Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Ask the Questions, Know the Facts
We are continually adding to this list, please check back frequently and bring additional questions to committee members
What are the Issues?
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On April 2nd, a referendum is on the ballot that would devastate our schools. This permanent referendum would remove close to $1,200,000 per year from the district's education budget. To avoid financial ruin, the school district has no other choice but to develop and implement a drastic set of cuts.
The proponents of this referendum convinced a small portion of voters to sign their petitions based on misinformation and half-truths, including it was a one-time reduction and wouldn’t harm the schools. We are dedicated to providing full and factual information to educate the voters of Lisle in order to defeat the referendum and save our schools and community.
This question is on many people’s minds. The simple answer is this: think long-term and look at the big picture. The value of your house and our community depends on it.
The fact here is the referendum would provide around $67/year for every $100,000 in market value of your home. For the average price of a home in Lisle (per Zillow), that’s about $200/year, seems like a small amount of money to ensure our children are well educated.
People move to Lisle for our strong community and for the outstanding schools (take a look at the testimonials here: Student Stories). The small class sizes, personal connections with teachers and all the opportunities afforded the students are of immense value. Our schools are top-rated and create good citizens with bright futures. Those kids return to Lisle to raise their own families here because they value our community and the education they received.
By voting NO, you are preserving our schools, our town, and therefore your home’s value. Studies prove that good schools are a main reason why families buy homes. Our taxes are commensurate to surrounding towns. If our schools decline, so will the value of your home.
If nothing else, vote NO because it’s the right thing to do for our kids.
No, the language of the referendum is deceiving because is states “2018”. However, due to the provisions under which it is written, it is a permanent change and the school District would lose $1,200,000 each and every year
Be careful of people playing with words here. The 10% reduction would be a one-time reduction, but the district would permanently have 10% less funding each year going forward. For example, if your salary was $50,000 and your company reduced your salary to $45,000, it does no go back up to $50,000 the following year. In the first year, you would have $5,000 less in income. In the second year, you would cumulatively have had $10,000 less in income. In third year, $15,000, etc. Therefore, to accommodate you'd need to remove $5,000 in expenses each and every year to accommodate your new lower income.
For those that still would like a more detailed explanation (and maybe have trouble sleeping) the legal specifics are as follow. The answer is on page 77 of a 550 page Illinois law! When a taxing district (e.g., the School district) figures out their tax rate for the next year it is anchored to something called the Limiting Rate. In most cases the district has what is called a 3 year look back to find the Limiting Rate and then that Limiting Rate will be the highest tax rate of those past 3 years. When a district has reduced their taxes under the statutes that are fueling this referendum then the district will lose the ability to use the 3 year look-back and it's limiting rate will now be the new lower rate that the education reduction referendum caused.
Therefore, in year 1 Lisle 202 would lose $1.2MM from reducing their rate. Then in year 2 and all subsequent years that new lower rate would be the basis for 202’s Limiting Rate hence creating another $1.2MM loss in each and every year.
The district has verbal confirmation on this interpretation and is awaiting written confirmation from the State's Attorney. However, from a quick read of the statutes it's a pretty simply interpretation.
If you'd like to learn more or see the details then go-to the following link to find the extract from the law, links to the full 550 page law and more description of the situation: WhyImpactIsPermanent
In actuality, Lisle’s property taxes are well-aligned with neighboring districts making Lisle’s high-quality schools an enormous value to its families.
NOTABLE: The Board voted to keep next year's taxes level so our 2019 taxes will remain the same or slightly lower than 2018.
What is the Impact?
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The impact of the referendum passing includes forcing the District to implement deep and damaging cuts, possibly as soon as 2019, which could include:
- Increase in class sizes
- Reduction in administrative positions
- Reduction in teacher educator positions
- Reduction in support personnel positions
- Reduction in the number of:
- Honors courses
- AP courses
- World language courses
- Music & Arts courses
- Elimination of 10% of Athletic and Extra-Curricular Activities
- Reduction of 10% Instructional Materials Budget
Additionally, weakening our school district will have an undeniably negative effect on our home values (ultimately costing you much more than the proposed tax cut would put in your pocket), and will fracture our hometown. Our kids deserve a high-quality education, today and in the future
This information comes from a district point of view where at the January Board meeting they prepared initial perspectives on required cuts. The cuts and financial impact can be seen in more detail on the following link: Cuts Required
That is probably the #1 deception / mis-representation from supporters of this referendum. They take the Lisle 202's financial statements out of context and mis-represent what the numbers mean and what they stand for. Mis-using the word "Fund balance" occurs frequently. The Fund balances contain the reserve, but the Fund Balance is not the District's reserve. Lisle 202 maintains a reserve based upon best practices for managing a school district and no different than what we would all do for managing our households. Lisle 202 maintain a policy to keep between 3 and 6 months of expenses in reserve.
To better understand what would happen to the District's finances if no cuts haoened then please check out the following link: Impact to District
What was presented at the last board meeting was just the initial point of view on one possible solution for addressing the required cuts should the referendum pass. That perspective was developed by comparing current staffing levels to levels from the evidence based funding model and targeting areas where Lisle 202 is above those levels.
In that January Board meeting the Board passed a motion that acknowledged, if this referendum passes then ~$2MM per year of cuts are required and further study and alternatives will need to be developed to finalize where the cuts will occur and which student groups will be impacted.
However, the harsh reality is if this referendum passes then the district needs to find cuts of $1.2MM a year. In any school district the only real thing they spend money on is people. Therefore, the only way to get to $1.2MM is by firing ~15-20 people. Consequently, the only real debate will be what are the names of the 15-20 people that get let go and how many and which kids are impacted by reduced programs and services.
In the initial plan presented to the Board more than one third of the total cuts were in Administrators and Support services. Please review the following link to see the proposed cuts and review page 3: Cuts Required
As a reminder the referendum language is: "Shall the amount extended for educational purposes by lisle community district be reduced from $19,062,127.15 to $17,155,915.00 for the 2018 levy year, but in no event lower than the amount required to maintain an adequacy target of 110%"
The referendum is written quite poorly so it is unclear as to what would be the financial impact
The main problem is the $19.062MM number, that number is Lisle202’s 2017 levy number and does not connect to any one of the actual 2018 levy numbers which makes interpretation quite complex. For reference, Lisle202’s 2018 levy for Education is $18.310MM (a number quite different than the $19.062 contained in the referendum)
Imagine if you had a job where your salary was $45,000 and your boss told you your salary was being reduced from $50,000 to $40,000. What would you assume for the impact: losing $10K, losing $5K or something else?
Without guidance from the State’s Attorney office Lisle 202’s initial impact estimates were on the worst case interpretation (e.g., ~$2MM per year). However, based upon recently received guidance from the State’s Attorney (received 2/12/19) Lisle 202 is now assuming an interpretation that results in an impact of $1.2MM per year.
To learn more and see a more complete perspective on impact please review the following link: Updated Information
Lisle 202 Information / Finances?
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No. The funding and balance sheets of school districts are a bit complex. Not understanding such (or being directed to the wrong line item) might bring you to this conclusion.
The reserves are much lower and are in line with the Board’s funding policy aimed at maintaining a financially sound District (90-180 days funded). Their financial prudence has earned the District a top Moody’s rating which reduces our borrowing costs and saves the District money.
Supporters of the referendum attempt to deceive voters by improperly referring to the June 30th Fund Balance as the School's Cash Reserve. That is 100% wrong. The Fund Balance contains the reserve, but the Fund Balance is NOT the reserve. For this year Lisle 202 is projecting to have a reserve of ~ $15MM which is equivalent to 6 months of expenses.
Over the past few years, the District has made strategic decisions not to complete multiple planned capital improvements knowing the new elementary school would be built (which was a decision voiced by the public through Vision 202). These decisions did increase the reserves and now those monies have been spent to fund the new building, all without raising our taxes.
It’s vitally important for the District to maintain a reserve fund, similar to your own savings account, for unexpected expenses and especially now considering the state’s financial insecurity along with threatened pension cost shifts to the local level.
For more, see (link to Financial Impact to the District )
These percentages are from the state’s new Evidence Based Funding (EBF) model which was created to financially help schools that are under resourced, and was never meant to penalize a well- funded school.
Supporters of the referendum will frequently state that Lisle 2020 grossly over spends and is at 149% of an adequate spending level. While that is an accurate statement, it is quite mis-leading and it is using the topic not how it was intended.
“The term ‘adequacy’ was coined to define a level of funding that lower-income schools need in order to provide a solid education, not to shame districts that are offering more.” “The original intent was not to punish districts for additional resources,” Daily Herald and Bob Spatz (Architect of evidence based funding model)
Lisle 202 has chosen to be better than Adequate – they listened to the community during Vision 202 - and the community directed them to invest in:
- Smaller Class Sizes
- High Quality Teachers
- Diverse Academic Options (e.g., Advanced Placement classes, Academic Support Options)
- Increased Athletic Options
- Additional Special Education Teachers and Aides
Lisle 202 is not alone, other top flight school districts are spending well above "adequate levels"
- New Trier - $47MM above adequacy
- Naperville (203) - $40MM above adequacy
- Westmont (201) - $5MM above adequacy
Adequate schools, Adequate homes, Adequate jobs, Adequate life. I would hope we all aspire for more than adequate
Let’s all be delighted that we can provide an education for our children that’s more than adequate
See the following Daily Herald Editorial for additional information (9/20/2018): Don't misuse 'adequacy' in setting school funding levels
The District receives over 85% of their funding from local property taxes. Without local property taxes the District could not survive
The school district is bound by the CPI (Consumer Price Index) when determining taxation levels. If inflation isn’t rising, neither are the district revenues. Over the past 5 years, CPI has averaged 1.4% while various contracts contain over 3% annual increases.
The student population has actually increased over the last 2 years in the District and is anticipated to continue upward as a result of the new elementary school.
It is expected that operations of the new school will require no new funds or taxes. The operating expenses for the new school should be in line with the sum of operating expenses of the two older schools it is replacing.
In addition, it's possible that some synergies will come from the new school and aggregate operating costs may actually be lower. The 5 year District projections include anticipated adjustments. The student population will remain the same, but some positions will become redundant, which will slightly improve District costs.
Most importantly, no new taxes are required for the new building!
Yes and no, you can always compare various school districts. However, when those school districts have vastly different sizes and/or differences in demographics you have to be careful in your comparisons that you are not seeing differences that are primarily due to the size or demographics of the district.
For example, Lisle 202 has ~1,400 students and 4 schools, Naperville has 17,000 students and 22 schools. In addition, there are some very different demographics between Lisle 202 and Naperville, such as:
- Lisle 202 has a vastly different student population than most of the surrounding towns.
- Lisle’s low-income population is close to two-times that of Naperville (30% v. 17%)
- Lisle’s Mobility Rates (students not attending for the full school year)
- Students with Disabilities rates (17% v. 11%) are materially higher as well.
Therefore, when doing the comparison on any individual metric you can always find a metric where Lisle performs better than Naperville and vice versa. However, when you dig into the difference the root cause will frequently be the difference in size or demographics.
The State of Illinois recognizes these nuances and when they compare school districts they have created something they call "Summative Designations". These designations are a holistic review of the district and encompasses many different metrics and allows for differences in size and demographics.
When you look at that summative metric Lisle 202 and Naperville are all identified as some of the best districts within Illinois. Both districts have the majority of their schools operating at the Exemplary level (the highest level) and none of their schools are under-performing.
As discussed in the questions above (“Is it accurate to compare Lisle to Naperville or other surrounding districts...? and “Is the District Overfunded?”, Lisle has a unique student population requiring additional resources which is costly.
When comparing our cost per student to Westmont’s (the only accurate comparison), we are, on average, within 4% of their cost per student over the past 3 year. Lisle’s facilities, opportunities and services better meet the needs and goals of our students.
The smaller size of Lisle and Westmont’s school districts also lends itself to higher expenses:
- Fewer economies of scale
- Specialized high cost services (e.g., special education) for a larger percentage of the student population
- Results in higher costs but provides a high value to its students
So glad you asked:
- State and National Performance:
- Strong rankings by the State of Illinois’ – 2 exemplary schools, 2 commendable schools
- Illinois Association of School Board's highest financial rating
- Lisle District 202 placed in the top 25 School Districts in Illinois by niche.com
- Lisle High School ranked in the top high schools nationally and in Illinois by US World News & Report for the sixth consecutive year
- Lisle High School named one of America's Most Challenging High Schools by The Washington Post
- Lisle 202 One of only 373 schools districts across the US and Canada to be named to college board’s AP Honor Roll
- Graduated 100% of our high school students in 2018!
How Can I Help?
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Visit the section “How to Get Involved” on the website: How to Get Involved
Visit the section “Request a Yard Sign” section on the website: Request a Yard Sign
Visit the section “Donate” section on the website: Donate