Inflation is a FACT! Not keeping up with inflation amounts to a funding cut – inflation is an economic fact. D39 expenses increase annually.
It is better to increase taxes gradually than pass a referendum that will increase our taxes dramatically in one year, and which will consume untold time and resources by the community and by the D39 administration (time which could be better spent attending to the needs of D39 students). In addition, the predictability of gradual, annual CPI-based alignment of the levy enables D39 to continue its dynamic planning process over a longer cycle for major investments and necessary maintenance. If D39 only increases its levy in “spikes” – via referendum — D39 cannot make stable plans to tackle such projects as fixing roofs, or adding air-conditioning, or planning for when to conduct construction (a process that requires several annual cycles of advance-planning).
Education is one of the best investments our community can make, and one that this community has consistently supported – research shows that home values are higher in high performing school districts such as D39.
D39 needs to maintain adequate reserve levels to ensure positive ratings on any debt issued, and to avoid being put on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) financial watch list (reserves below 25%).
Springfield might pass legislation that will negatively impact our community, and we need to be fiscally ready for any such impact.
Pending legislation presents uncertainties that could negatively affect D39’s financial projections. In November 2017, the IL House passed a bill that would enact a 2-year tax freeze for 2018-19. This bill will be considered and voted upon by the IL Senate in spring 2017. Likewise, D39 expects an eventual shift in teacher pension-retirement payments from the State to D39.
Aside from education being an investment that we all should stand behind, maintaining excellent schools is good for homeowners. In the five years after the referendum, the median home sales price within D39 boundaries increased over 30%. Clearly, a commitment to excellent schools (as demonstrated by the successful referendum in 2011) was viewed positively by prospective home buyers. Wilmette is one of the only communities on the north shore considered to be a “seller’s market.”
A: D39 has been very clear that it is against raising salaries before retirement by more than 6% (known as “pension-spiking”), and has negotiated one of the most “anti-spiking” contracts in IL. State rules discourage pension-spiking. Non-compliance results in fines. However, many districts (including D39) sometimes pay fines for circumstances beyond their control.
The claim that D39 spikes salaries prior to teachers’ retirement is false, and is spread by a group with an agenda to cut spending for D39’s educational programs irrespective of whether such acts would be detrimental to education in our community.
A: Obviously, there are people who object to any increase in property taxes. But based on the data from the 2011 D39 Referendum – 63% of voters approved an increase in property taxes for D39. Some people may believe that education costs too much in D39, but our district is actually very cost effective compared to other schools.
A: Home values in our general area have increased 61.45% since 2000. This study is admittedly not apples-to-apples because it includes a larger area of north Cook County – not just Wilmette. But, it illustrates that the notion of “falling” property values is relative. In fact, in the five years after the D39 referendum increased taxes, property values in D39 increased over 30%.
Paid advertisements objecting to D39’s extension of the levy to track inflation refer to a 5/4% decrease in home values in District 39. That 5.4% decrease compares current property values to those at the market high in September 2006 – before the real estate bubble crashed. It is misleading to compare current home values to the housing bubble high. Most housing markets in the U.S. will show a decline when compared to the market high in September 2006. Wilmette has fared much better than the housing market in the Chicago area generally, which is down 13.6% since the “bubble high” in September 2006.
A: The Wilmette market looks extremely strong compared to our neighboring villages. This article from 2016 refers to Wilmette as the only “sellers market” in NT Township. Currently, houses in D39 are on the market for a median of 49 days.
The assertion that houses in Wilmette are on the market longer than they ever have been is simply false. The period immediately following the housing bubble crash, in 2009, days on market was approaching 150 days. In 2017, Days On Market in D39 is under 50 days. Further, Wilmette homes are selling faster than all of the other NT Township villages, and Wilmette has the highest number of housing units sold compared to our neighbors. Bottom line: the Wilmette market looks extremely strong compared to our neighboring villages.
In any event, recent history in D39 indicates that securing funding for our schools reduces time on the market. In the months prior to the 2011 referendum, the median Days On Market for homes within D39 increased to 116 days. Within a few months after the referendum (and after an increase in taxes), Days On Market dropped significantly to 62 days. Realtors witnessed firsthand that uncertainty about a community’s commitment to good schools was a deterrent to prospective home buyers, while a clear investment in good schools (despite an increase in taxes) had a positive effect.
A: D39 spends the least per pupil of any of the New Trier feeder districts. Broadening that circle to 15 area schools outside of New Trier Township, D39 is consistently among the bottom three or our in spending per pupil.
A: D39 may be the ONLY district in the state that has tied raises to CPI and eliminates “step” raises entirely. This represents enormous progress in union negotiations. The WEA teacher’s contract is here (Compensation is on page 35.)
A: Failing to keep up with inflation will have a compounding effect on fund balances and will put D39 in a precarious financial position. Current financial projections assume that D39 will extend the levy each year. Deviating from D39’s longstanding practice of keeping up with cost-of-living increases would be financially irresponsible in light of (1) the uncertainties surrounding legislation pending in Springfield, and (2) historical experience of what happens when D39 previously failed to increase the levy.
(1) Springfield Uncertainties:Both parties in Springfield have discussed implementing a property tax freeze ranging from 2-4 years. The IL House passed a bill in November 2017 that would freeze the property tax levy in 2018 and 2019. The IL Senate will likely vote on that bill in spring 2018. If D39 does not extend the levy this year (in 2017), that decision will have a compounding effect on finances. And, if that self-imposed freeze is followed by a Springfield-imposed freeze of multiple years, D39’s fund balances will be rapidly depleted.
(2) History:In the early 1990s, the board was split and decided in a 4-3 vote not to extend the levy. That decision had ramifications that lasted a decade. The district increased class sizes and school fees and cut nurses, gym classes, art instruction and music. Parents were unhappy. Teachers left the district and threatened to strike each year. It took 10 years to reach stability in the district and reestablish confidence in D39 schools.
A: The D39 Board Members are Mark Steen, Frank Panzica, Ellen Sternweiler, Alice Schaff, Jon Cesaretti, Lisa Fabes and Tracy Kearney. You can contact the D39 Board Members at the email addresses below: