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Letter: School District 308, From Bad to Worse

Send your letter to the editor to steven.jack@patch.com

I just received my property tax bill in the mail, with another $549 dollars going to this year.

Last year the increase was $800. This is in the worst economy in over 80 years.  There is a disconnect between the taxpayer and those providing the services.  No matter how many times we politely ask that the district refrain from increasing tax rates, they manage to ignore these requests and do whatever they want, they claim they need the money. Who doesn’t?  

Oswego residents were already paying one of the highest property tax rates anywhere in the United States.  Aside from employment in the local government arena, there are very few good paying jobs here in Kendall County. 

Many of us had hoped that the new SD 308 board members would provide some relief, but it is not to be.  Huge pay increases for administrators is now the direction the board has chosen. 

Oswego school district is the black hole of taxpayer funds, the money is sucked in, but very little of value comes from it.  It is an overpaid, underperforming, dysfunctional bureaucracy unworthy of community support or community pride. 

The school district is the owner of all property and we taxpayers are simply slaves working to ensure that others have lifetime pensions, health care and COLA increases while we enjoy none of these benefits for our own families.

I think the tax cap that 80 percent of us voted for is an illusion.  What cap?  How can the tax rates go from 5.08 to 6.657 over two years if there is a tax cap?  That is over a 31.5 percent increase when the rates were not to exceed 5 percent or the CPI, whichever is less.  There is NO tax cap!

Sure education is important, but it is not more important than the roof over the heads of our children or the food we put on the table.  I would happily vote to completely eliminate the entire school district if given the chance. 

Privatization is starting to look real good to me, and I do not know why we would not consider it given the financial mismanagement that has led to the highest property tax rates in the country.  How could this be any worse than what we have now?

We attempted to place a new board in power that we thought would attempt to start to lower the costs.  Clearly they are either incompetent or simply have no clue; either way they are failing miserably at that task.

The choice is becoming clear; it’s either us or it’s them in this community.  Many have given up and have left or are planning to leave the area soon, with the smartest of these realizing there is no future in living anywhere in Illinois.

Collectively, the school districts have single-handedly bankrupted the state with their early retirements, pensions and health benefits.  They have literally bitten off the hand that feeds them. 

The reforms at the state level represent much too little, way too late.  Illinois is going bankrupt, it’s that simple and as the really productive people mass exodus this state, the situation will only get worse. 

Somewhere we need to draw a line in the sand, no exceptions and no loopholes.  The schools have totally abused their power to tax, so that power must be taken away.  They have proven over and over that they are neither competent nor deserving of such power. 

In some states school budgets must be approved by the taxpayer, how many of you would approve of what they are doing now?  It’s time for major changes with privatization being the best option.  Get rid of the whole thing and everyone in it and start over.  This is our only hope of restoring private property rights; rights guaranteed in the Constitution but taken away by the tax and spends socialists currently running our school systems.

Greg O’Neil, Oswego

Carol Mabus Cronin May 09, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I just looked at a comparison of Oswego 308 vs. Naperville 203. The source I used says Naperville gets $6.235 million of federal funding through state. Oswego gets $1.969 million. Does anyone know why that is? Our districts are not that different in size. (Not looking for a political answer here, but curious about the process of how those amounts get determined.) Here's the info I'm looking at via Wolfram|Alpha, which I'm shortening into a bit.ly: http://bit.ly/IIUxlV
Robert Eberhardt May 09, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Obviously this is a complicated issue, but if the information on your link is correct, Oswego students have an additional $2,220 (18.5%) in expenditures per student and Oswego has a teacher ratio of 19.16 vs. 16.88 for Naperville. This suggests that Naperville is getting a significantly bigger bang for the buck and throwing more money at 308 is obviously not the answer. Your question is still a good one that could use some clarification.
Debra May 09, 2012 at 07:36 PM
2:34 pm on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 I would laugh about all the statements posted about school districts bankrupting the state of Illinois, if they weren't such narrowly focused viewpoints!! Perhaps we would do well to consider our state legislature's salaries, and yet no one complains about them. They are the people we elected who used the money allocated to school districts for a multitude of other purposes. Just look at their 2010 salaries which are the 2nd highest in the nation!!! Let’s start at the top: Governor Quinn: 2nd highest salary in the US $177,500.00, plus the Executive Mansion and free transportation and accomodations, plus personal security and food/beverages on business, etc. Illinois House of Representatives and Senate: 3rd highest salary in the US $67836.00 plus $139 for each hour the legislature is in session. Illinois Supreme Court Justices (7): 2nd highest salary in the US, $210,819.00. These are the people who bankrupted Illinois, yet the tax payers of our state have done absolutely nothing about it! Why not?
Robert Eberhardt May 09, 2012 at 07:47 PM
While I agree with you that a significant part of the long term solutions lies in increasing the commercial tax base, it needs to be noted that the state too, plays a significant role in creating a enticeive environment to bring in that new business, and when you see bordering states lowering taxes, whether or not their actual tax rates are lower, is incentive to move there vs. IL where rates are seen to be going up. Business plans often look out 5 to 10 years or more and then make assumptions on what the average tax rate will be over a very long period of time in order to make their decision.
Angela DeBolt May 09, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Robyn well said. If schools were privatized not everyone would have access to education. Those people would end up being a drain on our society. So we save on taxes upfront but then in the long run we pay for it In other ways. Internationally our students are being out performed which reinforces the importance of what Robyn said about demanding that our state government honor their obligations to education. And I think she's dead on regarding increasing our commercial tax base to alleviate the burden we are all under. I understand Greg's frustrations. I think everyone does but he's off base and his attack on the teachers is unfair. Anyone of us could question the other about whether or not we deserve the job benefits we have but all that does is pit us against each other.
Judith Vogt May 09, 2012 at 11:13 PM
AYAR you are very misinformed. Bill Gates is a huge proponent and funder of privatization and they have proven in many cases that it is far and above producing better educated students. The local private schools have far better test scores and academic ratings than public schools.They also have lower social and discipline issues because they can actually throw out those who don't follow the rules. They don't cater to parents. It is happening all over the country. Illinois is a union state which is keeping them out. In Chicago, people are begging to get into the charter schools. They only accept the best students and those who are responsible and disciplined. The charter schools spend significantly less than standard public education per student.
Jane Enviere May 09, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Ah yes...Bill Gates, the answer to all things. Not so much. Nor are charter schools necessarily the panacea that people would like to believe. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Where you usually find solutions. The problem with that is that it is messy and requires cooperation, something that few are truly interested in embracing.
Judith Vogt May 09, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Yes MR. AYAR. I do live in unincorporated Plainfield and unfortunately for me I am part of District 308. I moved here in 2003. We are in Will county and were the ones cheated back in 2005 when the financial bigshot at the school calculated our tax rate to be 5.5 and the people in Kendall county 5.0. There were over 500 homeowners affected by this little accounting error. Then they didn't want to give us our money back but tried to do a credit instead. The will county States Attorney go involved and we go a refund check and corrected tax bills. Is there any question why I don't trust them. I am now paying $7073. for school taxes and have never had any children in any school. I can't even go swim in the fancy pool I have been paying for for years because they took away the public swim hours. I also know for fact that Plainfield schools tax rate is 5.27. I wish I were so lucky to be part of that district.
Judith Vogt May 09, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Mr Ayar this is me also. I live in Wheatland township. AND the people in the township finally said no to the politicians. THey voted down building a new township building because the people believed the township did not need it nor did they have the money to pay for maintenance, heating, and cooling etc. in the future for the new building with a new tax increase. The township has open space they were not using and the taxpayers believed they should remodel the existing building. So yes I am proud to be one of the taxpayers who stood up for our rights and said NO!!!!!!!
Rachael B. May 10, 2012 at 02:32 AM
According to the Illinois State Board of Education web site, Naperville 203 receives only 12% of its funding from federal and state sources, while Oswego 308 gets 30%.
Dennis May 10, 2012 at 02:40 AM
This is exactly the sort of person that I want to come and buy our home so we can get the heck out of here. Please tell your friends who think the same to come buy in Oswego. Most of us, that are selling, have our prices reduced to give away levels just so we can sell. Yep, you are the type we are looking for.. lots of money and don't mind paying huge taxes. C'mon over... please.. so we can get to a state that still has some sensibility.
Julie DiCaro May 10, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Right, muvin, because I'm one of those entitled, Obamaville, tax and spend idiots who doesn't mind paying high taxes. How ridiculous. None of us like paying higher taxes. But they would go down easier if we had a star district that served our children well. Instead, we're paying ridiculous taxes to have a bunch of self-interested buffoons run our district into the ground.
Julie DiCaro May 10, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Completely agree. I've been told by someone who lives in downtown Oswego and is part of "old Oswego" that most of the local government would be thrilled to take Oswego back to being the cow-town it was 25 years ago, including the BOE. This is supposedly the reason why it's so difficult for businesses to move out here, and why the BOE doesn't mind screwing over the "new people" who have moved into the area in the last 10 years. Encouraging, no?
joe smith May 10, 2012 at 03:14 PM
If the school board was serious about saving money, they'd implement Year Round Education, purge the district of Behlow era adminstrators, and make sensible financial decisions on new hire administrators (their decision for the huge adminstrative pay increase is a disgrace to the taxpayers). Then they'd get rid of another Behlow relic called Everyday Math which was a political payola that had nothing to do with educating our kids properly in basic math. Ask any Jr. High math teacher their opinion of whether their crop of sixth graders are adeqautely prepared for Jr. High math using everyday stinking math (end or rant).
ayar May 10, 2012 at 04:07 PM
@Joe, how does year round save money ? people are under the fallacy that Teachers get paid year round - they don't get paid for the summer!!!! their salary would basically go up, and cooling/airco would be kicked into full gear, food services, support staff, etc. everyone would be on the full bill. Research the cost of three months operating funds and you'll probably be surprised. About Everyday math and all the new "approaches" I have to agree with you, we'd be better off not allowing kids NEAR a calculator until late junior high, dusting off the old school approach, periodically re-quizzing them on it. There are adults out there now that are *crippled* without a calculator in their hand because of all these revamps. On the other hand - we ARE competing internationally just fine when you compare us *equally*. Other countries in their statistics DONT use full inclusion as we were forced to do, which means if you make them include those stats of the kids they "tossed out" of the system [the special needs kids,dual language, etc.], our standing is pretty close to #2 on the international education list. Can I prove this ? go downtown Chicago to University of Illinois Circle campus, and find out how many foreign students from these "well educated" countries come HERE instead of staying out THERE for their degrees. We're still one of the best in the world.
tim May 10, 2012 at 05:01 PM
I love how these people blame the states woes on the municipal Govt. employees and teachers. We pay our share of our pensions every paycheck mandatory deduction we dont get a choice. now its not our fault that the state and local goverments cant or dont fund those pension plans when they are supposed to so when they have to its a large amount they owe. so take up your issue with the leaders and not the ones doing the work everyday like they signed up for. and if thats too much for you to swallow maybe your just jealous that you have a crappy job with a crappy 401k pension not my problem you had a choice to choose your career path just like we did. so i guess if you dont like it move or tell the State to manage its funds better
Nikki May 10, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Like the state pension that teachers PAY INTO, that, at this rate, we may never see?
tim May 10, 2012 at 05:18 PM
your so out of touch maybe if you cant afford the taxes and such your overextending yourself So Move quit blaming teachers,Firefighters,Police
Robert Eberhardt May 10, 2012 at 09:05 PM
I couldn't resist commenting on the everyday math. What a farce, what's more as a parent there are not even any text books we can use to assist our children with these ridiculous methods. Even my children’s' teachers in confidence tell me they wish they did not have to use this method. Oops, I may have let the cat out of the bag as I'm not using an alias.
Jane Enviere May 10, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Totally agree! I've heard the same thing from teachers inside 308. It's a ridiculous piece of garbage. The advice I was given by a teacher was to keep up with the regular flash cards and such at home. They also said that very few students did not struggle with it at some point and that the district has zero interest in hearing about the problems because they spent a fortune on it. The program is a disgrace and there are *many* parents out there who are teaching math on their own at home because they are really concerned about the curriculum. Let's do fractions this week! Time next week! Count money the week after that! Move on and try some subtraction! Let's do division now! Wait -- they still can't add!
Rachael B. May 11, 2012 at 06:20 PM
1) Privatization does not limit student access to education. 2) Yes, our students are being out-performed. This is a function of TEACHING, not money. Our teachers and administrators need to step up and do their jobs. (I am a teacher in another district.) It doesn't take money to teach math skills and reading; however, it requires adults who are dedicated to educating our kids.
ayar May 13, 2012 at 02:16 AM
meanwhile, downstate, de-funding continues....what's next? okay, they went after the schoolteachers, the policemen and the firemen so far to "cut costs", couldn't you almost hear "the garbage men are costing the state far too much money, period" from the 747 flying our state reps down to Puerto Rico for a vacat....ahem, I mean, "important trade meeting". Okay, sad attempt at humor....
Alan May 14, 2012 at 12:41 PM
I bought a home in district 308 in 2009. My taxes have gone from $7,900 to $10,700 over that span, up over 35%. I have now decided that enough is enough, and I am moving out of the district. I know I am not the only one that is planning on doing this, three of my neighbors are doing the same... Way to go district 308, you are successfully shooting yourself in the foot.
john May 14, 2012 at 02:06 PM
with taxes skyrocketing and the sherrif kicking grama and grandpa out of there houses for not paying taxes will this town become a boarded up vacant empty place like the old alexander lumber building? If so how will 308 surive they need our tax money
Oswegoraised May 14, 2012 at 03:10 PM
All I know is 3 people ran with ONE objective. No 3rd high school. After that they seem lost and clueless. Remember 3 names next election. Walsh, Lightfoot, and Swanson.
ayar May 14, 2012 at 03:47 PM
@Oswegoraised, (1) No third high school - let's get to that for a second. In a perfect world [not having to pay through the nose for it] it's not a bad idea to have one. But we simply can't afford it. (2) Walsh, Lightfoot, and Swanson - what about the others ? tell me, did you think outsourcing our busing [putting locals out of work] is a good idea? I heard a rumor that we're getting our Lawns mowed, etc. not by staff but by $private$ $contract$ ? how about snow blowing ? a lot of smaller towns usually have the coffee-drinking guy in the flannel shirt do a ton of that sort of thing, what's wrong that our Maintenance staff can't do it ? can we come to an arrangement with LeClerc and the township to help with these chores ? these are things that have occurred under the *old* guard, not all the problems happening are with the new board. How did the old guard vote in terms of these "raises" to new hires ? did they also raise the bar "back in the day" ? if so, why ? that's the pain of having to be objective. I try to remember that these guys aren't getting paid to do this, they do this out of their own personal need to make things better, which I respect. If you want to look for the guy in the black hat and boots, look to the one who raises the multiplyer - looks like people noticed already: http://oswego.patch.com/blog_posts/kendall-county-property-tax-revolt
Oswegoraised May 14, 2012 at 04:17 PM
1) I agree. Can't afford it. 2) I hear what you're saying, but the new was elected in to fix the old. I went through this school system when it was one of the best. That's what brought people here. More house for the money, lower taxes, and good school district. Not to mention the home town atmosphere. We all have our opinions on what happened to the middle two, but we can all agree something needs to be done. I read the article you supplied the link to and will be attending. Thank you for that information.
Greg O'Neil May 14, 2012 at 04:28 PM
When I wrote this letter I knew very well that EVERYONE wouldn't like it, after all there are a bunch of freeloaders getting their services for a fraction that they cost others. They think thats fair!!! My address in no way represents "my fair share" of the tax burden. Its a flawed system that does more harm to people than good. I am glad that the topic elicited so much debate. I am really only hoping to appeal to 51% OF THE PEOPLE WHO WILL BE VOTING IN FUTURE ELECTIONS!!! BTW I'll be seeing many of you at Mark Johnson's taxpayer revolt on June 1, way to go Mark.
Mike N May 15, 2012 at 07:49 PM
"Salary that is among the lowest for college educated professionals" Um... last i checked you only work about 8 months out of the year... So your salary is very comparable.....
ayar May 17, 2012 at 08:48 PM
@Judy: sorry to burst that bubble, but Bill Gates is a JOB KILLER in the USA [his old "job bidding" for H1B's and L-1's are still on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BIvffAHsJs , getting rid of people who are trying to make a living wage instead hiring "you want fries with that" wages on the other side of the world. Next, let's read into your comment - quote -"They also have lower social and discipline issues because they can actually throw out these who don't follow the rules". First off, problem kids still can be expelled, and 308 has indeed on occasion done this, and second, where does it stop with no rules or "stopgaps", "sorry, sir/maam, your special needs kid just doesn't cut it - I hear they're hiring at McDonalds and need a janitor". Sorry,Judy, many don't believe in that sort of "garbage" educating. People of all types can do amazing things given the chance. And they deserve that chance.

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