Palatine school board approves $130 million building referendum for November ballot

Palatine school board approves $130 million building referendum for November ballot

Palatine-area Community Consolidated School District 15 is once again a hotbed of debate, as the school board that recently tied taxpayers to a 10-year union contract has now approved a $130 million building referendum to be placed on the November ballot. Before voting, residents need to take into consideration the school board’s history of closed-door decision-making, as well as the substantial economic impact the referendum could have on local taxpayers.

The same Palatine, Ill., area school district that recently approved an unprecedented, closed-door, 10-year teacher contract has pushed another costly plan forward. Palatine-area Community Consolidated School District 15 school board has now approved a $130 million building referendum.

The hotly contested referendum will be on the ballot for voter approval on Nov. 8. The school district has implied that the referendum will result in only a slight cost to taxpayers in the district.

But as the 10-year contract fiasco demonstrates, the school district has a history of being less than forthright with the actual effects its decisions have on local taxpayers. The school board’s questionable, costly actions in approving the 10-year union contract, as well as the increased financial burden the referendum would place on local taxpayers, should give pause to residents before they vote Nov. 8.

10-year contract already dealt Palatine taxpayers a financial blow

Secret, backroom deal making between governing bodies and government-worker unions often harms taxpayers, who have to pay for whatever deal comes out of those negotiations. Palatine’s District 15 provides a perfect example.

District 15 officials signed an unprecedented 10-year contract with the local teachers union, Classroom Teachers’ Council, on April 13. But taxpayers did not get to see what was actually part of that 10-year deal until after it was final – when it was too late for them to do anything about it.

This lack of transparency hid the future financial consequences of the contract – consequences potentially devastating for local taxpayers. The contract guarantees teacher raises every year: approximately 2.5 percent raises in each of the first four years, along with 4 percent raises in each of the last six years.

By contrast, median income for private-sector workers in the Palatine area has grown only 0.68 percent each year between 2009 and 2014. At that rate, income “growth” has not even kept up with inflation – meaning the real value of private-sector employee earnings has actually fallen for District 15’s residents.

Under the new 10-year contract, District 15 taxpayers, who already face stagnant earnings and decreased purchasing power, will be contractually bound to provide increasing salaries even if – four or more years down the line – the economy cannot sustain such increases. In Illinois, that sort of financial pitfall is more than mere speculation.

At the time, District Superintendent Scott Thompson said that the contract would mean a mere 0.9 percent annual increase in cost to the district for the contract’s duration. But of course, that was before the additional burden of a building referendum was on the table.

The school district’s building referendum will increase property taxes for already over-taxed Palatine-area residents

The school district’s financial advisor put together some initial estimates of the cost the referendum will have on local taxpayers, based upon median home values.

The median home value in District 15 is approximately $230,000. The district claims a person with a home valued at $230,000 would pay an additional $122 per year in property taxes. But that is only the start. Thompson admitted the cost would likely go up over the next 20 years.

What’s more, the school district’s communications do not take into account that Illinois residents already pay the highest median property taxes in the nation. A study released earlier this year showed a typical homeowner in Illinois with a house valued at $200,000 already pays $5,340 in property taxes each year. So adding even an allegedly “small” increment to already-high property taxes is a big deal.

And again, income growth for Palatine-area taxpayers hasn’t even kept up with inflation in recent years. These taxpayers are already paying more with less money. The referendum would only add to that burden. Any claims that the referendum would increase property taxes by “only” $122 a year needs must be considered in that context: It is further taxing the already over-taxed residents.

Voters should think twice about the board’s history of lacking transparency – and the increased burden the referendum would place on local taxpayers – before voting Nov. 8.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!