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Grosso Will Comment Monday on School District Enrollment Projection Numbers

School District 304 Board President Mark Grosso will have an on-camera comment regarding the "Enrollmentgate" questions raised by TaxFACTS member Bob McQuillan.

TaxFACTS members are calling it "Enrollmentgate."

School Board members are calling it a "gotcha moment" that distracts from the real challenges facing the district at this time.

What's at issue is whether Geneva School District 304 officials knowingly released hyped-up enrollment projection numbers prior to the 2007 referendum that approved construction of two new Geneva schools.

That $79 million referendum passed by 100 votes—2,495 "yes" votes to 2,395 "no" votes.

School Board President Mark Grosso said Wednesday evening that he would make some sort of statement at Monday night's School Board meeting regarding accusations made by TaxFACT leader Bob McQuillan at the April 9 board meeting.

During the public comment part of that meeting, McQuillan had asked why enrollment projections made by consulting demographer John Kasarda were lower than the numbers presented on the School District website and on pro-referendum leaflets distributed to the public prior to the April 17, 2007, referendum.

"I’m going to look into it," Grosso said by phone Wednesday. "I will have some type of statement or response at the board meeting Monday night."

Grosso had previously declined to comment, in an e-mail sent to McQuillan on April 10.

"I have determined that any response to your question at last night’s board meeting would not be a productive use of the district’s time," Grosso's e-mail said. "The 2006 Kasarda report you referenced is 5 years old, and I see no benefit to debating its contents at this time."

TaxFACTS members have argued that it does, primarily as a matter of public trust in the information the School District provides the public.

Using the projected 2011 school year as an example, the projected enrollment numbers presented on the School District's website were about 17 percent higher than the "Series B" projections in the Kasarda report, according to School District documents.

Kasarda's projections for the 2011-12 "B" range were 6,199. The numbers presented to the public were 7,276.

The enrollment projection numbers were discussed at the School Board's annual "retreat" meeting on March 17 held here in Geneva at the district offices. The context of the discussion was a November 2011 enrollment-projection report by Kasarda, who had also completed the 2006 enrollment report.

When contacted by phone, School Board member Matt Henry said the TaxFACTS scrutiny was "another gotcha moment" that takes focus from the more-important, immediate and practical issue of what to do about paying down the existing debt.

Henry was not a board member when the referendum was held in April 2007.

"I didn’t vote for the referendum, but it went through," he said. "(The enrollment projection numbers) plus or minus probably wouldn’t have made a difference. What we’re trying to do as a School Board is pay down the debt that we are saddled with right now as quickly as possible."

 

 

 

Ken S April 19, 2012 at 06:42 PM
If the board is truly interested in reducing debt I hope they will remember that during the upcoming teacher contract negotiations. They also need to consider that the local school districts may be responsible for the pensions of the staff in the near future if the state follows through on that idea.
G.Ryan April 19, 2012 at 10:12 PM
If this establishment was really truly interested in reducing their debt they would not have allowed it too occur in the first place. Especially with their ploy in manipulating the enrollment numbers. Folks, this is not their objective. They have no proactive plans to reduce this debt or stop spending if they did our taxes would not have been increased this year now would they? They have failed in their positions as Board members and with this latest transaction they need to resign.
Gary April 19, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I think the board has an opportunity here to rebuild a damaged relationship with the community. I just hope Mr. Grosso's statement on Monday night goes beyond "nobody could foresee the housing collapse, blah, blah..." The community needs a full explanation of why the board apparently increased the projections of the professional consultant. Particularly damning, if true, was the allegation that the board presented their own inflated projections as the consultant's 'middle road' projections. This is the issue that really needs to be addressed if trust is to be restored. Trivializing it as a 'gotcha moment' isn't going to fly.
Karl Brubaker April 19, 2012 at 11:57 PM
The propaganda put out by people with something to gain by new buildings should be illegal. D303, engineers, builders and a few zealous parents put out videos and flyers with exaggerated statements and "dooms day" scenarios. There is nothing wrong with Thompson Middle School. Davis is overcrowded? Well sure, because Richmond continually failed AYP and students transferred to Davis. It's all a big fat lie by people with a hidden agenda. Thankfully the people of D303 voted down the $114 million referendum and taxes have gone down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKofP3MhlFk Same thing with the ridiculous library expansion. Geneva residents were lied to and now it's time to pay-up. Good luck.
Alberto Principe April 20, 2012 at 01:00 PM
"School Board members are calling it a "gotcha moment" that distracts from the real challenges facing the district at this time." Does this sound ridiculous to anyone else? Another example of a statement this ignorant would be; "Sorry we killed the parents but lets focus on the real problem of taking care of their orphans." Whenever my son tries to pull a "fast one" on me I tell him; "Why don't you talk to me like I am intelligent so that I can talk to you like are not an idiot?" Time to admit that you made a mistake. Pride can be a horrible thing to witness in the decision making process, especially when it affects everyone living in Geneva. Close the school(s) not needed, save some money and get us out of the debt hole you placed us in
John S April 20, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Ken- What are you suggesting a pay cut! The Geneva teachers are basically right in the middle when you look at all of the districts in Illinois. In fact, I think Geneva taxpayer is getting a great deal for the amount spent per child. If anything, they are underpaid. As a parent of two students in the district, I think we are getting a good deal.
Ken S April 20, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Not a pay cut but the increases need to be limited given the econmic situation. However, the teachers should not have to be the only ones sacrificing. The administration should look at the pay and benefits for all of the employees. There are some things that I feel should be eliminated such as the ability to carry over a seemingly endless number of sick days so someone can retire a year early. I also have children in the district so I want to have teachers who are glad to go to work and not mad because they had a pay cut. However, I think most teacher unions need a dose of reality in how the private sector works without guaranteed raises just because you have been there a long time.
ken loebel April 20, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I can't stress enough the short window remaining to refinance debt to historic low rates and to reduce debt to an extreme managemable level now, before marketforces make it too late.
ken loebel April 20, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Spain is in trouble that could impact the Euro and US economy - don't take that from me - take that from the economists around the world that have published such articles. What does this have to do with Geneva Schools? The time is quickly coming when these artificially low rates will begin to be driven my market forces that the Treasury and Federal Reserve will no longer be able to manipulate. Currently, the low rates are being manipulated by the Federal Reserve buying the US debt from the treasury - a smoke and mirrors economy, if you will... When market forces return, anyone who did not manage their debts during this brief reprive- will potentially find themselves in an environment where obtaining financing will not be as easy, and may not be feasible or cost effective.
ken loebel April 20, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Why? With nearly all states operating at deficits, the US at its highest levels of debt in history, and global economies slogging along, everyone will be looking for funding - this allows investors to require higher rates of interest to buy the debt - and then the rates begin to rise. With globalforces requiring financing, this gloabla issue comes back to impact local economies. With anticipated sloggish growth at best for the near term, continued low housing prices due to 2-3 year supply of houses in foreclosure or short sales, and decreased property taxes anticipated for the extended mid-term, the taxing base will be stressed. As such, the prudent thing to do is to manage the debt immediately. All concerns about cost management are legitimate, and need ongoing debate and management. The debt needs immedaite attention... this is a crisis if left alone - it will not self repair, and the news on Greece, Italy, Spain, and the Euro are small in comparison to what news could look like for us if we ignore these warning signals and go on with business as usual. These are not usual times, and it requires diligent debt reduction, cost management, and alternative approaches to business and government. Debt reduction now can put our school district in aposition to make plans that prepare kids, rather than react to economic forces continuously. It is time to take the medicine, and do whatever it takes to reduce debt to the lowest possible levels, before rates rise.
Fred Cregier April 20, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Mr. Grosso has always appeared to me as an honest and concerned member of the School Board. If he honestly and directly explains what happened in apparently puffing the enrollment figures back in 2007 (before he was even on the board) it would go a long way toward restoring trust in our Board's actions. Trying to sweep this under the table will only increase the deep concerns many of us have about the dependability of Board forecasts and actions in the future. Please be simple and firmly honest about your explanation, Mr. Grosso, and then do some sincere revelations to the public on HOW the Board will manage to minimize the current costs in order to offset the great increases in taxation that will otherwise follow. We, taxpayers of Geneva, deserve to know these members are finally and truly working down our costs, in order to dig us out from a huge overbulding program. For one thing, reconfigure the non-teaching staffs to reduce overhead costs by eliminating unneeded staffing. It seems this has been an untouchable area! What are you all afraid of? Profitable companies are forced to reduce costs in order to stay in business. Why can't our Board operate with similar authority in this regard? Fred Cregier
Nate April 20, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Geneva SD304: Number of Full Time Teachers/Admin: 431 Number Exceeding 100K Salary: 60 Avg. Salary: $74,082.06 Avg. Additional Benefits: $ 8,515.26 St. Charles SD303: Number of Full Time Teachers/Admin: 1006, Number Exceeding 100K: 30, Avg. Salary: $64,126.65 Avg. Additional Benefits: $6,689.62 Information from ISBE website Administrator and Teacher Salary and Benefits Lookup (Analysis includes only full time employees)
Bob McQuillan April 20, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Ken, you make great points and here is another one about the 2007 referendum that most people don't know. Because the district would have surpassed the maximum debt allowable by law (13.8% of the district's EAV) if they issued the approved $79,900,000 in bonds, they had to issue premium bonds. Basically they had to refinance current debt in order to take on new debt. The problem is that current debt of @ $38 million was refinanced with non-callable bonds at a 9% rate. That means that the district can not refinance that debt and will be force to keep those premium bonds until 2027. What does this all mean .... the $79 million in new bonds that the community thought they were approving actually turned out to be over $112 million. Check it out on page 11 of the following link http://www.genevataxfacts.org/attachments/article/9/2007%20Bond%20Issue.pdf The district can put any spin on it that they want but bond issues don't lie. Would you have voted for the 2007 referendum if you knew it was for $112,000,000 instead of $79,000,000?
Rick Anderson April 21, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Only 100 votes passed the referendum (2% variance). Canidates would have called for a recount and battled it out in court. Perhaps the focus should be on a law mandating that all referendums should be acted on when there is a prevailing majority...like 60/40. Tthe vote tally as it was merited more public debate. Lets not repeat this again.
G.Ryan April 22, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Dear Mr. Anderson, Great point. I also heard the referendum was entered in the primary voting agenda not the general is this true? Thanks

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