Letter: A response to the Kaneland School Board’s vote to raise taxes

By on December 19, 2013

As the Bible tells us, there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to be silent and a time to speak.

I attended the Kaneland School Board meeting of Dec. 9, at which time the final resolution vote to levy taxes to the district took place. Two board members voted “no” to the resolution and five voted “yes” to raise mine and your property tax payments to the school by 9.5 percent. Several people in attendance testified as to the hardships they are suffering due to our economic conditions and appealed to the board for tax relief. The “yes” members claimed the loss of taxation compounding would be too expensive for the board to change its position of “tax-to-the-max” now and in the future. Obviously, the majority of this board could not come to terms with “this is a time to embrace and a time to refrain.”

I am reading that the Kane County Board has held its levy to “no increase.” The same is true with several local townships, cities and park districts. These local boards have embraced the economic conditions of lower work hours, no wage increases, companies shutting down or leaving the area and 22 percent of district home mortgages underwater. A Chicago Tribune article from Dec. 5 states that U.S. firms have begun an era of corporate urbanism. Why? Cities are aiding these moves with tax breaks and lower downtown rents prized by a young, educated workforce. Our school district is seeing this same exodus by a reduced (144) student enrollment of 4 percent this year. Even with fewer children in the halls of our schools, this board could not embrace the timing of refraining from past taxation behaviors or reveal the student enrollment decline to the public as a part of the tax levy discussion.

This School Board and administration seem to choose “a time to be silent” when it comes to revealing critical information to the public. The yearly financial audit of the School District’s financial statements and supplemental information has not been released to the public. The fiscal year 2012-13 ended June 31, 2013, and now five months later is still a financial secret.

Another critical report was the Standards & Poors Feb. 13, 2013, District Bond Ratings Report. This report pointed out the combined educational and O&M fund’s cash assets at the end of fiscal 2012 were nearly $25 million, or 53 percent of expenditures. Per the report, “The large discrepancy between the fund balance and the cash assets is due to the district deferring its spring and fall property tax receipts for use in the next fiscal year, which decreases the educational fund balance accordingly (about $18 million in 2012). Most Illinois school districts that use modified accrual accounting only defer property taxes due in the fall. The working cash fund, an alternate source of liquidity, held $590,000 at the end of 2012, up from $117,000 at the end of fiscal 2008.”

The reader might ask themselves, how does this Standards & Poors reported manipulation of funds differ from the scandalous 2001 Enron Corporation’s deceptive and unethical practice of hiding money and/or debt? I guess you would judge for yourself. The District 302 fall property tax receipts for this 2013 year is $20,720,450, and is maybe being deferred to next fiscal year’s business along with the $26,803,011 spring distribution, totaling $47,523,461.24. I do know this is big money to be moving around with no transparency as to financial audit oversight. Some of these School Board members are choosing “a time to be silent” about deferring millions of dollars of our tax money, and at the same time executing a levy that will result in an increased tax lien against yours and my property in January 2014. The Kaneland School Board’s withholding of the 2012-13 financial audit is aiding and abetting such practices by the Kaneland School District Administration. It is certainly a time for board members to do more “grandstanding” in defense of taxpayers and continue to ignore the “10-to-15-minute-long flippy-flop diatribes” some residents spew forward. Of course, some board members have relatives working at the school, so they aren’t likely to say much and differ from the majority. It is only $47 million, so why speak up? There might be retaliation?

School Board member Tony Valente did speak of retaliation by the school. He warned of manipulation of class location and other actions taken against the public and or individuals for speaking or voting against the School District. We have witnessed some brave mothers who are so distressed financially, they are willing to speak out and let themselves or their children become a target for bullying by this institution. This is truly a tragedy in our community.

There is a time for everything. Now is the time to prepare for the next School Board election. All taxpayers are more than qualified. You earned the money to support this school and you certainly are qualified to direct the spending of that money. Common sense rules will be far and above the actions I have reported in this article. The board members presently representing Sugar Grove are doing the work expected by the majority of their constituents. I would hope district seniors, on fixed incomes, will take a hard look at the persons representing them in their cities.

Jerry Elliott
Sugar Grove Township