As promised, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy presented projections for a balanced budget for the district for the next two fiscal years at the board’s Finance Committee meeting Monday night, but he and committee chair Andrew Pigozzi warned that these are just projections and are subject to change.

Nevertheless, the figures presented showed a dramatic change in the outlook for the district’s finances, when compared to projections given to a special ad hoc citizens budget committee last September.

Instead of a deficit for the 2012-13 fiscal year of $3.3 million, the new projections show a net return to surplus of $1.2 million. And for the following year, a projected deficit as of Sept. 14 of $4.1 million became a net surplus today of $1.9 million.

District comptroller Kathy Zalewski  explained that most of the revisions involved savings in salaries and benefits and in the purchase of services and supplies.

She projected that salary expenditures would decrease by about 3 percent, due to a larger number of retirements than expected, which would result in rehires at lower salaries, and through “attrition” due to academic support positions funded with federal stimulus dollars that would be eliminated when the funding runs out.

The district is planning to reduce non-personnel expense by a total of $1.5 million in FY13 and $2.4 million in FY14,  through what the administration referred to as “budget balancing strategies,” such as prepaying for some supplies and services with money left over in the current year’s budget, which is expected to end about $850,000 in the black.

Committee member Tracy Quattrocki expressed some skepticism about the turnaround and said she hoped the reduction of academic support positions would not have an adverse effect on the classroom teachers. Murphy responded that the differences would be minimal.

As the budget discussions concluded, Chairman Pigozzi warned that “budgets are fluid; they are projections, and the surpluses we are looking at today could be eroded in the future by something we could not foresee.”
 

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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17 Comments

  1. Dsitrict 65 budget projections

    District 65 wants to paint a pretty picture, but it looks like mud.   The projections appear to be false, and unrealistic.  Just like what we have seen out of the city.

    If a CEO projects false numbers to share holders he might face criminal issues, what about staff at distrrict 65 can they face any criminal actions for their budget projects?

    Most like not – but we will be left holding the bag so to speak – ofcourse we can lay off teachers –

    It is very unlikely the referundum will pass, but given these numbers one has wonder if you can trust any numbers they are projecting.

  2. The D65 School Board can’t be trusted anymore

    How can ANYONE take this school board seriously anymore?

    For the past year it has applied all of its energy in ramming through a new highly expensive Fifth Ward school by fudging enrollment numbers. It is an insult to everyone's intelligence when the stacked New School Committee totally ignored, never discussed the fact that D65 enrollment had 300 more students in 2001 than it does RIGHT NOW!!!!!

    Instead, D65 staff calculated based on a little bump in enrollment that the numbers would rise dramatically (not near the peak enrolmment of 2001) and a new school would be the best option. Even though a survey of Fifth Ward parents did not support a new school nor does the current Fifth Ward population that has been consistently declining in the past four years.

    The primary reason for the new school says D65 School Board members Jerome Summers and Board President Katie Bailey is not overcrowding but social justice, equality and low bond rates. The Fifth Ward got an $18 million federal grant infusion, enjoys a TIF that is bringing in new investment including the city buying up property and millions more to rehab the area's infrastructure. Where is the equality for residents in the other seven wards?  

    Only two years ago D65 was talking about a decline in enrollment numbers and forecasting a decline for the next five years!!! Yes, enrollment numbers ebb and flow but not enough to require a $48 million dollar school at a time the state is flat broke, the economy is teetering on a double dip recession and the housing market in which local government relies on for its revenue is kaput.

    So now the D65 staff comes back and voila, rather than a projected $3.3 million deficit made last September we suddenly (magically) have a $1.2 million surplus. That's a $4.5 million turnaround in five months!!!

    So all is good and well and we can afford that $48 million referendum. Right?

    Wrong.

    We need to vote down this referendum, vote out all the incumbents, fire Hardy Murphy and bring in sensible people to clean up the mess and bring back honesty and integrity to the school board. 

    Anyone happy with their property tax bills due March 1? State income taxes that Democrats more than doubled in 2010 is due in April.

    Maybe Gov. Quinn can magically find $8 billion and put Illinois back in the surplus just like our neighbor, Indiana.

    Vote NO on the referendum!

    1. Many good points Al, but…

      …Al, you raise many excellent points, however, you paint the whole D65 school board with the same brush.

      For those who have consistently attended and watched meetings over the last year, there are stark differences among board members who do their homework, are independent thinkers, conduct analysis and are committed to excellence for all students. Just look and listen at the types of questions asked by Ms. Budde, Mr. Rykhus, and Ms. Quattrocki and compare them with the questions asked by other board members. Instead of throwing out the whole board, i'd suggest that the community become engaged and support more thoughtful and responsible school board members in the upcoming Spring 2013 School board elections. It's only 1 year away. The same can be said for District 202.

  3. Political power and persuasion behind new school referendum

    Here is some more food for thought regarding the background politics of the new Fifth Ward school referendum.

    Susan Green who runs an Evanston healthcare consulting firm has helped organize the group, Citizens for a Better Evanston. The group is actively campaigning to get the new school referendum passed.

    D65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy appointed Green last fall to sit on an Ad Hoc Budget Committee to provide budget recommendations to D65 staff.

    Also consider that it was Susan Green that filed an objection to Libertarian candidate Steve Funk's petition to get on the ballot and challenge Democrat Robyn Gabel who was running unopposed. Funk dropped out because he didn't have enough money to fight the petition in court.

    Gabel, a former healthcare lobbyist, was seated before the election because she had no opponents. Gabel later voted for a state income tax increase of 67 percent.

    How much you wanna bet Democrats Gabel, Biss, Schakowsky and the unions are working quietly behind the scenes to get this referendum passed?

    This referendum has a a chance to pass with all the money, power and influence behind it.

    If you're mad about the constant increase in your taxes then you'd better get out there and vote NO!!!!!!!

    1. Steve Funk

      Steve Funk did not drop out.

      Steve Funk ran as a write-in candidate – an "Official" write-in candidate, as per the filing rules of the State of Illinois, meaning his write-in votes could be counted much in the same manner as when Lionel Jean-Baptiste was also dropped from the Second Ward ballot over petition errors.

    2. Citizens for a Better Evanston

      I am one of many community members who are working on behalf of the Citizens for a Better Evanston to support the referendum.   I have financially contributed to the organization, as have many others.  I was also a member of the Ad Hoc Budget Committee last year (and in 2004-05), along with approximately 25 other Evanston community members and District staff.  I was pleased to see the administration incorporate some of our recommendations into the revised budget presented last night.  Dr. Murphy reminded us that there has been 9 or 10 years of a balanced budget in this district, some years with cuts, and the academic progress of all of Evanston's children has continued to improve.

      If you have followed District 65 board meetings, you are aware I have been a strong advocate for Evanston's children of color for many years, including support of TWI, the African Centered Curriculum, and now the building of a neighborhood school in the 5th ward and improvements in the middle school science labs (and other physical improvements). I'm not sure why there is such concern about who is supporting this, as the prior commenter referred to those operating "behind the scenes".    Per State of IL election laws, once we have expended in excess of $3,000, we will be registered as a Ballot Initiative, with full public disclosure of all donations.    I continue to find it puzzling why so many comments on this forum are made anonymously. 

      I invite you to visit our website to obtain the facts of how the bond money will be allocated and to find out more information.

      http://www.c4be.com/C4BE/home.html

      1. 5th Ward school advocates who don’t live there

        To Susan Greene, who lives in the 4th Ward  …

        The fall survey reported that 91% of the people in the 5th ward said that they are happy with their current schools, so who are you to talk for all these people when you don't even live in this ward?

        The question behind "who is behind" this initiative is for just this reason.  Who are all these people who live outside the 5th ward who think they know best what should happen to the 5th ward residents kids? What gives you the right to tell these people what they should do when you don't even live there?    

        How about thinking about how many of these 5th ward people will be able to afford to live in this town when their property taxes go up, yet again. 11% property tax increases in 2 years, and there is no end in sight.

        Thanks to your friend Robin Gabel, we are paying 67% more state tax. NO thanks for your work in helping to get a fiscially responsible candidate kicked off the official ballot.  A write in candidate has about as much a chance of winning as a person who drops out.

        Vote no. There are alternative options to keep our schools strong, called re-districting.

      2. Referendum

        Susan,

        I have some basic concerns.

        First, what does this do to almost 40 years of desegregation effort?

        Next how are we going to pay for this?

        Our property taxes are unsustainable. Given the sorry state of Illinois' fiscal situation, it is likely that teacher pension obligations will be handed over to the individual school districts, which will only add to that burden. The police and fire pension funds are also underfunded.

        Medicaid is also underfunded.

        Where do you expect all this money to come from?

      3. $ for STEM projects

        I did look where the money will go-http://www.district65.net/referendum/Middle

        The district says roughly half the referendum (27.6 million) will go towards science and other physical improvements (i.e. new welcome centers, locker rooms, kitchen, dining areas, administration offices).

        All these improvements sound great(I put in #s below), but what is more important- fancy spaces or teachers to fill them?

          How will the district prioritize if the 3 million dollar hole that the ad hoc committe planned for in the fall turns out to actually be real(Hardy says the money has re-appeared. I'd like to see the facts on how that money was found so suddenly and unexpectedly) ?  What if the budget outlook that predicted a 7 or 10 million dollar deficit in the future turns out to be real too?

        The ad hoc. committee in the fall, that Susan Green participated in,   had some ideas like cutting support staff and special ed. help (or not filling positions). Are you aware that more and more high needs kids are put right into the D65 regular ed. rooms now instead of placed at Park School or special classrooms?  Have you ever been inside a classroom, Susan Green, and seen what this looks like? How the support staff and special educators make this inclusion model work?    Have you considered what the impact will be when the support staff (aides, special teachers) are reduced?   WHat the impact of this is on not only the special ed. kids, but all the other kids? Go and tell the teachers that they will have 25 plus kids in a classroom with several high needs special ed. kids and no support. Watch how many teachers who are young and not financially tied to the district leave.    Cuts on paper are one thing, but the impact on kids is real. 

        If you ask tax payers for all this money now, will they give you more money later if/when that hole is real? Or, will we have to slash teachers and/or raise class sizes for everyone.  How will the district continuing meeting the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, that protects the Least REstrictive ENvironment for students,  if special education/suppport staff are reduced?   Is this what you think of as social justice?  What is the long term financial plan?

        Is this 5th ward school even needed at all? SPending 20 million plus for social justice reasons alone does not seem very just to those who are struggling to make the taxes in this town already. FUrthermore, I am concerned that if we ask the taxpayers for all this money now, how can we possibly ask people for more money to keep our classrooms full of teachers. No one that I know is making more money this year, and taxes are up 65% at the state and 11% in this town.  At what point do we break the middle classes?

        In addition,  how will you answer to teachers living on the pension of D65 when Governor Quinn requires property tax increases to pay their salary?  (He is proposing this:       http://finance.yahoo.com/news/quinn-looks-teacher-pensions-address-225412256.html    ).  WIll you ask property owners yet again for another referendum or will you tell the pensioners, too bad…

        HOw long do these overcrowding populations last?  Is this a 5-10 year problem or a forever problem? Where is the population data to prove this?   

        Could the district simply re-draw attendance lines in order to relieve overcrowding at northern schools?  I know that many north end/Dewey school Evanstonians may be extremely upset if they bought a house for one school, and suddenly they are placed within a new school's boundaries.   Many like me question if this is the real reason why so many folks from outside the 5th ward are showing up at these meeting to protest for the 5th ward school, especially when the people in the 5th ward seem content with what they have according to the fall survey.  

        All these things appear to have been not well thought out.  I am an advocate for children, but not this referendum. Not right now.

          Children need teachers more than they need spaces.

         

            

        STEM improvements to:

        Haven $10,329,428  new gym, administration center, multi-purpose room, science room upgrades plus   $27,200.00 (equpping clasrooms)

        CHute: welcome area and new science center: $3,060,610.00

        Nichols:Science area, music area, new multi-purpose room: $10,256,988 plus  $27, 200.00(professional fees?)

        New Locker room for Rhodes: $1,326,640

        King Lab Welcome Center: $2,571,363

         

      4. ‘Continue to improve’

        D65 uses test scores that they know look good and consistently D202 says the kids are coming in less and less prepared.  Of course, in cash-strapped school districts like ours, it may make sense to construct improvement so we can meet our AYP for No Child Left Behind and get the federal dollars.  But don't confuse the BS test scores D65 uses to keep getting that money with ACTUAL educational improvement.

        This was the conversation Tracy and Hardy were having when the D65 folks pulled the video of the meeting off Youtube — this is the awful secret.  It is not surpising that sham tests appeared int eh wake of NCLB, but don't fool yourself into thinking they are measuring much — and they get worse every year so that schools can use them to show "adequate yearly progress" and get the federal $$.

        To actually see how D65 kids are doing, you would want to look at Explore scores of incoming Freshman to ETHS over a long period of time. That is a WAY better measure than the ISATs because it is actually linked to REAL national averages and not "appriximated" national averages like the ISAT.

  4. This is insulting…

    To say that we are now fine and will have a surplus is simply insulting!!!! Does Dr. Murphy really think that the people of Evanston are going to believe him? How can you just "find" all of this money?? And if it were really found, to what expense? Is he saying that he has not made or proposed cuts?  Yes, we know that they will minimize teacher cuts, but what about other cuts? As you know, many staff support the operations of the district on a day to day basis.  If we lose many of them, how will the district OPERATE? 

    What I know is that budgets are not "fluid" as Mr. Pigozzi states. Yes, things happen, but to suddenly find money and go from being in the red to having over $1M in surplus seems almost unreal.  How did this happen. Why can't they be more transparent about what they are scheming behind closed doors?  Ever since Dr. Murphy walked into the district over ten years ago he has nothing but destroy the moral of the schools and the community.  I say we do a whole sweep of him and his administrative team.  They are not making sound decisions and they are simply playing games with the taxpayers of Evanston.  I just hope that the three board members who actually care step up and call Dr. Murphy on his nonsense numbers and projections. 

    Perhaps board members need to visit the district and the schools more to see what is actually going on.  There is nothing transparent about this group of administrators.  They all follow the lead of their fearless leader and not one will stand up and speak the truth.  Teachers are unhappy and untrusting, parents are fed up and all of these bad politics need to stop.  We are talking about a school district, not a private business. They deal with our children, our most precious gift and we are putting them in the hands of these greedy, egotistical fools that hide behind the truth? Let's hire capable people who are true 21st century leaders and who do not wear blinders.  We need people we can trust to lead our schools. What we have had for the last decade is a bunch of poiticians, not educators, only looking out for themselves. Voters need to go to the polls and show them that these shananigans need to cease!!

  5. Support for kids with LDs CUT to meet budget

    To make this budget work, Dr. Murphy cut staff.   And not just administrative staff:  According to The Roundtable:

    "Dr. Murphy listed 31 positions that would be eliminated next year to achieve the $3 million in savings for 2012-13: certified staff (2 positions); reductions due to program design (8); non-certified support staff (3.5); central office administration (3); instructional support aides for students with an IEP (10); dual-language support aides (6); technical support (0.5); and building administration (1).

    With RtI, there are likely less kids with IEP, but no chance there are less kids with special needs to be met.  

    What this means is that teachers will be given and even broader range of learners and less back up and support to facilitate effective education.

    How does this help all children prepare for High School?

    Are we seriously talking about cutting precious LD resources so that we can present a balanced budget?   

     

    1. Thanks Jane Berkley

      What you are saying is exactly right. I've seen your name all over at these meetings trying to show people this data, so thank you. 

      Yes, Murphy balanced the budget on paper, but at the expense of whom?

      I don't think people understand the role of these special staff and how so crucial they are to the overall dynamic of a school building.  AIdes don't only help one child with a learning disability, they help create an enviornment where all kids can learn and grow.

      As a special ed.teacher myself, I have a soft spot in my heart for kids with learning differences. The reality is that these children need extra resources.  When the resources are taken away, these kids will either fall or the teacher will give them the help (which most will do) but at the expense of attention given for the other kids.  In classrooms of over 20, there is only so much teacher attention to go around and the kids who demand the most, either through their struggles or their behavior tend to get it!.

      I too wish that we could build out all these new spaces, but when we are cutting staff is this the right time?   Is a new gym space going to help kids learn if gym classes have to consolidate because there is only 1 teacher for 3 classes?    IS a new welcome center going to help kids?  Is a new science center going to be best when there is one child with such severe behavior issues taht the teacher has to stop every moment to help this child get under control again?

      Where is the discussion about re-districting? Would this even work to relieve overcrowding?  I don't know, and neitehr does anyone else that I talk to-

      I would rather have a referendum that asked for more money for staff!!   

       

      1. impact of referendum on Special Education

        Jen and Jane,

        As a parent of a disabled child who has worked with the school board and administration for many years to ensure that my son and children like him receive a quality education, I am glad that you are thinking about the impact of the referendum on the special education community.

        However I respectfully disagree with your assertion that the referendum will have a negative impact on special eduation. 

        First, the district's budgets have been balanced for nearly a decade so any staff cuts this year are not "new".  Many times staff has seen changes and it has not been a major issue.  What is problematic, however, is the impact of overcrowding. 

        In recent history self contained classrooms with some of the community's most vulnerable kids have been moved almost yearly to accomodate overcrowding at a particular school.  While this constant change would be disruptive to any student, it is particularly detrimental to a child with a disablility.  It is also a hardship on a family that is already struggling with the unique challenges of a special needs child and then must navigate two seperate schools.

        Classroom size is also a large factor in the success of inclusion.  Without the funds from the referendum, our class sizes will no doubt increase throughout the district.  All of the children in our district, not just those in special education, deserve better. 

        Please join me in voting YES on March 20th.

        1. Changes are different this time

          Martha-

            I know all about how special ed. has moved buildings over the years at D65, so I totally see why you want this to end. 

             When you say that "staff has seen changes and it has not been a major issue,"  I don't think anyone has seen changes like are about to come to this country.

              I, and I think many of the other people who are voting no are looking at the long range picture here-not only of the local economy, but the state and country as well.

             For example, Murphy said that now is a good time to take on bonds, as the economy looks strong due to lower than expected CPI and increased job growth.  However, the papers (both locally, state, and national) do not report that how CPI is calculated has changed several times since the 70s or that job numbers do not reflect people underemployed or those who have stopped looking. If you want real statistics, John WIlliams, founder of this web service, has followed all these changes and reports "real" inflation and job growth- http://www.shadowstats.com/             Everyone knows that gas and food prices are going up, so why do we believe that there is no inflation? 

             Yes, interest rates are very low now.  INn this respect, it is probably a last chance to push for building a new school, as interest rates will have to rise from these government-backed historic lows, probably sharply in the next 5-10 years.

              When interest rates rise, how will this affect homeowners and property values in Evanston? When interest rates rise, suddenly the higher priced homes that generate so much revenue in this town won't sell for big bucks, as people won't be able to afford the loans.    If house prices stagnante or deflate, will the property tax levies be enough to sustain the current D65 programs?  Will the county change the multiplier to acheive the same income?

            What will Evanston choose to do when QUinn puts the teacher pensions back to the property tax level?  If the report here from Evanston now is accurate, this is $800 million dollars of unfunded liabilities coming back at us.   Suddenly, the tax increases are not just $150 per $400,000 house, we are talking 6 digit increases. http://evanstonnow.com/story/education/bill-smith/2012-02-15/47835/schools-balk-at-picking-up-pension-costs      Not one person commented on this article.  The school board can "balk" all they want, but this is going to become a reality because the state of Illinois is in worse financial condition than Greece!    

            I would have voted yes to a 27 million dollar bond to add on science labs and improve the current infrastructure-

             Building a new school for $25 million is not my concern either-

          The concern is how to staff an entirely new school?    From the data that I saw earlier, we are talking 3 classrooms for 6 grade levels(K-5)- Let's assume that all teachers hired are fresh out of school, with no masters degree, and placed on the lowest payscale ring possible for D65, which is $44,990 (including TRS benefits). This does not include health insurance costs.   RIght there we are talking $809,820 (excluding health care packages to meet the current contract). (and many teaches will have experience and masters degrees with higher price tags-       Then, we have to add everything else- principal (add another $80,000 at least), secretary, janitor, nurse, special education staff to meet federal laws, support staff.. Then, we have to add on operating costs for another school.  This is the current contract.  Any new staff will also need to have all the benefits described here- http://www.district65.net/community/Contracts/I006BD679.3/DEC%20Agreement%202008-2009%20through%202011-2012.pdf

              Where is this money going to come from year after year?  

            If re-districting can solve the overcrowding issues of the North schools, it should AT LEAST be discussed.  It seems to be the big white elephant in the room.  Instead of discussing this, we are discussing social justice.  Why?

            Everyone wants strong schools for this town- but how can we keep all schools strong if we pull our best resources, our teachers, too thin?

          How will the poor in this town pay these tax increases?   When I think of social justice, I think of using the money wisely, as money does not come in unlimited supply (unless of course you are the US FEd).  

            IF I have drastically missed something, please let me know.  

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

          1. economics

            Jen,

            Clearly we get our news from different sources.  From Wikipedia on John William's website:  According to a newspaper article about the site, subscribers to shadowstats.com range from individual and professional investors to conspiracy theorists and gold bugs,[8] and some experts dismiss Williams' analysis and his claims of manipulation as "preposterous".

            Neither of us can predict the economic future but what we can predict is the increase in enrollment in District 65.  Commonsense tells me that it is going to cost more money to educate more kids whether we pass a referendum to build or divert debt service money from building maintenance to put on additions.  New teachers will be hired either way.  Evanston has a history of valuing education and spending the money necessary to provide for all of our kids. 

            I invite you to visit http://www.c4be.com to learn more about the Better Schools Initiative and I hope that you will rethink your position and join me in voting YES on March 20. 

          2. NY Times econ versus news used by those in the industry

            Yes, Clearly we do read different news source for economic news

             If only there were more "gold bugs" in Evanston!  THe price of gold has risen steadily for the past 11 years and is up 9% this past year.  I wonder if the city of Evanston with their "economic development investments" have brought in a simliar rate of return this past year?

             

              Good luck with your efforts.

              

             

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