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School Board Facing Two Significant Decisions This Year

 Bob McQuillan

Of School Budgets & Teacher Contracts

By now most Geneva residents have probably heard that there are some issues that the Geneva School District has had to deal with over the last six months. Whether it was concerning the debt, kindergarten class size or enrollmentgate, the board of education and their actions have been a hot topic throughout the community.
The board has two significant decisions to make over the next few months: the 2012-13 school year budget and a new teacher contract. Both of these issues will be hot buttons for several different reasons and the debate from all sides could get very interesting. As someone who has attended more school board meetings than I would like to remember, here are my thoughts on both topics.

2012-13 School Year Budget
As with most suburban schools, Geneva receives the vast amount of it’s funding from local property taxes. For the last several years, it is no secret that the majority of homes have lost market value while their property taxes have increased. The question of how long this can continue is on every homeowners mind. In Geneva the issue is further complicated by the $305 million dollar debt that must be paid in the next 15 years.
The school district covers budget increases through the tax levy, which is voted on every December for the following year. This December, the district will be able to increase the tax levy by 1.5%. This increase is based on the CPI from December 2011. It has been past board policy to request the maximum levy, which they have done on the proposed 2012-13 budget. The proposed budget is scheduled to be presented to the full board of education on Monday July 23rd. The budget will then be displayed for 30 days before approval at a public board of education meeting prior to September 30th.
Based on the proposed budget, I would like to call for No Increase in the Tax Levy for 2013 for two reasons.
• The debt repayment will increase for 2013
• The proposed budget shows that a tax levy increase is not needed.

Because debt repayment is not subject to the tax-cap, property taxes will increase even if there in not a tax levy increase. Whatever debt is owed must be paid according to the repayment schedule. The proposed budget shows that expenses in the education fund will be flat and projected revenues will cover those expenses. The expenses in transportation and operation/maintenance funds can be covered by projected revenue and current reserves. Adding a tax levy increase is an unnecessary burden to the taxpayers.

Teacher Contract
The current 3-year teacher contract expires prior to the start of the 2012-13 school year. Based on the salary increases that were provided in the current contract and the economic climate since 2008, I believe there should be a hard salary freeze for at least the first year of any new contract. I would support a 1-year teachers contract for two reasons:
• The economy has still not rebounded and locking into a 3-year contract does not benefit anyone.
• Four board seats are up for re-election in April of 2013.

A hard salary freeze means that there would be no increase in either of the two components of compensation (step & lane). The step compensation is based on years of service while the lane component includes additional professional education or training. The basis for this reasoning is that the current contract called for salary increases each of the three years. Many local districts received concessions from their teachers during this time period while the Geneva board did not request to reopen the contract. The board felt that the last contract was negotiated in good faith and reopening would set a bad precedent. It is now time for the union and its members to recognize that the district has financial issues and that a salary increase is not appropriate at this time.

The following files are attached to provide background information for the 2012-13 School Year Budget and the 2009-12 Teacher Contract

1. Proposed Budget (Education)– created by the administration and scheduled to be presented to the board of eduction on July 23, 2012.
2. Proposed Budget (Operations/Maintenance Transportation)– created by the administration and scheduled to be presented to the board of eduction on July 23, 2012.
3. Proposed Budget Recap Sheet – this was created by me to place all the financial information on one sheet of paper. This recap shows that a tax levy increase for 2013 is unnecessary.
4. Highlights of Current Teacher Contract – created by me based on the 2009-12 teacher contract. This recaps the various items listed within the teacher contract.
5. Step & Lane Examples taken from #5 above with commentary that helps to explain. 
6. 2009-12 Teacher Contract – the contract currently in effect 
7. 2010-2011 Teachers Salary Benefits.pdf
8. Teacher Salaries 2007-11 – this document, sourced from the Family Taxpayers website, shows the yearly salary and increases received by individual teacher. Retirement enhancement payments and cost of medical benefits are also recapped.

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