Déjà Vu

On Jan. 10, the Board of Education voted to place the same issue on the April 4 ballot that voters rejected last November.

The Board is seeking to issue $140 million in debt to fund the replacement of H.C. Storm and Louise White schools, along with maintenance and improvement projects at the other 6 school buildings.

One of the main reasons board members cited for placing the exact same issue before voters was that the April election is the last opportunity to issue new bonds that coincide with the retirement of current debt. In other words, the annual debt payment (approximately 10 percent of school taxes) would continue for the next 20 years or so if the referendum is approved. If voters reject it, they will be giving themselves a 10 percent cut in their school property taxes.

In a statement issued by the school district Jan. 11, school officials said that following the November decision, they collected input from the staff and community through a survey, focus groups and feedback forms. Over 1,700 surveys and 170 additional feedback forms were completed, they said.

The most prevalent of all themes (n = 268) was that the plan lacked specificity and clarity. 

The second most frequent theme (n = 265)  largely focused on the tax burden. Many felt that the case for the referendum was not compelling to justify the taxes already collected. Many comments cited the truthfulness of “no tax increase” campaign literature, that taxes would otherwise decrease, and impugned the trustworthiness of leadership. 

In the Jan. 11 statement, officials acknowledged that  “If the referendum passes, the amount of that annual debt payment, and the taxes collected for it, would remain level. If the referendum fails, taxes will go down.” 

The district currently pays $9.1 million annually for current bond debt (approximately 10 percent of school property taxes). 

 H.C. Storm School and Louise White School will be rebuilt onsite. The full extent of school improvements are contingent upon economics, particularly bond interest rates, inflation, and construction costs.

School officials say  “it is more cost effective to rebuild, rather than renovate, these schools. The extent of renovations required to modernize these schools also triggers compliance with modern building codes (including fire sprinklers, handicap accessibility, and tornado shelters) and exceeds replacement costs.  Additionally, students would remain in their current school during construction.”

A fair question for voters to ask is whether the referendum could have been scaled back to cover specific needs over shorter periods of time, especially in light of forecasts that say Batavia school enrollment will continue to decline at an annual rate of about 2 percent.

Also, it is not as though current capital needs would go unmet if the referendum fails. The district now allocates over $2 million annually (and increasing) for capital projects from operating funds, according to the Jan. 11 statement. 

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Special Referendum Meeting

The Batavia School Board is holding a special meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10, 6pm (note the early start time) to consider adopting the same issue that voters defeated in last November’s election by a vote of 7060 NO to 7036 YES.

Turnout at municipal elections is generally much less than at November general elections and observers feel the board will take advantage of this opportunity for referendum advocates to turn out supportive voters in lower numbers than would otherwise be required in order to win approval of the referendum.

The referendum would ask voters to approve building a new H.C. Storm School and a new Louise White School while demolishing the existing buildings. The referendum, if approved,  would also authorize  repair and alteration of other facilities.

Approval would allow the board to  borrow  an estimated cost $140,000,000 to be paid off with higher property taxes.

School district residents already face a 4.6 percent operating school property tax this year that was imposed  by the board at its Dec. 20 meeting.

Members of the public are allowed to speak at board meetings. If they plan to do so they are asked to contact cindy.rodriguez@bps101.net in advance of the meeting for planning purposes (not necessary, but helpful). You will find a form to fill out in the building foyer that needs to be handed to the secretary before the start of the meeting. Public comments occur at the start of the meeting as people who wish to speak are recognized by the board president.

Speakers are asked to identify themselves and are normally limited to three minutes. If an individual representing a group notifies the board president and superintendent ahead of the meeting they may be
granted five minutes.

The board allows itself to shorten the time for each person to address the board during public comment  to conserve time and give the maximum number of individuals an opportunity to speak.  If it is determined to limit the number of minutes for public comments, there will be a minimum of 30 minutes of comments allowed and then public comments will reopen after the board addresses the other agenda items.

Members of the public also may submit written comments by filling out a form and giving it to the board’s recording secretary.

If you cannot attend the meeting, you can email the Board, using the button under Quick Contacts at right.

A large, organized contingent of “Yes” supporters spoke at the last meeting, with only 1 speaker in opposition during Public Comments. The Board could benefit from more balance in the feedback they receive.

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Referendum Repeat in April? Taxed to the Max Again

The Batavia School Board plans to hold a special meeting early next year to decide whether to place a bond referendum before voters in the April school board and municipal election.

Voters narrowly rejected a $140 million issue in the Nov. 9 general election that would have involved demolishing and replacing two of Batavia’s four elementary schools. The board faces a Jan. 17 deadline if it wants to place an issue on the April ballot.

Half a dozen citizens addressed the board at its Dec. 20 meeting and all but one urged placing the same issue on the April ballot. One speaker, Sylvia Keppel, said an April election does not give a fair assessment of what voters think since turnout is so much lower than in November  elections.

“I would think you would want an overwhelming mandate for projects like this,” Keppel said. “If you’re going to try again wait until the November 2024 presidential election” when a more representative sampling of voter sentiment can be obtained, she said.

Later in the meeting, School Superintendent Lisa Hichens acknowledged that if the board places the exact same issue on the April ballot “people are not going to like that” since they so recently provided their answer in an election that saw a 65 percent turnout.

The board indicated it could decide to place the same issue before voters, scale it back or delay going to voters again.

The board conducted an analysis of voter feedback that included a survey of district residents, focus groups and phone interviews.

“The most prevalent of all primary themes, the prominent perception, was that the plan lacked specificity and clarity,” the feedback study stated. It also said:

“It appears that the need for the referendum was not clearly conveyed. Many felt that voters were unaware of the referendum, uninformed of the consequences of its success or failure, or that convincing information was too difficult to find.

“Several were concerned about misinformation from both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns.

“The second most frequent theme … focused on the tax burden. Many felt
that the case for the referendum was not compelling to justify the
taxes already collected. Many comments cited the truthfulness of ‘no
tax increase’ campaign literature, that taxes would otherwise
decrease, and impugned the trustworthiness of leadership.

“It appears that some voters do not understand the underlying
mechanics of the tax levy. Yet others indicated that the referendum
question, itself, indicates that finances have been mismanaged,” the
feedback study stated.

On another matter, the board voted unanimously to increase property
taxes by an average of 4.6 percent starting next year. The new  tax levy would increase the taxes on a median-valued  home ($350,000) by
$308 annually.

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Run for Office!

If you want to effect change, you have to elect good people. Consider running! All paperwork must be filed Dec 12-19.

The City Council usually meets 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month, and the Committee of the Whole (where most Council discussions take place) meet every Tuesday. Term of office is usually 4 years, but it looks like Ward 7 has both a 4-year and a 2-year (completion of a 4-yr term) position up for election (check with the City to verify). Candidate info can be found here: https://www.cityofbatavia.net/DocumentCenter/View/6039/2023-Candidate-Packet

The School Board meets once a month on a Tuesday, with occasional Special Meetings. Term of office is 4 years. Here is the information on running for School Board (page 42 has School Board specifics): https://www.bps101.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/2023CanGuide_637987458455022448.pdf

There are also 2 seats up for election on the Park Board: https://bataviaparks.org/news/https//bataviaparks.org/the-board-roomtab170

Library Board has 3 seats up for election: https://www.shawlocal.com/kane-county-chronicle/news/2022/10/23/election-packets-available-for-three-batavia-public-library-trustee-seats/

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BPS Survey

Batavia Public Schools are asking for feedback regarding the school bond referendum that voters rejected Nov. 8.

Officials are asking that a survey that may be found at https://www.bps101.net/referendum/ be completed by Friday (12/16) of this

You may also visit the public school district office at 335 W. Wilson St. to pick up a copy or call the offices at 630-937-8800 to have one mailed but time is short.

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School Board to Increase Property Taxes—Again

The school board is set to adopt a tax levy that may increase the taxes on a median-valued  home ($350,000) by $308 next year.

A Truth in Taxation hearing was held as part of the Nov. 15 School Board meeting. State law requires a public hearing and disclosure when the estimated aggregate levy exceeds 105 percent of the amount of property taxes extended or estimated to be extended over the preceding year.  This has occurred for the first time in recent years due to inflation, according to the district’s Chief Financial Officer Tony Inglese.

The 2021 consumer price index (CPI) increase was 7 percent, yet the maximum extension that may be collected is 5 percent, according to Inglese, excluding the value of new construction added to the tax rolls. It is their standard practice to levy for more than the estimated limit to capture any unanticipated changes in property tax values.

The Truth in Taxation Law also requires disclosure of the Board’s current “cash reserve balance of all funds held by the district
related to its operational levy and, if applicable, any obligations secured by those funds.”

The fund reserve as of the end of October was over $77 million. Inglese acknowledged that this number was cited as a reason to
oppose the recent bond referendum, but said since the district only gets “paid” in June and September when property taxes come in, this money is needed to pay payrolls and bills through the end of the school year without having to resort to short term borrowing through tax anticipation warrants like they had to do up until 3 years ago. That $77 million is expected to drop to about $15-20 million before the next infusion of cash.

The tax levy will be approved as part of the regular Dec. 20 meeting.

There was a discussion of the bond referendum defeat but it was decided to delay consideration of alternatives until a future

A special closed meeting is planned Dec. 3 to interview candidates for school superintendent.

Another special meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13.

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“Vote Yes” Campaign Funded by Outside Insider Corporations

“Yes for BPS101”, the group that sent out deceptive mailers accusing the anonymously sent “Vote No” mailers of being from “outsiders” and not complying with legal reporting requirements, are themselves funded by outsiders and not in legal compliance! Worse yet, “Yes” was funded by companies working for and with the school district (insiders) who could have profited substantially had the referendum passed. The “Yes” campaign contributions filing statement as of 11/9/22:

DLR Group is a planning/architectural/engineering firm that has been employed by the district since 2019 to put together all the moving parts for this referendum. In this document, you can see how extensively they’ve been involved: Final Report and Recommendations 2022.

Lamp Incorporated is an architectural/construction group. With the money from the 2007, $75 million referendum, Lamp built the additions to the high school that included the BFAC (Batavia Fine Arts Center) and fieldhouse:

Continue reading
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$140 Million School Referendum Defeated

Update: Final tally 7060 NO to 7036 YES — referendum defeated by 24 votes

As of the evening on Wednesday, Nov. 9, the $140 million referendum was voted down by 176 votes, 6918 NO to 6742 YES. It may change a little in the coming days as mail-in ballots trickle in (must be postmarked by Nov. 8), but it is unlikely to change significantly.

Thank you to all who helped with the effort, especially to those who contributed for the yard signs. You helped draw attention to the referendum for many who had no idea it was on the ballot..

Batavians for Responsible Government had nothing to do with the mailers that urged a “no” vote and has no idea who sent them, but if the sender is reading this, we are very grateful you did!

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Demolish and Rebuild 2 Schools?

Part of the $140 million referendum proposal is to demolish and rebuild 2 schools, Louise White and H.C. Storm. Both schools are only 44 years old, built in 1978. In 2015, the last Comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan lists both schools in “Good” condition. So why tear them down???

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Vote NO to $140 Million Referendum

Update: “Vote NO” yard signs are available. Please request your sign through our “Contact Us” page.

On the November 8, 2022 ballot is a $140 MILLION referendum for BPS101. From the district website:

“Shall the Board of Education of Batavia Community Unit School District Number 101, Kane County, Illinois, be authorized to build and equip a new H.C. Storm School and a new Louise White School and demolish the existing buildings, and alter, repair, equip and improve its other school facilities, including but not limited to installing student safety and security enhancements and improving roofs, floors, windows, HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems, and improve the sites thereof, and issue its bonds to the amount of $140,000,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?”

The most important thing we want to add is that, this will not change your bond and interest tax levy. If the voters pass the referendum, it will allow the Board of Education to issue up to $140 million in school building bonds that coincide with the retirement of its existing debt to generate funding for capital improvements without increasing the bond and interest property tax levy.

The problem is, “this will not change your bond and interest tax levy” is an empty promise. Bonds MUST be paid, with NO LIMIT as to rate or amount taxpayers can be charged. In other words, THERE IS NO TAX CAP ON BONDED DEBT. The taxpayers are voting on a blank check that will come directly out of property taxes.

There are many other problems with this referendum:

  • Why demolish and rebuild 2 schools when enrollment has dropped significantly, and will continue to decline (projected loss of almost 700 students in the next 5 years!) and school buildings should really be eliminated?
  • The wording is so vague, nothing must be done and anything can be done, including that 2nd artificial turf field that is in the “Athletic Fields Redevelopment Plan” if they so choose.
  • This referendum is for $140 million in bonds, with unspecified interest. The School Board is promising they will not raise the amount of taxes going toward debt (of course they raise operational expenses by the maximum every year—5% or the cost of inflation, whichever is less, and get ready for a whopping increase next year!), but if the interest rates are higher than on the bonds we currently are paying off, they would either have to bond for less or charge more in taxes to cover the interest. Which do you think they’ll do?
  • What about soaring construction costs? What will be done if construction is deemed too expensive? Where will the money be used? “Improve its other school facilities” leaves endless possibilities for $140 million.
  • We are in a recession, perhaps headed toward a depression—do we need this now?
  • Gas prices, food prices, housing prices, etc. are all up, hurting families—why add to the burden? They don’t make it obvious that your property taxes would GO DOWN by hundreds or thousands of dollars (depending on home value) if this referendum is voted down. The school district currently takes 68.1% of your property taxes, of which 10.8% goes to paying debt ($9,001,485 of the $83,276,654 in total property taxes collected in 2022). To get a rough idea of what this referendum might cost you if approved (actual cost varies in relation to relative property value increases/decreases year to year), multiply the total property taxes you paid this year by .0735, the 7.35% of your tax bill going toward school debt service.
  • NOTE WELL: If this referendum fails to pass, your property taxes will go DOWN. This referendum is really about a tax INCREASE over the lower taxes you will be charged when the last of the current bonds are paid in 2026.
  • The Batavia School Board has a history of broken promises. Recall the 2007, $75 million referendum that they promised, “would not increase the property tax rate”, until it did just 4 years later, increasing their tax extension 11.5% that year, because there is NO LIMIT on tax increases when it comes to bond debt. Then instead of making good on their promise and cutting taxes with the windfall from the Premium Outlets Mall, they rolled those millions into their budget, thumbing their noses at the many taxpayers who attended meetings and wrote to the Board, with the former Superintendent calling us taxpayers, “fools”.

Does the school district need maintenance on the current buildings? Yes. The 2023 budget sets $2.7 million/yr for roofs, HVAC, paving, etc. Those regular expenses have been planned out years in advance and millions of dollars are set aside for them annually. Besides, the school board raises its budget and corresponding tax levy BY THE MAXIMUM ALLOWED BY LAW EVERY SINGLE YEAR (5% or the cost of inflation, whichever is less), so already they should have plenty of tax dollars to meet ordinary needs. This referendum would merely allow them to tax you more beyond the tax cap.

What about improvements like security that were unforeseen years ago (before school shootings) that fall outside of the scope of the ordinary Capital Projects Fund? An argument may be made for a limited, much, much smaller bond referendum, but that suggestion for an “Option D”—to bond a much smaller amount for security and special ed improvements while also reducing the tax burden significantly—would not be entertained by the district.

For all of these reasons and more, we urge you to vote “No” to this $140 million referendum.

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