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Cullen to School Board: It's Time for a Hard Look at Geneva's Tax Burden, By the Numbers

Citizen James Cullen offers a challenging "by the numbers" look at the financial burdens facing present and future Geneva homeowners.

Standing in front of the Board of Education on Monday night, citizen James Cullen held up page after page of white 8.5-by-11 paper, each with a hand-printed number on it, to illustrate the financial situation facing property owners in Geneva.

By doing so, Cullen offered his 2 cents, pleading for board action to lower the School District 304 debt and the burden on the average Joe and Jane homeowner.

Some of Cullen's numbers included:

17 percent increase—The hike the Cullen family saw year-over-year when they opened their 2012 property tax bill.

Minus 10 percent—Cullen said that's the Federal Reserve's estimate of median income decrease for Americans during the past 10 years.

Pensions represent "the huge problem ahead," Cullen said, and he used more numbers to say why full-scale reform is needed to "help the kids" once those students become adults.

12—The average age of School District 304 students.

13—years later, those students become adults.

16—years from now, those 12-year-olds will be buying a home, perhaps in Geneva. "I hope they can afford the property tax," Cullen said.

Cullen concluded with numbers associated with politics.

536 people work in Washington, D.C.—That includes 435 voting members of the House of Representatives, 100 U.S. senators and one president. "We pay a lot of attention to them," Cullen said.

7 members—of the Geneva School Board.

Cullen commended the School Board members for their service to the community, the countless hours they spend in that volunteer effort and the difficulty of the decisions they face.

"To my surprise—and I’m typical, my wife and I—our property tax exceeds substantially the income tax we pay to Washington and state of Illinois," he said.

4—The number of School Board seats up for election in April, 2013.

Cullen said he valued his elementary school education, where he learned many important values, such as the Golden Rule, hard work, fairness and justice.

He signed off with a final number.

65—"The average number of years our fine students in Geneva will be living afer they leave the School District, living with the financial burden of the decisions you folks make, with pensions particularly," he said.

John R July 26, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Angela, I don't think anyone is using Mr. McQuillan as a punching bag. I also don't think he minds one bit when he's questioned or challenged. It gives him an opportunity to once again share his ideas and fears. You might not realize it but he is the number one contributor to the patch. The concerns that have been voiced over some of the ideas floated are valid and desearve just as much consideration as the TaxFacts fears. I'm very concerned about what might happen if TaxFacts gains control of the Board come April. What would a McQuillan/Kane/Ellis/Ryan board implement? It's a fair question. What would have to be cut if the McQuillan 5 5 5 plan was implemented? My son will be starting kindergarten fall 2014. He will be in the eye of the plan. Should I consider moving out of the district. Most of you have already gotten your kids through the school system. But mine is just starting. I've said it many times. Your concerns are valid but so are mine. John Rice
Bob McQuillan July 27, 2012 at 02:16 AM
John What does it matter if I'm the #1 poster on the patch or not? I have said from the beginning, the 5-5-5 plan may not be right. I have it on video so I'm not back pedaling as you suggested before. Where is the discussion on any plan to stop the increases? There has been none. So you can sleep, I have no plans to run for the Geneva School Board in 2013. No one has been personally attacked in any discussion about the school district. Even Jeff Ward's attacks on GenevaTaxFACTs are merit less. The current & past school boards have made bad financial decisions, that isn't an opinion that is fact. No individual on the current board has been attacked and no one should believe any of them have been. The current board has shown signs that they understand the financial issues that we face. Still the administration in their proposed 2012-13 school budget has called for a 1.5% tax levy increase. That will result in a $3 million dollar surplus in the education fund. There is no need for a levy increase because any shortfall in the transportation and operation & maintenance funds can be covered by the reserves in those funds. If the board really has the best interests of the taxpayers in mind, they will approve a budget prior to September 30th and commit to the taxpayers that they will not vote for a tax levy increase in December. Even with no levy increase, our school taxes will increase next year because of the increase in debt service repayment. We don't need to be hit twice.
Jack July 27, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Where is the correlation between money spent and quality of the educational experience? If one puts quality first, kids should attend the best private school available. If one is more concerned about cost, then a great deal more attention must be paid to the behavior of the local school board than Geneva property owners have been paying.
Jim July 27, 2012 at 12:20 PM
John, you sound like a good parent. We all want what's best for our kids. It seems like yesterday that my son was a kindergartner and now he's entering the workforce. It pains me to tell him he'd have to be crazy to consider buying a house in Geneva - for the very reasons the Mr. Cullen illustrated so clearly. The tax burden here will take ever-increasing bites out of your income, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down. So John, as a good father, realize that your kindergartener will grow up before you know it and the decisions we make today will sit squarely on his shoulders when he's trying to get started in the world on his own.
Angela Kane July 27, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Well, interesting discussion. Just a few observations since my name has been inserted by others in the postings. First, I ran for school board years ago and don't have any plans to run again. Not going to announce an election platform because I'm not running. Could we cut some expenses? Any multi-million dollar organization can. In conversations with people who work in other districts (who have cut)I see the differences. There are lots of little things that add up to big dollars. I also think others have proposed some cuts (like the every 2 year new bus thing) that make good common sense. Mary Lu--you know me and know my love of education. I think there are always going to be people who might be bitter about the money they send government--that doesn't necessarily mean they want a ZERO figure to go to schools or hate kids. Sometimes people say things out of frustration--and it doesn't mean that's how they feel deep down. And John R--OH COME ON--Bob McQ has been the punching bag (and specifically named) by tons of people on this site and elsewhere. He's had the courage to stand up WITH FACTS and FIGURES and ask questions. Until he and like minded people were public with their concerns the school board and administration did as they pleased. Remember the saying: "Fresh air is the greatest disinfectant." Public scrutiny has led to public knowledge and perhaps some change in our spending policies. Bob has "street cred" or "gravitas" on this issue. Kudos Bob.

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