The Examiner U-46 News Feed
CAC committee makes U-46 board presentation
By Seth Hancock
The finance committee of School District U-46’s Citizen’s Advisory Council (CAC) gave an update to the Board of Education at its meeting on Monday, June 3.
Dan Blake, the committee’s chair, provided the update.
“What we were asked to look at this year was to build a comprehensive maintenance cost model for all the schools in the district… understanding that we are going to be going into a process of some major facilities studies over the next couple of years,” Blake said. “And what we wanted to try to get together was to consider everything about the ongoing maintenance costs with the facilities and things like roofs that had not been replaced and portions of HVAC systems that have not been replaces and things along those lines.”
Blake added: “It was all about how to evaluate the financial aspects of all those things and bring them together into a comprehensive model.”
No official report was given to the board Blake said because the work “takes a while.” He said the committee spent time with the district’s financial staff gathering data and have “built an [Excel] spreadsheet from hell.”
The spreadsheet is complex and evolving according to Blake.
U-46 is working with an architect on a facilities study to look at deferred maintenance, strategic repairs versus systems replacements and fitness and adequacy of space at district buildings.
Blake said the goal for the comprehensive maintenance cost model is to “align with the architectural work and the facilities study that the district is going to do.”
The committee’s work will remain the same in the upcoming year according to Blake who said the facilities study, which is expected to start soon, is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.
On this year’s findings, Blake said: “We did not make it far enough to draw any conclusions. We saw some preliminary data that pointed to some of the older schools are not necessarily the worst because a lot of their strategic systems have been replaced, and some of the ones in that next notch down where that hasn’t been the case they may be a little worse.”
Blake said the findings of the facilities study will focus on requirements for career pathways, the possibility of moving sixth grade from elementary schools to middle schools, solutions for underutilized and overutilized schools and looking at expansion of kindergarten into more spaces.
Regarding underutilized schools, Blake said most of those buildings are on the east side of the district.
“A lot of that’s related to the fact that people like myself have kids that are almost out of school and we haven’t sold our houses yet in the Bartlett area and those things,” Blake said. “So, that is a little bit of a special demographic circumstance that typical demographic statistics would not reflect. I think we may want to think about getting some help in trying to figure out when that real estate is going to start to turn over.”
Blake added: “Otherwise, we run the risk of doing some things and moving some things around and then three years later needing that space because the real estate starts to turn over.”
Board members Sue Kerr and Melissa Owens, both from Bartlett, suggested they’ve seen indicators of turnover in their neighborhoods. However, recently released data and trends from the state government suggest that Illinois as a whole and the area encompassing U-46 can likely expect population declines for the foreseeable future.
According to data released in April by the U.S. Census Bureau, Illinois saw its fifth straight year of worsening population loss in 2018 and for the first time saw population losses in all metropolitan areas with domestic migration by far being the leading factor. For the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan area, which includes U-46, it was the fourth straight year of population loss which included 83,891 residents leaving to domestic migration.
The largest group leaving the state according to the data are residents aged 25 to 54, the prime working ages.
Surveys have shown that high taxes have been a major factor in residents leaving the state, and a poor job market has also contributed. Data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the current employment survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Illinois ranked 46th in the nation for private sector job growth in 2018, and data from the IRS has shown that 57 percent of residents leaving Illinois since 2006 has been because of a poor labor market.
Recently, the state increased the personal income tax rate by 32 percent and the corporate tax rate by 33.3 percent to fund the new so-called “evidence-based” school funding formula.
The General Assembly recently approved 21 total new tax or fee hikes, including a doubling of the gas tax which will start next month, which was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Pritzker and legislators are proposing further tax hikes including more income tax increases through an amendment to the state’s Constitution to allow for a progressive tax over a flat tax, which will need voter approval.