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Letter to the Wilmette School Board: Don’t Raise Our Taxes!

From: Kathleen Myalls <myalls@sbcglobal.net>
To: steenm@wilmette39.org;panzicaf@wilmette39.org;schaffa@wilmette39.org;kearneyt@wilmette39.org;cesaretj@wilmette39.org; fabesl@wilmette39.org;sternwee@wilmette39.org;lechnerr@wilmette39.org
Cc:
Sent: Thursday, October 26, 2017 2:42 PM
Subject: Tax Levy

Dear Members of the Wilmette District 39 School Board;

 

 I write this letter to ask you not to increase the tax levy – and, by association, our taxes – again this year. 

 

Over the last 10 years, Wilmette property values fell substantially, and, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, are still down 5.4% from the 2007 high.  

 

 Despite this, our property taxes have increased year over year, and Illinois now has the 2nd-highest property taxes in the country. Illinois residents face a 33% increase in income taxes in the coming year. This is on top of the rapidly escalating property taxes we pay, which have increased from about 1.3% of our home’s value to 2.5%, almost double relative to our homes’ values.

 

 It is no secret that Illinois is losing residents at a rate of approximately 1 every 5 minutes, and higher income earners are leaving at greater rates. Homes in Wilmette are on the market longer than they ever have been, because buyers see the numbers and understand that they pay for their home twice over the life of the average 30-year loan: once for the mortgage, and again through property taxes. Sellers are not even recouping what they paid for their homes in the last 7-10 years, let alone seeing any return on that investment. 

 

 The school board cannot alone reign in property taxes to a more manageable level, but the school board can tell its residents now that the board understands the burden we face in this state, and that we will, at least for this one year, get a slight reprieve. 

 

 It is not necessary to spend at D39 levels to obtain the best student outcomes. Washington Academy, in Rockford, has 30% of its students on subsidized meals, spends almost $2700 less per student than we do (and a slightly higher percentage of their spending is instructional as opposed to administrative), has a smaller average class size (20 vs. 24), but is ranked 7th in the state for the best D39 School.  

 

 This is not an anomaly. Naperville (#10 school in state is in the district) spends a little less per student, but pays its teachers more (because it pays the administrators less), and has smaller class size (23 v. 24).

 

 Deerfield: (#15 school is in this district): spends $1200 more per student, but 64% of that (vs. 60% for Wilmette) goes to instructional as opposed to administrative spending. The classes are smaller (20 vs. 24). Teachers and administrators are paid less than ours.

 

 Lisbon (#3 school) spends $9,226 per student (!!), and has a class size of 12. Teacher retention is at 94% despite the average salary being less than 50% of Wilmette teachers.

 

 Interestingly, according to at least one source I found, Wilmette teachers – despite being paid more than any of these districts except Naperville – have by far the lowest attendance rate, with only 68% of teachers absent 10 days or less. Compare that to Rockford (77%), Lisbon (100%)(!!), Naperville (98%) (apparently appreciative of that higher salary), and Deerfield (74%). Why is teacher absenteeism so high??? Are they held to account for this?

 

 In sum, despite its highest school being 28th, Wilmette spends more per student than all but one of these districts, pays its teachers more than all but one (different)  district, pays its administrators WAY more than all other districts, has the largest class size, and the lowest teacher attendance rates.

 

 Of course the cost of living in Rockford and Lisbon is far below the cost of living in Wilmette, but the same is not true of Naperville or Deerfield, and the differences in cost of living do not account entirely for the difference in spending.

 

 If despite these facts, the board will elect to proceed with the increase, I call on the district to identify specifically the reasons we must increase the budget, especially in light of the fact that the school board anticipated a property tax freeze and pension pickup, neither of which has happened.

 

 The school district’s spending has far outstripped inflation, with no appreciable improvement in student outcome (but significant improvement in teacher and administrator salaries, which also (why??) outstripped inflation). I remind you that Wilmette residents – the ones paying 95%+ of the school district costs – have not been so fortunate, as our incomes have not even kept pace with inflation, let alone exceeded it.

 

 Please reconsider your proposed increase.

 Kathy Myalls
Wilmette Resident