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Offline Ted

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D100 election
« on: March 09, 2019, 07:35:31 AM »
On April 2, 2019, voters in Berwyn will be voting to elect candidates to school boards and park district boards. This is a summary of the election for the South Berwyn District 100 school board.  There are 9 candidates on the ballot for 4 seats on the District 100 school board.

SYNOPSIS:

In the D100 election, there are two slates running as well as Chanda Szczeblowski.

This biggest issue facing the candidates is their position on the large property tax increase that occurred last year and how it should have been addressed last year and in future years.  The property tax increase occurred because of a referendum that was passed in 2017 that expected a $2.2 million dollar increase in revenue but actually resulted in a much larger tax increase because of a property value reassessment done in Berwyn and changes in the state’s exemption laws.  The D100 property tax operational levy increased from $13.5 million to $19.6 million, causing an overage of $3.2 million dollars from what the levy would have been had the $2.2 million dollar number from the referendum had been met.  The questions facing the current board (as well as its actions) and what future boards will face are as follows:

1. Rebate current year overage to tax payer via abatement – One issue facing the current board was whether to rebate money from the current year overage of $3.2 million dollars back to the tax payer or whether to keep that money and use the excess money for education programs and teacher salaries. Some candidates running for office supported the abatement back to the tax payers. Other candidates supported keeping the excess money and using it for education programs and teacher salaries. In November the current board voted to rebate $2.1 million dollars back to the tax payer, based on actual taxes collected.

2. Underlevy and future year taxes – Another issue facing the board was how to handle future year taxes.  There were 3 options available to the board – One option was to lower the levy, which would in turn lower the tax rate. This was called the “underlevy” option.  The second option was to keep the levy and tax rate at its current level (increased each year by the cost of living) and use the extra money to decrease the district’s debt payment.  This was the “levy with future debt abatement” option.  This option was not a permanent option in that future school boards could decide to not abate, which would cause the taxes to skyrocket back up to last year’s tax level, increased by the cost of living each year. The third option was to keep the taxes at the current year’s level permanently and use the extra money for education programs and teacher salaries.  This option was referred to as the “full levy” option. The board voted in December for the “underlevy” option, which lowered the levy from $19.6 million to a certified levy of $17.5 million and which also lowered the tax rate for future years.

3. “Lookback” – The current board voted in December to permanently lower the tax levy and lower the tax rate. However, the state of Illinois has a provision called “lookback” which would allow a future school board to nullify the board’s decision in December to lower the levy and tax rate and revert back to this year’s tax levy of $19.6 million, which in turn raises the tax rate. The “lookback” option is available for the next 3 years.

 Here is a summary of the candidates and their position on the tax issues:

1 Comm-unity for bsd100
One slate of candidates is the Comm-unity for bsd100 slate, which consists of Laurence Disch, Elizabeth O. Jiménez, Desiree V. Robles, and Katherine "Kate" Zeitvogel.

Their positions on the tax issues are as follows:

+ Abatement – The Comm-unity slate supported the abatement of $2.1 million dollars for the current year back to the tax payer. Board member Elizabeth Jimenez voted in favor of the abatement.

+ Underlevy – The Comm-unity slate supported the under levy to lower the tax levy and lower the tax rate. Board member Elizabeth Jimenez voted in favor of the underlevy.

+ Lookback – The Comm-unity slate are opposed to the lookback and opposed to reverting property taxes to the current year’s high tax level.

 The Comm-unity slate has stated that the trust the community has in the board was breached by the tax situation and they want to repair the breach of trust between the district and the community.

2 Chanda Szczeblowski

Chanda Szczeblowski is a current board member who is running for re-election. Ms. Szczeblowski’s positions and votes on the tax issues are as follows:

+ Abatement – Ms. Szczeblowski voted for the abatement of $2.1 million dollars for the current year back to the tax payer.

+ Underlevy – Ms. Szczeblowski voted against the under levy to lower the tax levy and lower the tax rate. She voted for the option to keep the levy and taxes at its current level and use the extra money to reduce the debt payment.

+ Lookback – Ms. Szczeblowski has stated she is opposed to the lookback.

3 Sobe Moms

 Another slate is the Sobe Moms, which consists of Andrea Dressel, Amber Dawn and Sarah Lopez. Their positions on the tax issues are as follows:

+ Abatement – The Sobe moms opposed the abatement of $2.1 million dollars for the current year back to the tax payer.

+ Underlevy – The Sobe moms opposed the under levy to lower the tax levy and lower the tax rate. They supported the option to keep the levy at its current level and use the extra money to reduce the debt payment.

+ Lookback – The Sobe moms have stated that they “will not pursue the lookback.”

Last fall, the Sobe Moms advocated against returning any money to the tax payer via a rebate or abatement.  Instead, they advocated for keeping the extra money and using the money for education programs and teacher salaries. In an email to the board on August 29, 2019, Andrea Dressel told the board to “keep the money”.  Amber Dawn in an email told the board: “You do not sit on the Board of Tax Relief, you sit on the Board of Education.”  Both Ms. Dawn and Ms. Dressel stated in emails in September: “Do not use surplus funds to partially pay the district's debt.  All surplus money should be used for school purposes.”

 Another candidate who will be on the ballot is Tony Harris, who has stated that he has dropped out of the race. He is urging people to vote for the Comm-unity slate.

ISSUES:
Here are some other issues beyond the tax increase that are affecting the district:

TEACHER RETENTION AND SALARIES – Since 2014, the teacher retention rate in the district has dropped from 84% in 2014 to 78% over the last 3 years. The state average retention rate is 85% The average teacher salary in the district is $54,000, which is much lower than the state average of $65,000.  As a point of comparison, North Berwyn District 98 has had a retention rate of 83% to 92% over the last 5 years, generally equaling the state’s retention rate. The average teacher salary in District 98 is $63,000, which is $9,000 more than the average in District 100. In Lyons/Stickney District 103, the retention rate has been 88% to 92% over the last 5 years, compared to the state’s retention rate of 85%.  The average teacher salary in District 103 is $56,000. District 103 has had a much higher retention rate than District 100 even though the salary levels are similar.

ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT – Academic achievement on PARCC tests in District 100 have lagged the state average. In Math, only 22% of the district’s students meets or exceeds and in English Language Arts (ELA) only 25% meets or exceeds.  The state average is that 32% meet or exceed in Math and 37% meet or exceed in ELA. As a point of comparison, in north Berwyn District 98, 41% meet or exceed in ELA (above the state average of 37%) and 26% meet/exceed in Math. In Lyons/Stickney District 103, 26% meet/exceed in ELA and 18% meet/exceed in Math.

FINANCE AND DEBT:
Because of a cutback is state funding and a change in the funding formula 5 years ago, the district experienced large deficits and an increase in its debt to cover expenses. That led citizens to put forward the referendum in 2017 to increase property taxes. In addition, the state has changed its formula for state funding.  The additional funding from the state and from the referendum has now brought in an additional $4 million dollars to alleviate the financial problems the district was experiencing.

According to the 2018 audit report, last year the district had revenue of $69 million dollars and expenses of $59 million dollars.  In 2018, the district had a prior period adjustment of $23 million due to a change in the way pensions are accounted for. That resulted in a decrease in the district’s net position of $11 million dollars. The district’s fund balances increased from $17.7 million to $28 million with revenues exceeding expenses by $9.4 million dollars in the general fund. The general fund ended the year with a balance of $21 million dollars.

The district’s long term debt in 2018 was $65 million dollars, an increase from the 2017 debt, which was $47 million dollars. Of the total debt of $65 million dollars, $35 million were for general obligation bonds.   FYI, this year the state is changing the way pensions are accounted for and are pushing the liability for pensions as an accounting on the books of individual school districts (GASB 75), even though the state of Illinois is responsible for collecting and paying into most of the money into the teacher’s pension fund.

EXPIRATION OF DEPOT DISTRICT TIF: 
  Another issue in this election will be the expiration of the Depot District Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. The Depot District TIF was formed in 1997 to enhance businesses in the area along the Metra tracks. When the TIF district was formed in 1997, the Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) of the properties in the TIF was $18.2 million. Over the 20 years the TIF has existed, the EAV has increased to $24.9 million. District 100 gets the property taxes generated from the $18.2 million and the TIF gets the property taxes generated from the incremental increase in the EAV of $6.7 million.
 
  Last year, the TIF received $1.119 million in property tax revenue.  Over the life of the TIF, the TIF district will receive $19.313 million dollars.  The TIF will expire in 2020.  The city of Berwyn is asking for an extension of the TIF district for another 12 years. To extend the TIF, the city needs to get approval from all taxing bodies in the TIF.  If the TIF were extended, it is estimated that it would collect an additional $13.990 million in revenue from 2021 to 2032.  If the TIF expires, then District 100 will start collecting the property taxes that are now going into the TIF district. In the first year after the expiration, D100 would collect an additional $387,000.  If the TIF is extended, then District 100 would stand to lose an estimated $4.8 million dollars over the additional 12 years of the extension.
 
  The city wants to extend the TIF district because it believes the Great Recession caused the district to lose momentum in building up the district.  The vision for the TIF over the extension period would be to turn the TIF into an Arts District, including retrofitting the Berwyn Bank Building to be an “arts loft”, redeveloping the lots where O’Brien’s cleaners is located and redeveloping the lots where the Comcast building was at and which there were once plans for a charter school for. The other issue involving the TIF is the parking garage in the Depot District and the money to pay the debt off for building the garage.
 
  The BDC Director also stated that money from the TIF would be used for infrastructure projects such as sewers and water lines.
 
   The D100 board needs to decide on whether or not to approve the extension of the TIF.  The board will have 3 options – either explicitly approve the TIF extension or explicitly vote to not support the extension of the TIF or do nothing.  If the board does nothing, the TIF expires.  The board will need to decide whether it wants to forgo $4.8 million dollars over the next 12 years.

Board members Chanda Szczeblowski and Elizabeth Jimenez have stated they are undecided on the TIF extension.  Kate Zeitvogel spoke at a Committee of the Whole meeting where she advocated for ending the TIF district.  Larry Disch has also advocated for ending the TIF district.

THE CANDIDATES:

Comm-unity for bsd100 slate

The Comm-unity for bsd100 slate is a slate of candidates that formed to provide voters a set of candidates who supported the tax relief measures implemented by the school board last year. These candidates decided to circulate petitions and run for office when it became apparent that no candidates were running that supported tax relief measures and that there was another set of candidates (the SoBo Moms slate) that had advocated for no tax relief at all and who had advocated for keeping the excess tax dollars that resulted from the property tax overage last year.

The Comm-unity for bsd100 slate states in their literature that they want to “respect home owners by honoring the intent of the referendum as embodied in the underlevy to reduce taxes and restore fairness”, “repair the breach of trust between the district and the community that occurred during the last referendum” and “ensure district financial accountability”.

  1 Elizabeth Jimenez – Ms. Jimenez is a current district 100 board member who is seeking re-election.  She is a 20 year resident of Berwyn. She has worked in District 100 starting as a teaching assistant and went to school to get a degree to become a teacher. She became involved in the District 100 schools by getting involved in the PTA when her son entered kindergarten. Ms. Jimenez believes she is uniquely qualified to be on the board because she has experienced different aspects of District 100 – as a parent whose children went to D100 schools, as an educator and as a one time employee of the school district. She is involved in the All Berwyn Committee and was involved in passing the referendum in 2017. She wants to improve teacher retention and be an advocate for parents.  As a board member, she voted for the abatement to return money back to the tax payer and voted for lowering the tax levy and the tax rate. She is opposed to reverting the tax levy to last year’s high level. She is undecided on whether to extend the Depot District TIF.

 2 Laurence Disch – Mr. Disch is a co-parent to his 10 year old grandson and has had two generations of his family go to schools in District 100. He is concerned about the community tensions that resulted from the large tax increase last year. He supported the return of tax payer via an abatement and the lowering of the levy for next year, believing that “what’s right is right” and that the promises and statements made during the referendum should be adhered to. He believes the intent of the referendum should be adhered to. He supports the underlevy that the board approved in December. He has stated that he is opposed to extending the Depot District TIF for another 12 years. He has stated that he is not blind to the fact that the district has significant problems. He wants to address teacher retention and better ways to improve student performance.  He wants to reduce the reliance on the “one-on-one” learning technology that the district implemented and find out whether it is really working. He also wants the district to develop a long term strategy for the district’s financial health. Mr Disch works in the mental health field and wants to improve the social well-being of the children in the district. He believes that his best assets are the ability to examine a situation and assess a situation in totality.

3 Katherine "Kate" Zeitvogel – Ms. Zeitvogel grew up in New Hampshire and moved to Michigan when she was 12. She has been involved in Dance and Theatre throughout her life. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan. She has been involved in the arts as a career in Chicago.  She moved to Berwyn 3 years ago and loves the multi-culturalism of Berwyn. She has attended school board meetings and city council meetings since moving here. She has stated she wants to honor the intent of the referendum and supported the lowering of the tax levy and the return of money to the tax payer via abatement. She has spoken out against extending the Depot District TIF for another 12 years. She wants to advocate for ensuring emotional support for all students, stating that she was bullied as a youngster. She says her best asset is her critical thinking ability and that she is not afraid to challenge the status quo.

 4 Desiree Robles – Ms. Robles is a military wife and mother of two daughters in the D100 school system. She has a diverse ethnic heritage. She was born in Pilsen and raised in Cicero. She has lived in Berwyn for 9 years. She works in the nursing field. She says her daughters would describe her as fierce, strong, direct and opinionated. She worked for the referendum in 2017 and worked to prevent the closing of schools when the merger of schools in central Berwyn was being discussed by the district. She wants to be an advocate for those without a voice – families and parents who are afraid to ask questions because of their cultural background or immigrant status. She want to support DACA children in the schools and give them an advocate on the board.

Chanda Szczeblowski

Chanda Szczeblowski is a current board member who is running for re-election. Ms. Szczeblowski is a 15 year resident of Berwyn who has been involved in District 100 for 14 years. She has been a graphic designer for 20 years and has two children in the District 100 school system. She was appointed to a vacancy on the board in 2017 and is running for re-election.

Ms. Szczeblowski was the driving force behind the citizen initiated referendum in 2017, believing that the district would pass a referendum if the money requested was smaller than the amount requested in the 2014 referendum. In 2014, she advocated and worked for a referendum that would have increased taxes in Berwyn by 20% and would have increased property taxes in District 100 by over 60%.  That experience made her believe that another referendum requesting a smaller amount could be supported by the voters. She has been involved in several advisory committees (gifted education, technology, budget, and referendum) and has been a member of the PTA and Berwyn CARES for 14 years. She believes in transparency and organized one-on-one sessions where school board members can sit down and have direct discussions with residents. She organized the school supply give back program and lobbied in Springfield against a bill that would have changed the referendum results and for a bill that would change the language of referenda to be based on the dollar amount requested in the referendum rather than a tax rate.

Ms. Szczeblowski believes the key issue the district faces is teacher retention. She supports the district’s diverse student body and wants to close opportunity gaps. As a board member she voted to return $2.1 million dollars from the overage back to the tax payer. She voted against the underlevy that reduced the tax levy and tax rate and voted for the option to levy at the current tax level and use the extra money to abate future debt. She wanted to keep the tax level at its current level in case of a future emergency or if the state decided to cut back funding. She is opposed to “look back” option that would revert the taxes to last year’s high levels and states she will abide by the levy and tax rate set by the board in December.  She is undecided on the issue of whether to extend the depot district TIF.

Sobe Moms

The Sobe Moms slate is a slate of candidates who advocated for keeping the excess money from the tax overage and using it for teacher salaries and education programs. Last fall, they lobbied against the abatement that rebated money back to the tax payer.  They also lobbied against the underlevy that the board approved in December, which lowered the tax levy and lowered the tax rate. Their literature states that they want to “develop a strategic plan for the district’s future”, “protect and allocate the districts resources responsibly”, “enhance student development through experience based learning by creating public/private partnerships at no cost to tax payers” and “improve community relations through communication and greater transparency”.

 1 Andrea Dressel – Ms. Dressel has lived in Berwyn since 2012. She has a child in pre-school. She has a B.S. in Accounting and Finance and works as a real estate agent for Baird and Warner. She grew up in Toledo and saw her community decline. Her parents moved so that she could get a better education. The Toledo schools she went to have been shut down. She organized the Proksa Park neighbors group and was involved in the referendum in 2014 which would have raised taxes by 20%.  She was also involved in the 2017 referendum that passed. She supports more public/private partnerships, performance benchmarks, seeking out new sources of revenue such as grants and wants fiscal responsibility. She says she wants more transparency and more communication with the Spanish speaking population.

Last fall, Ms. Dressel advocated for keeping the surplus and using it for education programs and teacher salaries. In an email to the board in September, Ms. Dressel stated: “Do not use surplus funds to partially pay the district's debt.  All surplus money should be used for school purposes.” In emails to the board she told the board to “Keep the money” and “Keep every penny”. Ms. Dressel also lobbied against the board’s decision in December to lower the tax levy and lower the tax rate. She says she supported the agenda item to keep the tax levy at its current level and use the extra money to reduce the debt payment for this year.  As a candidate for office, Ms. Dressel is now telling voters she has changed her position on taxes since last fall and agrees with the tax relief measures that the board approved. She states that she will not pursue the lookback that could be used to bring taxes back up to their current levels.

 2 Amber Dawn - Ms. Dawn has lived in Berwyn since 2011. She has a child at Piper and has been involved in the Piper PTO. She grew up in Seattle as the child of a single mother. She left high school early but came back to get her high school degree. She has a degree in zoology from the University of Washington and is involved with the Shedd Aquarium. She was the driving force behind the Piper playground rebuild and is involved in creating the new Sobe Education Foundation. She states that teacher turnover rate is unacceptable and says that teacher salaries are falling. She says she is committed to protecting the district’s resources and managing the district in a financially responsible manner. She stated that she wanted people on the board who value education.

Last fall, Ms. Dawn advocated for keeping the surplus and using it for education programs and teacher salaries. In an email to the board, Ms. Dawn stated: ““You do not sit on the Board of Tax Relief, you sit on the Board of Education.”   She also sent the same email to the board as Ms. Dressel which stated:  “Do not use surplus funds to partially pay the district's debt.  All surplus money should be used for school purposes.”  As a candidate, Ms. Dawn is now telling voters she will adhere to the intent of the referendum and will not pursue the lookback option that would nullify the board’s decision in December to reduce the tax levy and tax rate.

 3 Sarah Lopez - Ms. Lopez is a life long Berwyn resident who attended Pershing elementary school and Morton West High School. She attended Morton College and studied nursing. She has 3 children attending District 100 schools. She is involved in the Piper PTO and the playground committee. She says she wants to use the district’s resources responsibly and supports more public/private partnerships. She points out that she “did not raise your taxes”.  She is invested in the schools and believes strong schools equal a strong community. She states that she will not pursue the lookback option that would nullify the board’s decision in December to reduce the tax levy and tax rate.

Anthony Harris
Also on the ballot is Anthony Harris.  Mr. Harris has dropped out of the race and is urging voters to vote for the Comm-unity for bsd100 slate.


« Last Edit: March 09, 2019, 08:14:41 AM by Ted »

Offline berwynres

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Re: D100 election
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2019, 11:10:24 AM »

Thanks, Ted, for the comprehensive and detailed report on the upcoming District 100 school board election, its issues, the candidates and their positions.

Vote on April 2, 2019!!

Offline chandasz

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