So as always, SOUND OFF!
COMMENT OF THE DAY:
Past Referenda Supporter Who Will Vote NO This Time said...
I am rounding down very slightly, but for purposes of this exercise, I am stating that I live in a $1 million home in Burr Ridge. Most of my children have all graduated from Elm and HMS and Hinsdale Central High School. I will have one more graduating from HMS BEFORE the new school is built (if the referendum passes). I have lived in Elm's boundary area since 2000 and voted YES on the referenda that resulted in the new Prospect, new Walker, large addition to Madison and renovations to the other schools (other than HMS). By the time I moved here, CHMS was already built and the bonds to fund that were built into my property tax bill. For all of the other projects I voted yes on, my tax bill went up after I moved here. In the 16 years I have lived here, the ONLY physical improvement my children personally received as a result of the past referenda passing was a new multi-purpose room at Elm (and I believe air conditioning at Elm), and for a couple of them, the space they gained at Elm with the multi-purpose room addition was eliminated when the administration took over an entire wing of Elm School, leading to over crowding until this fall when the administration finally moved out.
So what did I pay over time? According to the chart on the D181 website, before the March 2016 HMS referendum, I CURRENTLY pay $1147 for the debt service on the previously approved referenda. Between now and 2025, according to the bar graph, that debt service will gradually increase, however, for purposes of this exercise, I will hold the $1147 flat. This means that over 10 years, I will pay $11,470 in property taxes JUST for the capital projects built as a result of the previously approved referenda. And all my kids will have ever benefited from those past YES votes will have been ONE SINGLE MULTIPURPOSE room and perhaps air conditioning at Elm School.
And what about the first 15 years of this debt service? The chart does't show me what I have personally paid, but assuming that the bar graph on the current debt service has gradually increased over time, (although I believe some of the debt service was refinanced and so it was already lowered a couple of times), but even assuming that it has gradually grown, I would bet that over the last 15 years, I have at least paid what I will pay over the next 10 years -- so at least another $11,470. This means that by the time the existing debt service is paid off in 2025 for the past approved capital referenda, I will have personally paid $22,940 in property taxes to fund new schools and improvements to the other D181 schools, and the ONLY physical benefits MY children will have seen was using one single Multipurpose room at Elm School and air conditioning.
Yet now, D181 is asking me to jump on the band wagon again and pay for a brand new middle school that will add $90 million in debt service to the backs of D181's taxpayers? And MY children won't benefit at all? That $90 million additional debt service will add an additional $537 dollars per year to my existing tax bill starting in 2019 -- an additional $3,222 between 2019 and 2024. And then once the OLD debt service is paid down, I will continue to pay $903/year to finish paying off the new HMS for another 12 years, for a total of $10,836. So between 2019 and 2036, I will personally pay $14,058 in property taxes to pay for ONE middle school, that NONE of my kids will ever attend.
Adding it all up, between 2001and 2036, I will have paid $36,998 in property taxes to pay for work done to either build new D181 schools or renovate and put multi-purposes on the elementary schools. And MY children will only have gotten the benefit of one single multi-purpose room and air conditioning?
Well, I have to say, this exercise has reinforced for me the following:
1. I am pro-education and pro-school improvement.
2. I have been a D181 supporter and UNTIL NOW, voted YES on past referendum.
3. I have willingly paid to provide more benefits to all of the other D181 schools and students in the district than the schools my children attended.
Despite this past generosity and support,
4. I AM NOT A DEEP, BOTTOMLESS POCKET! I now have children in college and my children do not qualify for financial aid (we are lucky, I am not complaining, I am grateful for our economic circumstances).
5. There is a LIMIT to how much I am willing to personally fund for construction of schools that will not benefit my children. I can no longer mindlessly support adding $90 million of debt service to my or other D181's taxpayers' backs.
6. This does not make me evil or bad or hateful or stupid or ignorant or naive or a naysayer.
7. Over and above the numbers I have crunched above, I pay over $20,000 a year in property taxes, most of which go to D181 to pay for its operational expenses and pension funds. I will continue to willingly pay those amounts because I know that for the most part, D181 is a school district that has added value to our community and has driven property values up. And I have chosen to live here.
8. However, I do not believe my property value will go up if a new HMS school is built. I agree with others who have posted on this blog, that property values are driven more by the caliber of the teachers and educational programs offered. Therefore, I will not support a $90 million bond issuance to pay for one new school until I am completely convinced that all OTHER options -- such as a renovation of the existing school, or building a less expensive school that isn't inflated with millions of dollars in WANTS -- has been fully vetted.
Now I am sure I will be attacked by the Vote Yes folks for daring to make this comment and people will pick it apart and tell me my numbers are off. This wasn't a scientific exercise and I didn't go back into 15 year old archives to calculate exactly what I have paid in property taxes for the construction projects the past referenda led to. But I think I have sufficiently satisfied myself that while my numbers may not be 100% accurate, I have been MORE THAN GENEROUS with my willingness to pay for D181 schools and improvements. But there comes a time when even I, a past avid supporter, will say its time to SLOW DOWN this runaway train and properly vet ALL options.
I'm ready and bracing myself for the attack of the Vote Yes people. Take your best shot.
One last thing to point out. It is really disingenuous for D181 to suggest in their flyer that once the old referenda are paid off, property taxes for this referenda will go down. In fact, look closely at the chart. TOTAL property taxes to fund the TOTAL capital projects WILL go down starting in 2026 because all of the other projects (besides HMS) will finally have been paid off. HOWEVER, the property taxes each of us pay for the new HMS will GO UP that year. On a $1 million home, the property taxes on HMS project will go up an additional $366 -- from $537 to $903. That is an increase of 68%. You will notice that this "kicker" isn't explained anywhere on the D181 flyer!