FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 2018-2019
At the December 5, 2018 Tax Levy Hearing, the District received a variety of comments and questions that we wished to address publicly. The questions were first answered to the individuals who asked the questions, but in the interest of transparency, we wanted to make our answers available to everyone. Should you have any additional questions, pleae feel free to contact John Herrin, Chief School Business Official, or Ellen Correll, Superintendent.
How did you pay for the Chromebooks for the One-to-One Technology Initiative, and why are we going this route?
The District Strategic Plan developed five years ago identified as one of its priorities implementing one-to-one devices. This has remained a priority but not one that the Board has acted on as the money was not in the budget to do so. However, with additional funding recently made available from the State called Evidence Based Funding, the District was able to purchase the devices. The additional funding the District received must be spent on closing the adequacy gap our Chief School Business Official referenced at the hearing, and cannot be used to reduce taxes.
How much did your Solar Project Cost?
The total cost of the project is $7.8 million. Between electricity savings and other state-funded grants, the district will see a savings of $13.6 million over the next thirty years. This results in a net savings of $5.8 million, the number referenced in the presentation.
Has the district undergone a financial audit?
Like all school districts, we are required to have a financial audit every year. The results of those audits are presented at Board Meetings, and a good document for seeing the results of the audit is our Annual Financial Report. These are reported on the district website and to the State. The most recent finalized audit is from fiscal year 2017 and is available on the School Finance page on the district website. Our audit for the fiscal year ending in June 2018 is being completed, and should be available soon.
How has the English Language Learners department grown?
We are constantly assessing our enrollments and language comprehension to ensure adequate staffing. Most recently, our changing demographics have led us to add two positions to the department. In January, we will begin our next round of reviewing our staffing to ensure we are running an effective and cost-efficient district.
Why didn't you put this to a referendum?
Illinois Property Tax Code only requires referendums if the district asks for an increase beyond the limiting rate outline by the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law. To oversimplify this, as long as the district is not asking for more than a normal cost-of-living increase or asking to borrow a large sum of money for bonds, the district is not required by law to go to referendum.
Why do you need more money?
Similar to all Americans, the cost of living goes up year after year. It costs more to put a gallon of gas in your vehicle, or a gallon of milk in your refrigerator. The Federal Government tracks that data and compiles it into something called the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. For our district, the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law ties our levy to CPI. In other words, our levy increase is directly tied to the increase in the cost of goods and services.
But enrollment is down, why aren't you cutting or even considering closing a school?
We have been cutting in a variety of ways. The presentation referenced $18 million in cost-saving initiatives the District has undertaken in recent years, and we are consistently looking for new ways to save and be more efficient. The District also has saved taxpayers $33.6 million over 20 years in the form of a tax abatement in 2012.
As far as closing a school, we belive that is not in the best interest of our students. Even with the decline in enrollment, our total class sizes are still higher than what the State believes is best. If our enrollment continues to decline, we will actualluy be easing the burden on the large classrooms and bringing our class sizes more in line with State guidelines. To put this in perspective, even if we received a decline in enrollment of 300 students - or roughly one child per classroom - our class sizes would still be too large.