from 203 then teacher's only, if split out separately, would most likely be higher, not lower, than the numbers quoted. More importantly, those retirees who haven't worked in the last 25 or 30 years pull down both the average and the median... and as they die off these numbers will only go up.

How about putting up the average and median costs for just those who retired in 2010 for some real time numbers about current retirement costs? How about forecasting where these costs are headed in the future? Or is Thom afraid of scaring the heck out of people?

If we are going to have an honest discussion we need to discuss believable numbers and Thom's just don't add up... as usual.


...and I will direct you to the following:

"For example, a worker not receiving a TRS pension whose average covered earnings were $ 2,000 per month would be eligible for a Social Security benefit of $ 1,030 compared to a Social Security benefit of $ 712 per month for a TRS member with the same covered earnings. (These Social Security amounts apply for a worker who turned age 66 in 2006. They are adjusted annually. )

There are several exceptions to these rules, including one for people who have at least 30 years of “substantial earnings” in a covered job. In addition, the Social Security WEP reduction cannot be more than 50% of any pension benefits attributable to uncovered earnings after 1956."

As I said -------teachers CAN be eligible for S.S.

Let's quit crying a river for the oppressed teachers of Naperville School District 203. They are EXTREMELY well compensated during work years (see the averages) and RICHLY compensated in retirement.


First, Teachers, like anyone else, can open an IRA acocunt with all the same benefits as anyone else. Please note that income from a 401k or an IRA can negatively affect S.S., just like with a teachers' pension.

Second, why don't you share the expected pensions of current workers in 203 expected to retire in the next 5 or 10 years? We both know the average retirement is well over the numbers you shared -----closer to the $80k range ? You also failed to mention the lucrative medical benefits the retirees get.

How many readers out there get ANY mediacl retiree benefits? How many get ones anywhere near as good as the teacher's set-up?

As I said, let's quit crying a river.......

If Mr. Higgins' figures are correct, that pension amount is not out of line. That was the deal, they all paid in, end of story. Is there spiking and other stuff that needs to stop, yes. But, I bet it doesn't really doesn't add up to much, Again, I see the issue as one of I got wacked so you should get wacked. Should taxes be used to make up pension fund losses, no. That needs to chage... going forward. You cannot change the rules for the current members.

You could have all been teachers, firefighters, or cops with the right degree and training, but you gambled for the big moeny... and lost.

Does D023 offer a 403(B)...if so what is your point?

Are you also trying to claim that the recent teacher retirees are getting 56K?


What exactly are you using for your 56K number?

How do you define a D203 pension?


Sorry, neglected to mention the figures above include administration retiree's as well as teachers. Teachers only would be lower.

A quick comment regarding pensions:

For D203 the average pension for 2010 was $56,335. The median was $61,559. I'll also offer the opinion that if a person is a career teacher they have only their pension. People in the private sector have SS plus pensions or 401K's. You have to add those together to compare to a teachers pension.

Thom Higgins


Did you notice the part where it said

"The Windfall Elimination Provision PRIMARILY AFFECTS YOU if you earned a pension in any job where you did not pay Social Security taxes AND you also worked in other jobs long enough to qualify for a Social Security retirement or disability benefit." [EMPHASIS ADDED]

As I originally said, you'd have to have about 30 years of substantial earnings in Social Security qualified employment to get both the government pension AND Social Security. Even a police officer who can retire with full benefits at 50 are unlikely to have 30 years of substantial social security qualified employment. They'd have to work until they were about 80. A firefighter may be able to do it because of the 24 on 48 off work schedule.

An example where a governmental employee might never qualify for social security even though he paid into the system for sufficient quarters is Bob Marshall who is now paying social security as part of the IMRF system but will not probably qualify to receive any benefits due to his police pension.


The fact is that a teacher can qualify for S.S.

The windfall provision refers to workers who have not paid into S.S. A teacher can earn both a teacher's pension AND work enough in a regular job to qualify for S.S.

To wit:
Windfall Elimination Provision:
Your Social Security retirement or disability benefits may be reduced
If you work for an employer who does not withhold Social Security taxes from your salary, such as a government agency or an employer in another country, the ­pension you get based on that work may reduce your Social Security benefits.

The Windfall Elimination Provision affects how the amount of your retirement or disability benefit is calculated if you receive a pension from work where Social Security taxes were not taken out of your pay. A modified formula is used to calculate your benefit amount, resulting in a lower Social Security ­benefit than you otherwise would receive.

When your benefits may be affected
The Windfall Elimination Provision primarily affects you if you earned a pension in any job where you did not pay Social Security taxes and you also worked in other jobs long enough to qualify for a Social Security retirement or disability benefit.

For example, this provision affects Social Security ­benefits when any part of a person’s federal service after 1956 is covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). However, federal service where Social Security taxes are withheld (Federal Employees’ Retirement System) will not reduce your Social Security benefit amounts. The Windfall Elimination Provision may apply if:

You reached 62 after 1985; or
You became disabled after 1985; and
You first became eligible for a monthly pension based on work where you did not pay Social Security taxes after 1985, even if you are still working.

One more point to Mark

The average pension includes teachers that are 90 years old collecting $3,000 per year. The average means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

We can and should pay the existing benefits earned to DATE. Follow what IBM did in 1980. Freeze pension benefits to what is earned now and convert all future benefits to be paid solely out of defined contributions.

Better yet, Illinois should go into bankruptcy and see if a Federal judge would be that generous. Look at what has happened to private defined benefit pension plans in bankruptcy. Retirees who collect over $25,000 per year were cut back to that level. Go check with United employees. And for the Enrons of the world, they lost almost EVERYTHING.

Quit the whining. All of these people thought they had a contract as well until their employers could not stay in business.

What if a judge put a vote on whether retirees should take a 50% cut in pensions or taxes should double? Mark, do you want to take that chance?

Crybabies. Get with the real world. A smart teacher would have taken a job in Texas rather than Illinois. Oh forgot, no teacher union are allowed in Texas.


I hate to call a spade a spade but teachers are really and truly seasonal workers is the number of hours worked per day and the number of days worked per year are objectively considered. The amount of pay, benefits, and retirement actually paid is not a pro rated amount based upon the amount of time worked. In fact if the amount teachers receive was extrapolated to consider how much they could earn on a regular full time basis most taxpayers would be totally shocked at the full annualized amount... and that is without even getting into the whole other world of "other compensation" the "on the side" gravy that most teachers rake in. Everything from coaching and other extracurricular compensation paid by the school district, to consulting, to part time jobs, etc. Then there are the teachers who use sick days in one school district and substitute teach in another school district on the same day...

Landscapers are seasonal workers. So are snow plow operators. And concrete workers and farmers to name a few. There are many other examples. When landscapers don't have work they either don't get paid or they find other work. They aren't paid an annual wage to work a few months out of the year... if they were what we pay for landscaping would cost 2-3 times what it currently does. No, they are paid a fair wage for the time they work.

We have allowed teacher unions to morph what is seasonal work into being treated as if it is full time employment in terms of the rate of compensation, retirement, and benefits.

Then there is the entire problem with compensation, benefits, and retirement that is rampant throughout all government workers. It is all out of control and needs to be reformed. At the end of the day the government, regardless of which branch, is just an employer. There is nothing special or sacred about working for the government that entitles one worker to receive drastically different compensation, benefits, or retirement than other workers in the private sector... and especially considering workers in the private sector for the most part are footing just about the entire bill for the government workers.

Why shouldn't units of government and government workers pay into social security and medicare just like everyone else? Why should the government be allowed to write a law exempting themselves and compelling everyone else?

Why shouldn't units of government employees have 401(k) plans just like everyone else that they fund and their government employer matches up to a certain percent just like everyone else?

Yeah, all the old arguments are still there... units of government like to claim they have their own system of benefits.... and the overwhelming majority were not well managed, they were not properly funded, they were not prudently invested, etc. More importantly the level of government employee contribution is next to nothing.

In terms of reform it is time a simple law was passed that if a government plan goes bankrupt or if the level of lack of funding exceeds a certain percentage the fund simply gets dissolved and the employees automatically revert to social security and medicare or whatever.

In the private sector if you company goes bankrupt you loose everything you work your entire life for except what you have saved, your 401(k), social security, and medicare. If units of government go bankrupt government workers don't deserve any special protections that aren't afforded to private sector employees.

The government itself used bankruptcy as a management tool to reform and restructure quite a few companies recently... including forcing some businesses an banks to close their doors forever. Units of government shouldn't be treated any differently. If units of government are run into the ground then their should be a government bankruptcy judge who oversees the reorganization, restructuring, and possibly even the merger of units of government to make them stronger and more stable. If that means throwing the entire school board or city council out of office and appointing a temporary board by the court... so be it. If that means Naperville Township is bankrupt and can't survive and it gets forcibly dissolved and merged into the City of Naperville or Wheatland Township or whatever... so be it.

The problems we face all around us is the direct result of years of incompetent leadership thorough out all levels and units of government. Many who were elected to office, as we have come to find out, were morally bankrupt and the results of what they did while in office have left us all financially bankrupt. We can either dig deeper and continue to throw more money at the people who caused these problems in the first place or we can dig our heels in and demand real and lasting reform.

And paying teachers full time equivalent wages for seasonal work is just one of the many symptoms of how the focus on what is right and proper and ethical in government has gotten lost over the years.


I have to stand by my comment here:

"Actually, no. The projections show a slight operating deficit of $1.3M beginning in the 2016-2017 school year."

Please see pg. 79 of the NCUSDBudget10-11

Thom Higgins


whothe? | December 29, 2010 5:33 PM | wrote:
Hey, Mark:

First, how about the social security statement: Well of course they don’t qualify for S.S. --- they paid nothing into it! However, IF they do/did also work a job outside of teaching that qualified for S.S., and they made their payments like we did, they would qualify for it.

This isn't true because of the windfall elimination provision. You'd have to have about 30 years of substantial earnings subject to social security before you could get both a government pension based upon salary not subject to social security withholding and social security payments.

Hey, Mark:

As I predicted in my earlier post, someone would take this road and you have.
So, I have an idea ---- why don’t YOU leave instead of advising us to do so?

You lament the teacher who only makes $43,000 per annum, on average, in retirement. You then say they don’t qualify for social security.

Where does one start?

First, how about the social security statement: Well of course they don’t qualify for S.S. --- they paid nothing into it! However, IF they do/did also work a job outside of teaching that qualified for S.S., and they made their payments like we did, they would qualify for it.

Next, $43,000. Guess what? That is a LOT more than people get per annum, on average, from S.S. In fact, it is way beyond the mean, median, and mean of S.S. In fact, it is almost thrice the S.S. benefits the rest of us will get (and we pay more in than the teachers do ----- perform the math yourself).

While on the subject of retirement income, let’s remember that you were talking to Statewide averages. The pension is based on salaries, and the average salary in 203 is somewhere in the $85,000 per year range (with 2-3 months freed up to do other stuff --- teach summer school, tutor, travel the world on your sailboat, etc.) Thus, the pensions in 203 are MUCH, MUCH richer than the $43,000 you refer to.

How so? Well, our teachers don’t really leave because they have it so awesome here! Given the numbers & data, we have made it VERY WORTH THEIR WHILE here in 203.

Now, to the crux of the debate:

It is simple: The State is bankrupt. We cannot AFFORD to continue to pay these escalating salaries and extremely rich retirement benefits. There will be a collision soon, the Fed will NOT bail anyone out, and unfortunately the Teachers’ retirement system may go to zero and our teachers will be left with kinda nothing (like Prichard, Alabama). I think we need to avoid this, and part of that “avoiding” will include a drastic freeze to teacher’s salaries and retirement benefits.

As always, a little misleading by Mr. Higgins.

>Yes, your wording was not exact as I interpreted it and I will conceded said point. However, I hope you can easily see why I “read it” as you saying the preferred candidate was their candidate. I am not aware of them supporting or not supporting the person you refer to. I also cannot cmment on whether he disappoints them by voting for the levys & budgets.

Anyone out there have a comment on this?

>I know you are not dense and in fact do understand my canard comment. However, I will elaborate only in re-affirming that showing up and talking at the SB meetings is an absolute waste of time as the members do not listen, do not engage, do not answer direct questions, and often engage in childish activities as I have already pointed out, such as the eye-rolling shenanigans. Thus, you bringing up that only two people were there implies it was important to physically be there, which as I have pointed out is a canard. Follow it?

>Now, the projections. If I understand your post correctly (and I leave it out there that I might be missing a nuance), you see the district as having a balanced yearly budget up until the fiscal year 2016/2017.

You are incorrect.

The district actually shows a deficit of $1.1 million in the previous year (2015/2016), with the following year (your 2016/2017) being a deficit of $3.2 million. If you back out the funds expected from Cantera, the deficit actually begins in the fiscal year 2013/2014 with a deficit of $1.6 million.


Thanks for the clarification.

I was somewhat surprised even given the horrible typing/spelling I exhibited.

Please continue with your datastreams ---- I am so tired of those who think 203 cannot be improved!

mark wrote:

An excellent Chicago Tribune column by John McCarron points out that "the average retired teacher in Illinois gets about $43,000 a year." This for people who don't qualify for Social Security. You want to draw and retain quality teachers? For God's sake, make it worth their while.

With an average salary over 80,000 and 20% of the teachers in D203 making over $100,000, what do you think the average pension will be for D203 teachers?

From the AARP regarding Social Security:

For a worker retiring this year at age 66, the full retirement age, the highest monthly amount is $2,346.

So..the MAXIMUM social security payment is LESS than the AVERAGE state teacher pension (only 65% thereof), and D203 teachers will be getting more than double the state average at a younger age and at a higher rate of increase than SS payments.

-1 who really has not harped about teacher pensions other than to say you cannot have a system where the inputs (even assuming the state did not miss miss payments) do not support the outputs.

D204 residents....Please Read

I posted a spreadsheet outlining the D203 raises over the past 10 years.


I still need to tweak a few pieces on this and post user instructions.

If I have a chance, I will try to knock out a similar D204 document. If someone wants to be in charge of nagging me to get that done, please do so.

Now that I have written the appropriate code and filtering software, it should be relatively easy to do.


Amen to Anonymous of December 27, 2010 6:13 PM !

You people love to use teacher pensions as dart boards for your frustration with the way things are. Let's look at facts:

Things cost money. I'm sorry to have to say that, but it's true. We live in a town that puts a premium on its education system -- a school system that draws good citizens, good neighbors and good businesses. People who value such things move here and stay here. People who don't value such things are free to stay away.

An excellent Chicago Tribune column by John McCarron points out that "the average retired teacher in Illinois gets about $43,000 a year." This for people who don't qualify for Social Security. You want to draw and retain quality teachers? For God's sake, make it worth their while.

There's plenty of waste in our government -- federal, state and local. Don't blame teachers for this mess.

Mr. Abides:

I apologize for addressing Mr. Higgins as Dude...

My fault.

I apologize for appearing to sully your name.

My entire comment was to Mr. Higgins and his sanity. Nothing to do with you.


The teachers union is the source of all the problems. Until Illinois outlaws teacher strikes, which a democrat (Madigan) is proposing, nothing will change. Mr. Higgins how come you never support outlawing teachers strikes? Mike Madigan is finally supporting this?

Also, Mr. Higgins is it true 203 is already projecting a deficit in 2013? If so, how can that possibly happen? 203 should freeze all salary increases, including steps TODAY, until the economy improves.


Higgins keeps on whistling Dixie while the town burns down around him.


Please explain your "sanity" comment.

Do you disagree with the fact pattern, (depsite the spelling challenges --- it's a frigging 4 inch screen!)?

If so, please elaborate as the data is right from teh SB203 sites..

[Note the third item is missing part of the phrase ---- s/r "..Third, and, here is the killer: DESPITE a 4.5% drop in values for the average residential property in 203, and DESPITE the 4.9% decrease in the EAV...."]

As always, a few comments:

For Dude:

Regarding your comment: ”There is NO Taxpayer's Ticket candidate on teh board. You are just plain wrong on that one.”

Taxpayer’s Ticket candidates Davitt and Denys (maybe Busch too), as well as a couple of their known supporters did endorse one successful SB candidate who sits on the board today. Actually, I have to think he’s quite a disappointment to them considering that he’s voting in favor of the budgets and levys. Regardless, please read my words carefully: Even the former Taxpayer's Ticket candidates preferred board member voted in favor

Regarding this: “Also, your stressing that there were only two people there to hear the levy vote is a canard.

Why is it a canard? There were two of us. It was like a Maytag repairman’s convention.

As to your comment:”If you include the TIF funds, the deficit starts in 2015/2016.

Actually, no. The projections show a slight operating deficit of $1.3M beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. They still would have a fund balance, so no need for a referendum. I will once again remind you that the district is very conservative in its projections. Just as the 2010 expense budget is $14M less than the district projected it would be in 2007. And similarly, the current projected 2014-2015 budget is $24M less than projected in 2007, if the District has to make expense adjustment it will do so, just as they did recently to push the projected operating deficit out 3- 4 years recently to the 2016-2017 time frame.

You all are writing a lot on this topic so I'll ask the question: :Where were you all on Dec. 20th or Nov 15th?" Making your "proposal" on the Sun blog really doesn’t count for anything if you don’t actually make it to the D203 SB and Admin. I chatted with a number of SB and Admin folks after the Dec 20th meeting. Their comment was that the public communications about the levy were positive. So you guy’s may be frustrated, but the rest of the community isn’t, and therein lies your problem.

Thom Higgins


I will post more on this topic later.

Mr. Higgins suggesting that there was not an over-collection borders on lunacy.

Monty Python's Black Night indeed!

Dr. Leis noted it in 2005.

The district still has info posted on the 2008 referendum info pages about the over-collection.

To pretend that there is not or has not been an over-collection...


Get a grip.

I'm starting to fear for your sanity.


Can someone who knows him check in on him?

Lisle is popping up.


"Total payroll cost for the 2010-2011 school year is down 1.92% from last year."

The only way total payroll cost can be lower is if there are fewer total employees. The reality is that the School District hasn't even started to make any meaningful cuts to really show an improvement in payroll costs.

"Average teachers salary has declined 1.74%. from last year."

The only way the average teacher salary declined has got to be related to the retirement or resignation of older, experienced teachers who have subsequently been replaced with younger, less experienced teachers who earn less.

This can be a double edge sword because most of the older, experienced teachers may be part of the reason behind some of the academic results the district has been able to produce in the past. However, many of these teachers are way too young to need to retire, many will actually not retire and will start another career, yet all of them will continue to be a burden to taxpayers with the retirement and benefits they collect for life. At the same time replacing the older, experienced teachers with younger, less experienced teachers puts the past academic results on a little less secure footing for the future plus we have a whole new crop of new pension and benefit liabilities starting to accrue.

Let's call a spade a spade. This isn't any noteworthy piece of management being demonstrated by either the school board or the administration. So long as they are awash in our cash they just keep on avoiding the reality of the real world. So far they haven't had to make a single hard decision, much less a bunch of gut wrenching decisions. And the only thing that has bailed their butts out is the fact that they have been overtaxing and over collecting taxes. If they had been properly levying and collecting taxes during this whole period it would be a whole different story.

Instead of spending and nibbling away at the surplus they currently enjoy they should all be doing their best to conserve and save cash. To do that they have to reign in spending, cut unnecessary positions, defer other than critical projects and generally manage our money more efficiently and wisely. When the School District can show an annual 10% across the board cut in spending last year, 10% this year, and 10% next year then I'll agree the school district is in partnership with the taxpayer to be a responsible steward of the taxpayers dollar during a recession. And until then I'll continue to be convinced the School District is spending money irresponsibly despite how many school board members may vote to approve the budget.

Government bureaucracies, especially school districts, are interesting organisms to watch and study. When they are broke they still manage to survive, still get the job done, and find ways to make do with what they have. When they have money they will find ways to spend every dime they have and come up with all kinds of excuses why they need more next year.

The truth is just throwing more and more money at the problem doesn't produce higher and higher educational results... even though that is what many parents are really hoping it will do and why some of them don't mind spending the money... all it really produces is a never ending need for more and more tax dollars.

The school board and administration is hoping and praying that more and more taxpayers will drinking their cool aid and willingly get on the never ending and always increasing treadmill of school funding. What the school board and administration isn't counting on is more and more taxpayers getting fed up and saying enough is enough. You guys just are not being responsible. You guys are not being sensitive to the taxpayers. You guys have got to manage better and more efficiently. You guys have got to learn and adapt from business practices. You guys have got to start being held personally accountable. You guys have got to start delivering measurable results. You guys have got to start operating with objective performance standards.

Over the years we have conditioned our school board and administration to believe the supply of tax dollars is endless and they have become accustomed to spending not cutting. If we want different behavior we are going to have to condition both the school board and the administration to manage our tax dollars differently. Like any addict being weened off of their drug of choice it won't be easy and they will tell us all of the reasons we have heard before on why it can't be done and hope we will just go away and leave them alone.

The question to every taxpayer out there is this... will you just go away and leave them alone or are you personally committed to demanding real reform in our school district?

What did Higgins just say?

First, he only addressed two points of my original post.

1. Overcollection. His point is that the $30 million projected balance at the end of 2011 and the projected $6 million increase in the following year are not the result of over taxation, but rather spending cuts. Well, it is about time. The District has doubled taxation and spending over the past ten years when inflation was at record lows and student enrollment is down 5%. In fact, these spending cuts are news to me.

Note he does not refute there are cash balances. I repeat my question. Why do we need to increase reserves another $6 million (the 5%) next year?

2. Great quote from the past post

"To ask the District to both fund the facilities reconstruction costs, and reduce the tax levy to the taxpayer an amount equivalent to the Cantera TIF property tax receipts is, essentially, using the funds twice."

HUH? Dave Zager explicitly states in his memo on the tax levy that this is a $3.5 million windfall. Extra money at no cost to the taxpayer. Again, this money was to pay off bonds to fund the capital program. How is this using the funds twice if they never get it? Why should the District have this money at all if they don't need it?

3. The real question. Why increase the tax levy by 4.9% ($ 6 million) when costs are anticipated to be flat? The premise of District 203 before Weber was to tax for what was needed. And if the District was short for reasons beyone their control, they could ask for more.

As long as salary increases are tied to inflation (most Americans would be happy with such increases!!) and the District continues to lose 1% of its student base each year, then the District's finances should remain balanced. SIMPLE.

Tell Susan Crotty that her savings are not real until she gives them to the taxpayer. Otherwise, they are pure waste.

And I would like to see who the real culprit is in this taxing scheme. Mitrovich? Zager? Price/Jeansh/Fielden?

Somebody said it well before. Well intentioned people sit on these boards and are typcially led to the gallows. I would feel at least "half" good if a tax cut option was put forth and at least rejected.

Go back to my proposal. Abate the debt tax and increase the operating tax. This preserves the District's ability to maximize future revenues for unforseen events.

At least cut the increase in half so that all residents will see no tax increases.

Let me also add some fallacies in the post by Thom Higgins:

There is NO Taxpayer's Ticket candidate on teh board. You are just plain wrong on that one.

Also, your stressing that there were only two people there to hear the levy vote is a canard. the 203 school board has always had a tin ear to the public, especially at board meetings. They basically just sit there with either a bovine look on their faces as citizens go up and state their case (or ask questions that are ignored and never answered), or as is the case with some old-time members (such as the one from IMSA) they roll their eyes in mockery, disgust, superiority, etc.

Hey, boyz 'n gurls!

Let''s be upfront with the data and quit hiding behind generic statements like "We are soooooo good!"

We need to get real! The question is NOT one of results, it is a question of what we can afford. For those out there who will post (like they have in the past), "If you don't like it, move", I pre-empt you with "No, you leave!).

We have ALWAYS had a very high-performing school district ---- the difference is that our spending has increased at a dizzying rate (in fact, a rate that is out of control goven the data, below).

First, in a time of EXTREME hardship for pretty much all people in the district, our illustrious 203 school board has elected to ask for a 7.5% increase in the tax rate!

Second, given the hardships, the 203 school board has also asked for a 4.9% increase in the tax levy.

Third, and, here is the killer: DESPITE a 4.5% drop in values for the average residential property in 203, and DESPITE, the astonishly high tax rate increase will result in an average tax bill that will be 2.4% HIGHER than the previous year.

Fourth, 203 has wasted all if it's economies of scale and is, in fact, now sopedning at a rate higher than the average in Illinois despite being one of the l;argest districts in the state.

Fifth, and this is the scariest point of all: Ignoring the Canters TIF, our school board is currently forecasting a DEFICIT beginning with the year 2013/2014.

If you include the TIF funds, the deficit starts in 2015/2016.

Get it? We have seen this before. They will be asking for another referendum for operating funds in the near future!

Yet, there are those on these blogs, and in orgs such as QE203, that want us to just keep throwing money at them to cover the 203 school board's escalating spending.

I have a question for all (including QE203): Why can't we work together to ensure lower spending in 203, esprecially now in such times of hardship?

A few comments:

Total payroll cost for the 2010-2011 school year is down 1.92% from last year.

Average teachers salary has declined 1.74%. from last year.

From the 2010-2011 budget is this quote: ”The 2010-11 expense budget, in comparison to 2009-10, is increased 0.64% in all operating funds. The revenue for the operating budget is reduced 2.1 % from the prior year.” The district is projecting a 4.44% increase in revenue and a 3.47% increase in expenses for the 2011-2012 school year. The district is very conservative in its projections. Indeed, the 2010 expense budget is $14M less than the district projected it would be in 2007. Similarly, the current projected 2014-2015 budget is $24M less than projected in 2007.

D203 is different than the City of Naperville as it can’t raise taxes at will and does not have the ability to “tax” by adding fees, or increasing various smaller taxes (gas, utilities, etc.), as Naperville did last year and most likely will do this year as well. Further, school districts increasingly have to rely more and more on property tax receipts, as all school districts are grappling with reduced payments from the State of Illinois. In this D203 is not immune. Going forward there is much apprehension as to just how much state funding for education will survive.

It is notable that there is not a higher academically performing school district in the Chicago area (based on ACT scores) that spends less than D203. The 5 school districts whose students post higher ACT scores spend, on average, $4300 or 38% more than D203, who itself spend just at the state average. This is well illustrated by QE203.org’s What is the best Educational Value in Chicagoland ? Numerous school district spend more than D203 yet their students post significantly lower ACT scores. Lisle 202 next door is an excellent example. They spend a staggering $16,700 per pupil, that's $5,500 more than D203, yet their students composite ACT score is three full point lower than D203 students.

There has been some comment made claiming the districts cash reserves is proof that the District is over taxing. What this comment ignores is the fact that two years ago the District embarked on a cost cutting program; increasing class sizes, delaying the introduction of new programs and delaying certain purchases. Most significantly, in early 2010, the District negotiated a teachers contract that resulted in approximately $12 million is savings over the previous contract terms. All this combines to help create the Districts cash reserves.

The fact that the district has a balanced budget and a positive cash balance is a huge positive for the community. So many districts have made huge cut to programs and staff in an effort to get their books balanced. Many have minimal cash reserves. The future for these districts is bleak. I believe school districts who make significant cuts to academic programs will negatively affect, not only student learning, but also the economic well being of the community these district reside in. Please see QE203.org’s Good Schools Mean High Property Values for more on this topic.

By law the district is required to post the tentative levy for 20 days prior to voting on it. The District did so (the public had 35 days actually). I was at the meeting (one of two, that's 2! members of the community present) and no member of the public spoke regarding the levy. It passed unanimously. D203 watchers will appreciate this fact. Even the former Taxpayer's Ticket candidates preferred board member voted in favor, as he has for all budgets and levy's during his term. If their preferred board member is voting in favor of all budgets and levy's how extreme would a board member need to be to vote against it?

The following documents were posted on the district’s website at least 35 days before the vote was taken:

Tax Levy Resolution

Tax Levy Memo

As far as the Cantera TIF; TIF”s are imposed on school districts. They are powerless to stop them. The original plan for the facilities reconstruction effort was to essentially borrow $36 million against future property tax payments (using tax anticipation bonds) to fund the facilities effort. The district has instead elected to fund the now reduced need ($32 million) out of cash balances, over two years I believe. The benefit to this, of course, is the district saves (paging -1) on interest costs.

To ask the District to both fund the facilities reconstruction costs, and reduce the tax levy to the taxpayer an amount equivalent to the Cantera TIF property tax receipts is, essentially, using the funds twice. A 5.5% reduction in property taxes without a commensurate reduction in expenses would cause the District to operate at a deficit next year and run out of cash in four years.

There are no facilities improvements that require a referendum in the Districts plans. They do spend something like $7M a year on capital improvements and maintenance.

Thom Higgins


Great comments.

Am I reading this correct that the District could reduce our taxes next year by 3% and still have a balanced budget? Instead, they want us all to pay 2.7% more?

We know where Price, Fielden and Jaensch stand, the union candidates.

What about these other four? Let's make sure that this issue is front and center.

And I hope the Sun will ask real hard questions.

Hopefully we have a choice and not just another four inept candidates like the three incumbants.

What you see is what you get. And what you see is what you will continue to get until enough people get fed up, demand change, and take action at the ballot box.

For the most part those who do serve on the School Board are nice people with the best intentions. However, the overwhelming majority don't have the education or experience that adequately helps them separate the wheat from the chaff with the snow job being thrown them by the professional bureaucrats employed in the school system who have a vested interest in building their own little kingdoms. Therefore the majority of the school board members simply resort to the worst aspect of a republic form of government and they blindly "trust" everything the bureaucrats tell them since they don't have the time or expertise to collect their own information or comparative information. And if for one minute you think the bureaucrats don't know and exploit this to the fullest extent possible then you are paying attention to what is really going on. Personally, I find it galling that administrators are using our tax dollars for travel and registration fees to attend a variety of seminars along the lines of "managing your school board". Yep, the bureaucrats receive professional advice and training on how to "manage" the school board... the very body that is SUPPOSED to be overseeing and managing the administrators. Talk about a screwed up system.

A secondary part of the problem is twofold: voter apathy and way too many people in the school district with so much discretionary money that they really don't care how much they pay in real estate or school district taxes.

Of the two apathy is the worst because it just gives the bureaucrats a green light to do whatever they want to do.

If you are fed up, don't complain about it. Instead, ACTUALLY get busy and DO something.... anything. People WILL follow. All they need is a leader.

Why is the levy higher than the 2.7% CPI of last December?

Isn't there a state law limiting the increase to the lesser of CPI or 5%?

If the extra 2.2% (almost doubling the law) is the Cantera dollars (about $3.5 million), than what are they doing with iut?

Are we SURE it is in the budget?

If so, are they just spending it? If not, can we see it in the forecasts as a separate line item?

What the heck is going on with 203! Don't they know we are in a major recession!

Unlike the City Council, they don't seem interested in being responsible AND responsive to the current times!

I would like to set forth the following.

POSSIBLE FACT (source: Thom Higgins, so I am suspect) 2011 reduction in salaries--1.92% decrease

FACT Teacher salaries account for 80% of total expenditures.

FACT Inflation for other costs 1.5%

FACT District 203 taxpayers have been overpaying for the last 20 years because Warrenville has diverted taxes for Canterra TIF. The current impact is about 3% for every taxpayer.

FACT District 203 continues to overtax from the 2002 referendum. So much that they can pay an additional $35 million in capital that originally was to be funded by borrowing against the future Canterra taxes. Let’s say 2.5% average taxpayer impact.

FACT All of the capital needs identified by the Districts past facility study have been addressed. Any future needs could be put to the voters in a referendum.

FACT Teachers contracts tied to CPI, the same factor that is applied to property taxes. So future increased costs could be offset by future taxes.

CONCLUSION Net increase in cost of operating District would be 0% or less

QUESTION Now that the capital program is completed and costs are flat, why does the District need a 5.9% (not 2.4%) increase?

RESPONSIBLE ALTERNATIVE Since District does not need any money, they have a 3% Canterra windfall and they continue to overcollect by 2.5%, why isn’t the property tax increase go down by 2.5% in total? This would result in a reduction to the average taxpayer of 5.5%.

Using Zager’s numbers, instead of a typical homeowner paying $113 more, he would pay $259 less. Can the average family in Naperville use the extra $372 that District 203 does not need?

Lastly, why not print all of this material two weeks ago and encourage taxpayers to comment BEFORE the vote? There needs to be more transparency on this board. And each candidate should take a specific position on this massive tax increase.

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