From a series received via email:
I am still in the Halloween spirit so I am going to tell you a scary story about a town called Oswego.
In 2006, Oswego was one of the fastest growing school districts in the state. They assumed their growth rate would continue and planned to build 14 schools between 2008 and 2013. Their Assistant Superintendent of Finance assured taxpayers that, if they approved a $450,000,000 referendum, their tax rate would not increase. Why $450,000,000? According to the Assistant Superintendent of Finance, it was the “maximum range”. Remember, this is a scary story. We don’t question why the babysitter stays in the house with the killer so we won’t question why taxpayers would vote for such nonsense! Actually, they believed their Finance Superintendent when he told them that growth in local property values and some debt restructuring would make a tax increase unnecessary.
The referendum passed but the Assistant Superintendent had to get special permission from the Illinois General Assembly to issue the bonds because their debt was already dangerously close to the legal limit. This probably would have been good information for the taxpayers prior to voting on the referendum but he must have forgotten to tell them about that part.
I will spare the gory details but, by the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the district was operating with a $5,500,000 shortfall because home values fell and their growth rate slowed. This resulted in property tax rates rising 56%, from 5.06 to 7.88, the highest in Kane County!
Obviously, Oswego’s situation is much scarier than ours. I am not insinuating that our tax rates could rise as much as theirs did. However, there are morals to be learned from Oswego’s story. First, it is not wise to assume the current economic environment will remain stable. Second, your elected and appointed officials don’t always tell you the whole truth.
You may be wondering what happened to the Assistant Superintendent of Finance who led Oswego down this path? In 2009, he left Oswego to accept the position of Assistant Superintendent of Finance… in Batavia! Aaahhhhh!!!
In all fairness to Dr. Monn we only know what we read in the paper. Oswego’s board operates a little differently than Batavia’s so there may be parts of the story that we are missing. However, it is still difficult for me to trust someone who’s leadership seems to have failed an entire community.
Links to related news stories can be found below.
My apologies if this story gives you nightmares.
For the rest of the email series, click here.