Q&A about District 205 referendum
By Barb Dent
By Barb Dent
Chairperson of R.E.A.CH.
Q: Can the tax rate be increased by this referendum?
A: YES! The tax rate can be increased by this referendum in two ways. You have given this and any future school board the right to raise the tax rate above tax caps for the life of the bonds if their funding source is deemed insufficient.
If the district is to keep its promise to balance their budget, reduce their deficit in four years and pay back the bonds and millions in interest, they had to make at least $18.3 million in cuts. Since they didnt, they will have to increase the tax rate.
Q: Was the district honest about having to make only $12.2 million in cuts since the referendum passed?
A: NO! The district had to make $5.6 million in cuts to balance its budget, at least $9.6 million in cuts to reduce their deficit in four years and $3.1 million in cuts to pay back the bond principal and millions in interest. The total is at least $18.3 million in cuts since the referendum PASSED and if their new contracts with their bargaining units dont increase expenditures.
Q: Is District 205 legally obligated to spend the money from the alternative revenue bonds to pay back the tax refunds?
A: NO! The district could spend the $23 million on anything!
Q: Does the district have a balanced budget this year?
A: NO! Despite adopting a balanced budget policy, the districts original budget showed a $6 million deficit. Because of overspending by the Brown administration and current school board majority, the current years budget is overspent by $12 million. Their overspending means more cuts need to be made or increase the tax rate.
Q: What does this referendum mean for the future of Rockford Public Schools?
A: This referendum simply allows the district to continue to overspend and raise our tax rate above tax caps if they deem their funding source to pay back the bonds insufficient. It will not bring closure to the state litigation as the district claimed, because tax protesters have until August 2004 to claim their refunds and the bonds have to be paid back for at least 10 years. This referendum had no connection to the People Who Care case.
Q: Does the district have a viable six-year financial plan?
A: NO! The six-year financial plan adopted by the board in Jan. 2001 is no longer viable. Current board members voted to bring back millions in cuts 6 days after the April, 2001 referendum passed. The Brown administration kept the illegal tort tax revenue in that plan and hired 60 new employees over budget. The current majority gave the administrators the largest raise in recent history and made it retroactive to July 1, 2001. They also refused to make budget cuts when they learned of declining revenues this school year. The plan to decrease the deficit in six years was when the deficit was only $14 million. Because of poor financial control by the district, the deficit rose to $26 million in July, 2001 and is currently being increased by another $12 million because of overspending by the administration and board.
Q: How many positions were actually cut by the board?
A: Approximately 125. That leaves about 270 court-ordered positions still being paid for by the taxpayers next year.
Q: Does the district have an equity plan to fund schools?
A: NO! The administration is recommending keeping the court-ordered programs and dual administration, which gave more money and personnel to certain schools. On July 1st, the district can no longer do this and has to have a plan to assure equity in funding to ALL schools.
Q: Is the district planning to ask for a tax increase next year?
A: YES! Dr. Brown has indicated to the Rockford Register Star Editorial Board and the Unitary Status Steering Committee that he wants a 78-cent permanent referendum. This represents a 20-cent increase, and the district is coming back a year earlier than necessary. This could mean that the district plans to pay back the referendum with a tax rate increase or bring back cuts again.
Q: What are alternative revenue bonds, and do they have to be paid back?
A: The alternative revenue bonds are bonds which dedicate an existing revenue source to be paid back. The district either has to cut its budget or raise its tax rate in order to make up for the loss of the revenue that was dedicated for the bonds. The bonds will have to be paid back, which will cost the district $23 million in principal plus $8 million in interest for a total of $31 million.
Q: How can taxpayers get involved with R.E.A.CH.?
You may make a donation by writing a check to:
P.O. Box 1505
Rockford, IL 61110
Or get involved with R.E.A.CH. by calling 749-1900.