Say no to District 200's new tax levy increase

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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On Nov. 6, District 200 gave hidden notice of a 2012 property tax increase of 2.5% above its 2011 levy. See: www.intranet.oprfhs.org/board-of-education/board_meetings/Finance_Committee/Packets/2012-13/November%206%202012/3.%20Presentation%20of%202012%20Preliminary%20Levy.pdf.

Any increase is outrageous, given that D200 had $11,406,711 in cash and investments as of June 30, 2011 (see www.oprfhs.org/business-office/documents/OPRF_CAFR_FY11_BM_secure.pdf, p. 30), which it has accumulated since its 2.95% property tax increase in 2002.

D200 almost certainly has more cash and investments now. Taxpayers don't know how much more because D200 has failed to post its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012. See: www.oprfhs.org/business-office/Comprhensive-Annual-Financial-Report.cfm.

In 2011, D200 had the fifth highest number of days worth of cash on hand of the 868 school districts in Illinois. With an average district salary of $100,478 for teachers and administrators, D200 ranks 11th of all Illinois school districts in professional compensation. See: www.files.sj-r.com/media/news/TRS.pdf.

D200 compensation seems profligate given that OPRF High School ranked only 39th among Illinois high schools on state achievement tests. See: www.suntimes.com/news/education/16033455-418/the-top-50-high-schools-in-illinois.html.

Twenty-seven downstate Illinois high school districts scored higher than D200 on state achievement tests. For those 27 higher-scoring districts, 1) the median average district salary was $80,092, i.e. about $20,000 less than the average D200 salary (range: $56,693-$110,669) and 2) the median days of cash on hand was 224 days, i.e. about 482 fewer days (3.2 times fewer days or about 1.32 fewer years worth of) cash on hand than for D200 (range: 73 days-643 days). All of the higher-performing school districts had significantly fewer days cash on hand than D200. See: www.files.sj-r.com/media/news/TRS.pdf.

Thus, the $20,000 premium that D200 overpays its teachers and administrators translated into poorer student performance than at the 21 school districts that paid their teachers and administrators less. D200's 705 days of cash on hand hasn't improved the performance of OPRF students. In fact, hoarding cash may have harmed the performance of OPRF students. That money should have been refunded to property taxpayers or been spent on performance-enhancing services, such as tutors and smaller class size, rather than on overpaying relatively poorly-performing teachers and administrators.

Are D200 Supt. Steven Isoye and Asst. Supt. for Finance and Operations Cheryl Witham respectively worth $257,114.29 and $232,386.11 in total compensation? Mayor Emmanuel's salary is reportedly only $216,210 %u2015 for running the third largest city in the country. Similarly, are D200 Asst. Supt. Philip Prale, Principal Nathaniel Rouse, Chief Information Officer Michael Carioscio, HR Director Lauren Smith, Special Ed Director Tina Halliman, and PR Director Karin Sullivan respectively really worth $209,953; $189,710; $181,470; $170,160; and $161,580?

Could D200 pay a lot less and get a lot more, just like at the 21 better-performing school districts that did just that?

D200's school board will reportedly adopt the 2.5% levy increase on Dec. 20. If you want D200 to pay for any budget increase by exhausting its existing cash and investments before it needlessly hikes your property taxes, then protest now.

Barb Langer
River Forest

This Letter to the Editor has been expanded online to include links to sources.

Reader Comments

18 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Henry from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 3:59 PM

D200 11-ranked compensation is "profligate" considering the #39 ranking on tests? You mean test scores go down, so we cut teachers' pay? You're not suggesting the cost of living for a downstate teacher is the same as OPRF? Or that OPRF's student body should be compared to the homogenized north shore public schools or the cherry-picked students at the Chicago schools above us? Or the little schools in Mahomet, Dunlap and Downs? How bout we note we're 10 spots ahead of Evanston and say yay.

Barb Langer, Ph.D.  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 4:13 AM

D200 reported $111 million, NOT $11 million in surplus cash and investments as of 30Jun2011 and about $133 million as of 20Dec2012. The Wednesday Journal changed my submission and understated the $111M figure by ten fold.

Mary Rodrigo from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 4:03 AM

I am reading that D200 has reserves in the millions. I don't understand why they would vote for a 2.5% increase tax levy. As a taxpayer, I want to know why the district thinks it is needed. Please, no frills. I'm for reasonable taxes.

James  

Posted: November 16th, 2012 12:13 PM

When you have a $112 Million surplus, your income (from property taxes) exceeds your expenses by over $6.9 Million, you should not be asking for a 2.5% ($1.7 Million) raise from taxpayers. Give the taxpayers a break!

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2012 9:15 AM

How exactly do we say no to an increased tax levy?

A Realist from Oak Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2012 9:04 AM

@Langer. Are you involved, too, in the referendum to have OPRF build a community swimming pool? If so, seems contradictory to lowering the levy. Which is it-more funds for a government agency or less?

Not complaining  

Posted: November 15th, 2012 12:58 PM

How did well-paid teachers, cash on hand, and being a Top 50 school in the state become a bad thing? You've actually convinced me the opposite of your argument! We're doing great! Pay 'em MORE!

Honor Student  

Posted: November 15th, 2012 12:44 PM

PE Teachers who coach SHOULDNT BE EARNING CLOSE TO 6 1/2 FIGURES!!!!!!! ANYWHERE.

Barb Langer, Ph.D.  

Posted: November 15th, 2012 12:15 PM

Mr. Haley, the WJ has now replaced the long dash following Mr. Emmanuel's salary with a string of nonsense characters: "%u2015". Would you please make the links functional when clicked, restore the long dash, and delete the nonsense characters?

Barb Langer, Ph.D.  

Posted: November 15th, 2012 11:41 AM

With all respect, Mr. Haley, 3 of the 5 links above that the WJ "restored" don't work, whereas all of the links do work in my previous comments, in my 9-10Nov2012 e-mail submissions and in my 14Nov2012 e-mail request to restore the redactions.

Want to Stay in Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 6:14 PM

D200 will increase the 2012 tax levy? When they are running such a huge surplus? Why? Just because they can? Enough already. This has to stop.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 3:21 PM

Nothing has been "redacted" here. In print we do not run long web link mentions. They don't translate to print well. Online it took us a few hours to restore the version with the links. Everyone relax a little.

OP Transplant  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 12:30 PM

Clearly the school performs measurably worse than many schools with less funding. And we have a whole lot of administrators for a one-building district. But, if you like smug airs of superiority, we're tough to beat!

Barb Langer, Ph.D.  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 12:21 PM

D200's BOE is slated to approve publication of the levy at its meeting tomorrow (Thurs 15Nov2012). To "JUST SAY NO!", please come and speak up during the public comment session.

Barb Langer, Ph.D.  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 12:15 PM

End of 4: "See: http://files.sj-r.com/media/news/TRS.pdf." End of 5: "http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/16033455-418/the-top-50-high-schools-in-illinois.html." End of 6: "See: http://files.sj-r.com/media/news/TRS.pdf."

Barb Langer, Ph.D.  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 12:14 PM

2 just before comma: "(see http://www.oprfhs.org/business-office/documents/OPRF_CAFR_FY11_BM_secure.pdf, p. 30)" End of 3: "See: http://www.oprfhs.org/business-office/Comprhensive-Annual-Financial-Report.cfm."

Barb Langer, Ph.D.  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 12:13 PM

End of 1: "See: http://intranet.oprfhs.org/board-of-education/board_meetings/Finance_Committee/Packets/2012-13/November%206%202012/3.%20Presentation%20of%202012%20Preliminary%20Levy.pdf."

Barb Langer, Ph.D.  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 12:13 PM

From Barb Langer, graceflo@ameritech.net. I have asked the WJ to restore the full title and text and the following links to the references for this piece, all of which it redacted from both print and online versions:

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