|Response to Comments from April 2011 Board Meeting|
Over the past couple of weeks, blogs have been posted and at the April Board of Education meeting comments were made regarding the LFHS Board’s financial decisions. The Board of Education would like to assure you that our Finance Committee, consisting of board and community representatives, consistently reviews all aspects of the district finances. In this unprecedented financial environment, we have made informed and measured decisions based on financial facts that will maintain our quality educational programs and offerings.
We would like to underscore, information and data that is being blogged and emailed has been misrepresented, comingled and taken out of context. The financial information referred to is not news to our school community or to us. Our budget and the stress placed upon it in these economic times have been discussed openly and at length at every Board meeting, are reflected in our budget, and were discussed at a public budget hearing. Our administrators, and board have made countless financial presentations to the public. Additionally, we have provided information to the local and regional press.
When analyzing or comparing salaries of peer superintendents, it is important that we are consistent and that we don’t compare one person’s salary to another person’s combined salary and benefits. Vital information is left out leaving the reader with very inaccurate comparisons.
As demonstrated above, the board’s proactive Shared Services initiative with School District 67 makes the cost to the Lake Forest High School district relatively low when compared with our peer school districts. Furthermore, each school district is paying less today than they did 10 years ago. Prior to the Shared Services initiative in 2004, the districts were responsible for the costs of two full-time superintendents - each with market competitive salaries and benefits.
We now share thirteen positions (administrative and support) with an overall savings to both District 67 and 115 of $600,000 per year. That adds up to $1.2M annually for the Lake Forest taxpayer. A report and video providing more information about Shared Services can be found here.
In addition to local savings in compensation, we also need to consider that our peer communities send two individuals into the state’s pension system. Lake Forest residents send one. Please note: we do not control the way pensions are determined or administered – pensions are based on a statewide formula. It is just one of many statewide laws, policies and practices that we must abide by.
In light of today’s economy, long held statewide policies and practices are under intense review and do need to be considered. Our state pension issue is of great concern and it is being addressed by our state representatives.
In fact, the Lake Forest Shared Services model is now being discussed as a way to mitigate school administrative and pension costs at the state and local level yet prevent the consolidation of our local schools into countywide districts. A countywide initiative has the potential to jeopardize our communities’ strong academic system. State Senator Susan Garrett recently passed legislation to streamline school district costs by combining services with other schools – reflective of the Lake Forest initiative.
As you know, your school board does not work in a vacuum. In addition to Illinois state laws and policies, we must compete with our peer districts. Financial commitments made over the years were agreed to in very different economic times and were market competitive. We acknowledge that Dr. Griffith’s contract is comprehensive – but feel our communities benefited from his level of expertise and leadership in the reorganization of two school districts into the now established Shared Services model.
Other factors to consider:
As we continue the search for a new superintendent the focus of the board will be to maintain the quality of our educational programs in light of today’s financial realities. It is our intent to find an individual to manage both Lake Forest High School and District 67 and continue the economic and educational benefits that Shared Services derives. Be assured that Dr. Griffith’s final compensation is not the starting point for a new superintendent. For more information on the Superintendent’s Search click here.
Lake Forest High School, like all school districts in Illinois and across the nation, faces real financial challenges as a result of the sudden decline in our economy. The Illinois Property Tax Cap enacted in the early 1990's limits our primary source of revenue (property taxes) to the annual increase in the CPI. After multiple years of 2.5%+ increases the CPI for 2008 increased by only .1%. That .1% increase was applied to our tax revenues for the current fiscal year. Our other sources of revenue have declined - lower interest income, delayed or skipped payments from the state, lower impact fees due to reduced construction in our communities, etc.
By using prudent long-range planning, we know that certain events will occur (release of the West Side TIF) which will provide us with an ongoing increase in property tax revenue (starting in 2013), long-term leases that will provide increased rental income, and a new contract with our teachers (current 5-year contract expires 6/30/11). We are also benefiting from additional revenues generated from West Campus. The result of this work and more is our ongoing commitment and a projection to get our budget back into black for 2012 and rebuild our reserve levels to the 10% level over time.
Countless financial reports addressing this information have been presented at our public board meetings over the last 2 years. Those who believe we need more transparency are best advised to come to one of our meetings, budget hearings or view the replays on LFTV. Additionally, we have provided information to our local and regional press and our budget and monthly financial information and video clips are always posted on the Board of Education Video Gallery page. The information is completely transparent.
We welcome community interest and dialogue – keep informed as we continue our search for a new superintendent. Our hope is that our dialogue can be a healthy, respectful debate that is based on the TRUTH and thoughtful discourse. We would like to underscore - this board of education is fully committed to seek ways to reduce costs, be reflective of today’s economic environment, and maintain the integrity of our educational programs.
|Print a copy of Response to Comments from April 2011 Board Meeting|