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District 46 School Board Fails To Pass Budget

A lack of a majority vote on the 2012-13 budget means the District 46 School Board will need a special meeting before Sept. 30 to vote again.

Grayslake District 46 held a public hearing Wednesday to present its proposed $49.1 million budget for fiscal year 2012-13, but the vote ended in a 3-3 tie.

Board members Sue Facklam, Ray Millington and Karen Weinert voted to approve the budget while Kip Evans, Shannon Smigielski and Keith Surroz voted against it.

Board member Michael Carbone was absent from the meeting.

The lack of a majority vote means the school board will need to hold a special meeting to take another vote before Sept. 30, which is the Illinois State Board of Education's deadline for school districts to adopt their budgets.

That meeting date has not been set.

Chief School Business Official Anna Kasprzyk gave the budget presentation at the hearing.

The district's $49.1 million proposed budget for 2012-13 reflects a $2.5 million decrease in operating fund expenditures and a $959,000 decrease in revenue over last fiscal year.

The budget also projects an overall deficit of more than $1.2 million, which board members are trying to figure out how to plug.

"We are not looking at a bright picture," said Kasprzyk.

Lake County Tea Party Chairman Lennie Jarratt criticized the board for not listening to community suggestions concerning finances and for recently voting to dismantle the district's advisory finance committee.

That decision, he said, "shows you're not interested in community input."

Board president Ray Millington said the decision to end the committee was not to limit community input, but because the school board was the best entity to address the financial problems.

"We know we have a tremendous hill to climb," he said.

Board member Shannon Smigielski called the decision a "slap in the face" to the residents who gave their time serving on the committee.

"When we have a deficit like we do, we should do everything we can to get input."

"Well it got voted down," said board member Keith Surroz. "They did a poor job. They didn't get anything done. We're better off without it. The majority of the board felt it did not contribute."

Surroz said it he felt it was better to have matters "out in the open rather than hide behind the finance committee."

Check in with Patch for updates on this story.

HelloKitty September 20, 2012 at 02:47 PM
I would start at the top and work my way down. There are plenty of kids in D46 who are NOT getting the appropriate education.There is NOT enough support in the classrooms and our children suffering from all of the legal fees that they have had to pay over the years.The whole board needs to go back to the classroom and take a look for themselves. Your loosing focus !!!
Nightcrawler September 20, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Hey Jim, thank God for small favors. There is nothing about any meeting that could not be made worse by Carbone's presence. His absence is a great example of addition by subtraction.
Tim Froehlig September 20, 2012 at 03:32 PM
"Board president Ray Millington said the decision to end the committee was not to limit community input, but because the school board was the best entity to address the financial problems." With all the other issues this board seems to have on its plate, the whole point of a finance committee is to save time and money by having a group specifically zeroed in on the budget and nothing else. I find it somewhat...let me carefully select my words here....unfortunate, that there are some who feel a finance committee was not in the district's best interests. Tell me, Mr. Millington, why is it better to have just the board address the budget issues, which in your opinion is the best thing to do, rather than professionals giving input who deal with financial matters and budget issues for a living? That makes no sense at all. And why this sense from Mr. Millington that the board is the only one capable of helping solve this matter? That's very narrow-sighted. Knowing everything about a nearly $50 million budget is no easy task. Having independent, focused input on this from a committee is almost necessary if you hope to solve the financial problems this district currently faces. I will also be e-mailing Mr. Carbone directly to ask him why he was unable to attend what is the most important meeting of the school year. What is more important than passing a budget and funding for these kids?
Tim Froehlig September 20, 2012 at 03:39 PM
"Well it got voted down," said board member Keith Surroz. "They did a poor job. They (the finance committee) didn't get anything done. We're better off without it. The majority of the board felt it did not contribute." Just because the committee didn't solve every problem does not mean it doesn't serve a useful purpose or function, Mr. Surroz. From my experience, having more people involved in a major dilemma such as this is more productive than having fewer ideas and suggestions. Then Mr. Surroz says: "Surroz said it he felt it was better to have matters 'out in the open rather than hide behind the finance committee.' " Last I checked, it was the board and NOT the finance committee that votes on these matters. So how is having a finance committee allowing anyone to hide behind anything? Having such a committee doesn't limit or prohibit the board's knowledge or ability to vote on such matters, it only helps enhance it, so I find that statement ricidulous. Shame on any board member who does not want additional community input in matters as important as these, and thinks they are the only solution to these problems. Everey district I have ever been around openly allows and ENCOURAGES such.
HM September 20, 2012 at 05:06 PM
The first thing I would look at are benefits - specifically health care. I would like to see the health benefits go out for a competitive bid. I am quite certain you could find savings there. Next are things like Ellen's car allowance. Nice perk - but is it really a need? Cell Phones - again, nice perk, but how much of a true need are they? Maybe for top admin, but those would go. Beyond that, I would need to study the budget more closely. These are tough choices to be sure, but technology needs to be looked at, and sorry to say, A/C is out of the question, As nice as it is to have A/C at GMS, (and it is usually so cold my kids wear a hoodie - who is looking at the bills!!!) the timeframe during which it is needed is already over until possibly the last week or two of school - and there is about a million dollars you can't get back. Sadly, there is so much redundancy in our district (8 principals,3 or 4 asst. principals, and all the assistants, secretaries, etc. to go with each school - that is a lot of money down the drain.). I don't know that there is anything we can do about that, but it is the result of very poor planning years ago. Also sadly, this board (especially Mr. Surroz) and this administration are unwilling to make the tough decisions. We can not keep putting it off. We can not keep passing it to the tax payers. The time to act is now.
Brad Faxton September 20, 2012 at 05:47 PM
You know, I too have heard that someone (maybe it was the finance committee) proposed that healthcare benefits go out to bid and was shot down. 'Smart" use of electricity on the surface sounds like an excellent idea, I think the $/mo you can recoup by turning up the thermostat (or making it a bit more intelligent) is probably negligible. Electricity to run one of those big units runs about $0.14/KWH (little lower for big businesses - roll with this $ for now). As basic calculation 240v x 100A = 24,000W (24KW) x time (12hrs) = 288KWH used in 12hrs x $0.14/kwh = $40.32/day Might be good to look at bus costs, administrative overhead etc....
HM September 20, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I understand that the electricity amount is negligible. However, over time, it does add up. Think of it this way - if we save $1500 per school this year (5 schools w/ A/C * 1500), that would be a total savings of $7500 this year alone. Assume a 4% increase per year in the cost of electricity (conservative if looking at long term estimates), and after 20 years you are looking at about a quarter of a million dollars in savings. And that savings could be from is just one small change. When you look at the levy, and how we always hear that "we need the maximium or we won't have enough for the future", here are small ways that we can decrease our costs into the future and make up for short falls. Find enough of these "negligible: areas, and the savings can quickly add up! Unfortunately, most people say that such savings are just a drop in the bucket, and not worth pursuing. If we keep saying that, we will never cut anything. I know this can open up a storm of criticism, but many Wisonsin school districts re-evaluated their health insurance carriers, and many districts saved anywhere from half a million to three quarters of a million dollars per year or more. I can not believe this has not been investigated here. It may mean something as simple as finding comparable coverage for less, or as big as switching to high deductible plan(lease desireable, but where Obamacare is taking us - we'll all have these in the next few years).
GoBlue September 20, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I am not arguing for or against the merits of a finance committee, but at this point in time it is moot. We have a budget deadline of 30-Sep-2012, so we need to get the budget agreed upon and do the best we can to figure out what to do about the 1.2 million deficit. Unfortunately we do not have the time to adequately address all of the issues due to time constraints. With that said, reinstatement of the finance committee should be discussed sometime in the near future if deemed warranted by the greater community at large. The budget issue is just another indicator of just how dysfunctional the board truly is. No doubt we need fresh faces and perspectives on the board moving forward to help us all get past the derision and to start being proactive instead of always being reactive.
HM September 20, 2012 at 07:47 PM
GoBlue - you are absolutely correct in what you say. However, don't forget about the administraion and thier role in this dysfunction as well. What is sad is that the board and administration have known about this looming deficit, and they have yet to take action. This is not new information, and every year it seems this happens - tough decisions are ignored until the last possible moment, and now there is no time to thoroughly investigate any meaingful solutions. It is easier for this board and administration to stick it to the home owners than to make an actual decision. It is always easy to spend someone else's money. They all need to go.
GoBlue September 20, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I agree. There is simply so much bad blood at this point between the administration and the board, between board members and between the administration, board and community that is impossible to get anything done but argue minutiae. Anyone in the business world knows that it is absolutely essential to be proactive and solution oriented. Instead of always saying no, people need to come to the table with solutions. That is one thing that is very lacking in the board meetings. Everyone spends so much time arguing and being defensive that they do not focus on solutions to the problems. The culture needs to change.
Brad Faxton September 20, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Understood. I think the question was how to save $1.5Mm this year. Finding $1000 by tuning off the air a few hrs earlier isn't solving the problem. No "obamacare" (how preoperative of a term that has turned out to be), for large employers like the school just won't be an option. Large group will keep their coverage. Companies under 50 employees are exempt from the mandate. 50-1000, they have a decision to make.
Lennie Jarratt September 20, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Carbone had stated in the past meeting he would not be there and was trying to figure out if the budget part could have been help earlier.
Jose Cuervo September 20, 2012 at 10:00 PM
"Brad" you can't even give credit where you know it is due. Carbone has been calling for competitive bids on healthcare. The board shouldn't have to ask for competitive bids on anything. It should be a given that this is being done at every opportunity. The business manager and superintendent should be looking at every way to save every penny.They should be researching and bringing recommendations to the board not the other way around. The districts financial health is the responsibility of the superintendent. The superintendent is also responsible for hiring competent staff. There has been a revolving door of business managers. When you have incompetence in the top two positions and a board that is unwilling to consider anything other than what they think, the snowball of dysfunction continues. Change some of the board members and fill the top two positions with qualified people and maybe we will be able to move forward instead of banging our heads against the same wall year after year.
D46 Dad September 20, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Many of the comments on this board about the school's budget are ill-informed. For example, there was a lengthy discussion and presentation regarding healthcare benefits last night that did a pretty good job of explaining the fiscal ramifications as well as the contractual context as regards the teachers.
Angela Sykora (Editor) September 20, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Here is a link to the board meeting video: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25533391
Jose Cuervo September 20, 2012 at 10:39 PM
The healthcare benefit presentation is a direct result of constant requests for bids from Michael Carbone. He has been asking for competitive bids for almost a year. Had his requests been openly listened to and accepted rather than dismissed and put off the district might have had the opportunity to realize a savings from a new plan this year and help fill that budget deficit. At least they are listening now but its frustrating to watch good ideas like competitive healthcare bids and finance committees being dismissed by those who have offered no solutions themself.
D46 Dad September 20, 2012 at 11:22 PM
The healthcare presentation pretty much ruled out any cost savings from a competitive bid. So, eventhough Michael Carbone walks on water he isn't always right. Much more concerning was the apparent ignorance of several of the board members about how the district's finances work and the meaning of basic finanicial terms and instruments. Collectively, I did not see any evidence that understand the difference between a loan and a transfer between financial accounts. Nor do they do not understand the difference between an abatement and defeasance. If you do not know the language of the budget how do you expect to manage it?
Brad Faxton September 21, 2012 at 12:18 AM
I have no knowledge of the budget at all.... those who do, where do you see an opportunity, today, to make a reduction (or deficit spend - heck, romney is doing it now)?
Brad Faxton September 21, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Fabo karboone made a suggestion and nobody acted. Not my point. I directly asked where anyone thought $1.5mm could come from or take a hit next year then deal with it. Really.... My $0.02 is to cut busing by 30% and make the rides longer with higher occupancy on the buses. That is just a complete off the cuff suggestion and I have absolutely no idea what impact it will have on the pickup times nor ride times.
Brad Faxton September 21, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Lennie - tell me 1 thing you would cut. GO!
Jose Cuervo September 21, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Dad did the business manager know the funds, what can be transferred, what funds can be loaned, etc.? Or did she say she doesn't know and has to look at the Illinois school code to find out? Did she offer solutions? Did she have answers? Did she say it isn't her job to find money that isn't there?? Years back there were board members who knew the ins and outs of the budget. They were stifled at every turn. My point is that the board should have a reasonable understanding but it is the superintendent and business manager who are the experts. The business managers job is the budget. The district has one who doesn't know which funds can be transferred or that her job is to find ways to reduce costs and increase revenue.
Lennie Jarratt September 21, 2012 at 04:37 AM
This presentation did as well of over $130K in year 1. What she didn't show was the subsequent years, but hinted at it and those savings would be much larger, i.e. in the millions. As stated in a a previous meetings, savings of another vendor would have been ~ $375K and from $2 - $7 million over 5 years. Lastly, the idea of looking at ways to save on healthcare has been given to the board for at least 6 years. One example was a Downers Grove district that saved over $1 million per year. Carbone has been saying the same for years and still the board has done virtually nothing. They finally are have some presentations. If they had done this 5 or 6 years ago, the district would have a surplus instead of a budget deficit this year and into the future. Just shows, the board majority and administration do not care what the community thinks.
Lennie Jarratt September 21, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Cuts I have proposed in the past: 1. Competitive healthcare bidding looking at different plan options (Millions $ in savings) 2. Competitive bids on energy (Tens of Thousands $ in savings) 3. Ways to effectively prolong the life of computers & auctioning surplus/old equipment (Hundreds of Thousands $ in savings) 4. Investigate School restructuring (Hundreds of Thousands $ in savings) There have been others that are not listed because they were implemented. There are other smaller cuts as well that would have saved tens of thousands of $. I also offered to show them a plan that would make salaries fiscally sustainable (no cuts in pay), prevent all or most RIFs keeping class sizes low (stated board goal) and potentially lowering class sizes if desired. As you can see the board has been given suggestions year after year after year with no real desire to even look into some of the ones that actually have potentially large impacts. Many of these suggestion have been brought up by board members as well and still nothing.
Lennie Jarratt September 21, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Why is the board majority and administration refusing to explore potential savings of millions of $? Is it because it is not their idea? Is it because they just do not want to take the time to research? Is it because it's not their money they are spending? Is it because being fiscally responsible would not allow them to use the district as a jobs program for friends and family? How many former board members or immediate family have worked in the district?
Lennie Jarratt September 21, 2012 at 05:15 AM
It is sad when many in the audience or those watching from home know more than the administration officials whose job it is to run the district. Then to have the board majority say they don't want community input by disbanding the finance committee, the one place for the community to have much great input than in 4 minutes of public comment.
HM September 21, 2012 at 12:23 PM
D46 dad - there are many ways a change to healthcare would help - but the district has to be willing to look at them realistically. You got their point of view at the meeting, not what they could do if they wanted to work for change. I agree there are contractual costraints, but at some point unions have to realize they own part of this problem, and it would be nice if they stepped up to be part of the solution. I would love to be able to have my neighbors foot the bill for the additional premiums I have had to fork out over the years for my health insurance, but alas, I work in the private sector and can not rely on the seemingly endless supply of money from my fellow homeowners. It is time that we all realize we can not continue down the path we are on, and that we need to make some very tough decisions soon. (this goes for all levels of the public sector.). I love Brad's idea of consolidating Bus routes, and my understanding is that would save a good deal of money. But trust me, as soon as you do that, some parents will complain that thier child is on the bus too early, or too long, or gets home too late. I would like to think people would be grateful that their children have transportation to and from school! Instead, we have become a society that thinks our every whim must be satisfied, and we are, as a whole, truly spoiled.
Brad Faxton September 21, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Oh, and Carbone did this intentionally to ensure the "vote" comes down to the last minute and bad decisions are made in haste. Way to go Tea Party!
HM September 21, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Brad - in reality the administration has failed to act all year, knowing that there were going to be major holes in the budget .Anyone who pays any attention to these matters could see two years ago that the state funding would dry up (they are so late in their payments I assure you we will never see half of what they owe us). Brad Goldstein hinted at the fact that we will not see all of the money owed to us a few years ago. Say what you will about Carbone's grandstanding, (and it is embarassing on bad for all of us), but this failure to act lies on Ellen and the business manager. Our business manager does not even understand the rules of the game, so we are all in trouble here. Ellen hired her, after making numerous errors in judgement about hiring for this position. (keep in mind she was an assistant making half of what the business manager made - that raises a red flag right there about her qualifications). The budget issues should have been addressed before Wednesday - if the Administration thought they could push through a budget at the last minute, given the circumstances of our precarious financial position, then their judgement is seriously flawed. I know I sound like a broken record here, but they all have to go! You don't wait until a few weeks before the deadline to address these very large, very real problems. Where is the common sense?
Rob Roop September 21, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I'm not interested in getting involved in any of the discussions here but would like point out that I just posted the results of some analysis that I performed of the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 budgets on the District 46 Parents Yahoo group that I moderate. You are welcome to join and to get a copy of the analysis in a PDF document but be forewarned that it is my group and you have to play by my rules. :-) I don't make any promises as to the accuracy or efficacy of any of my findings. I spent about an hour looking at the budget reports on the train and found some areas that aroused my interest. I would simply like the community to be aware of some of the budget details and for the board to begin to ask more intelligent and insightful questions. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/District_46_Parents/
Nightcrawler September 21, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Thanks, Rob. I joined.

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