Budgets, Levies, & Debt

Innovative Money-Saving Solution Regarding School Debt

by Sandra Ellis

At the October 28, 2013,  School Board meeting, a Geneva taxpayer, Dan Garrett, listened to the one-hour William Blair recommendations for addressing the mounting school board debt. Dan has over 30 years in municipal bond buying experience and asked the board members if he could present an additional option which could result in increased savings to taxpayers but was not included in the Blair options.

It is notable that the William Blair Company included a disclaimer in their presentation that they are not  "acting as a municipal or financial advisor", that their financial interests will differ from ours (they are bond underwriters), 

and that they cannot be responsible for the "accuracy and completeness" of the information in their presentation?

Subsequently, Mr. Garrett put together a simple, easy-to-follow presentation and offered to explain it to any school board member.  (Click the link to see the 10 minute presentation.)  He provided his electronic presentation to GenevaTaxFACTS, the Geneva Patch, and the Kane County Chronicle in advance of the November 11 board meeting so the community as well as board members would have an opportunity to ask questions. He personally presented it in advance to Dr. Kent Mutchler (Superintendent)  and Donna Oberg (Ass't Superintendent for Business Services) as well as to two school board members who took him up on his offer to explain in detail.

At the November 11 meeting, the school board voted 6 for and 1 against  to draft a resolution to increase the tax levy this year to 1%. This is projected to result in a little over a $300 increase (on a $315,000 home)  in just the school portion of your property tax bill arriving May of 2014. The final vote to increase the levy will be at a board meeting on December 9, 2013. (If any members of the community wish to address this, the comments should be made in the first comment session rather than AFTER the final vote.)

So far, it appears that the board feels spending even $30 million from reserves (money received from several years of overtaxing and now earning about .2%) to buy back our own school bonds and thus receive the interest as other bondholders (estimated at 2 to 3% conservatively) would be too risky?  Does everyone accept that answer from a board and administration that misstated enrollment figures for an $83 million referendum and refuses to explain the recent salary and options and interest-free car loan to Superintendent Mutchler? This plan appears solid and proposed by an expert who happens to live in Geneva and knows how bonds and schools work.  

Proposing a solution that could save the district over $15 million in the next five years to help alleviate our mounting debt and increasing taxes should be a fifth option.  If rejected, a reasonable explanation should follow.  If not, then why would ANY taxpayer who has expertise in specific areas be willing to step up and propose a money saving idea?

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