We have come to expect a bait and switch game from the current D181 Administration. For example the Gifted review morphed into the Advanced Learning Plan then morphed into the Learning for All Plan. Or the minimum standard required to stay in an advanced or accelerated math level was lowered from 80% to 70% to now no percentage needed, just some number on a scale of 1 to 4. Now it appears that actions by Dr. Schuster and her "team" -- as Board Member Nelson likes to call them -- are about to have a direct negative impact on the wallets of every D181 tax payer. As Concerned Parents we wanted to make sure that all of our readers were made aware of her most recent bait and switch as, in our opinion, it evidences that we can no longer trust that anything Dr. Schuster represents -- even to the Board of Education -- will not be flipped, switched or changed.
This time it is the annual tax levy extension that the Board of Education must approve at the December 9, 2013 Board Meeting.
Back on September 23, 2013, during the Board Meeting at which the BOE approved the 2013-2014 Annual Budget, Dr. Schuster represented to the Board that the administration understood that the "directions" given to it by the board were that the upcoming tax levy would only be increased by "the cost of living increase," that the district must "live within our means" and that it must "balance the budget." (Click to open and then scroll to page 2 of Budget PowerPoint.) Page 7 of that PowerPoint assumed that the 2013 tax levy would at most be increased by 1.7% which was the CPI. The rest of the PowerPoint explained how the proposed revenue would be spent in order to achieve a balanced budget.
Well guess what? Seems that despite her representations to the board made less than 2 1/2 months ago, Dr. Schuster does not intend to comply with the Board's directive that the upcoming tax levy at most be increased by CPI or 1.7%. Instead, on Monday night Dr. Schuster will ask the BOE to approve a 2.79% tax levy increase, a full 1.09% over what she was directed to do by the Board. (Click to open the Administration's Tax Levy Presentation for the 12/9/13 meeting.)
In less than 2 1/2 months, the additional revenue that Dr. Schuster represented would be
needed this year to justify a 1.7% tax levy increase jumped from $915,000 to $1.5 million! (See pages 7 and 14 of the Tax Levy Report, Click to open the Administration's Tax Levy Presentation for the 12/9/13 meeting.) According to this report, the average increase to the taxpayer will be an increase in their property taxes of 1.5%.
The good news for us taxpayers is that while Dr. Schuster has chosen to ignore the BOE's directives, the BOE holds the power to VOTE NO on her recommended tax levy increase. The only question is whether come Monday night, we will get bad news and witness the Board flip flop and ignore their earlier directives? Will Mr. Turek, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Yaeger or Mr. Heneghan -- who as the veteran board members all strongly pushed for conservative tax levy increases and issued the CPI directive -- stick to their guns or will they wield to the whims of Dr. Schuster? The Board has the authority to hold Dr. Schuster accountable for the representations she made back on September 23, when it approved a budget that even had a contingency line item in it. To the extent that additional budgetary expenses are deemed necessary by the Board, it is time for all 7 members to unanimously direct Dr. Schuster to "live within our means" and not spend one more dime than was budgeted for this year! It is time for the BOE to direct Dr. Schuster to take other steps to free up the money for additional expenditures that they may or may not approve for this school year. And there are certainly ways to "trim" the existing budget. As one community member stated in a public comment left on a recent post on this blog:
"Instead of raising the tax levy, let's get rid of the pork. Eliminate the majority of the central office administrators. Stop going to fluff conferences out of state. Stop producing copious amounts of propaganda with skewed data. Stop replacing perfectly good text books. Stop paying for substitutes and stop waisting valuable teaching time with worthless teacher meetings. Get back to basics!!!! Learning for all has cost of the district significantly more than the savings obtained from eliminating ACE. The community wants small class sizes, more technology, better facilities, gifted programming, foreign language and full day kindergarten - all things that directly benefit the students."
We must all listen closely to the action the BOE takes at the December 9 board meeting. Will the Board do what its members have promised the community and only approve a tax levy that at most increases last year's extension by CPI -- 1.7%? Or will its members fold to the ever changing tune of Dr. Schuster?