Northbrook Schools To Cut Teachers After Tax Referendum Fails

NORTHFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — In north suburban Northbrook, voters have rejected a tax hike that would have helped close a $1 million budget hole.

As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, a referendum to increase the tax rate for West Northfield Elementary School District 31 was rejected by a 2-to-1 margin on Tuesday.

As a result, life as District 31 students know it is about to change.

“We will be decreasing the number of classroom teachers, we will be eliminating extra- and co-curricular activities at the elementary level and at least half of those at the middle school level,” District 31 Supt. Alexandra Nicholson said.

Nicholoson said the moves are a necessity to close a $1 million budget hole after voters rejected a tax increase.

But what really got the small, two-school district into financial trouble was nearby Allstate insurance.

Allstate headquarters is in District 31’s taxing area. After Allstate won two property tax appeals, the district was forced to pay Allstate a tax refund totaling $2.3 million so far.

“Now that the taxpayers have said no and that Allstate, trying to work with them, have said that they won’t help us by donating the money back or foregoing the refund that we’re going to have to owe, that’s going to take away programs away from out students,” Nicholson said.

But the district’s fiscal problem could get worse.

Allstate won that initial $2.3 million tax appeal for 1992 through 2003. But it also won another $3.3 million dollar refund for tax years 2004 to 2006.

Nicholson said the district and Allstate have been haggling in court over over that $3.3 million dollars still owed to the company.

A spokesperson for the Cook County Assessor’s office said both sides recently met with the assessor and agreed to the district’s appraisal of Allstate’s headquarters.

So, there shouldn’t be any more refunds owed to Allstate for upcoming tax years through 2012. But that still doesn’t settle what’s already on the dockets.

Allstate declined CBS 2’s request for an interview, releasing a statement instead which reads; “Allstate desires to pay its fair and equitable share of property taxes. We remain committed to a strong community presence and employ more than 8,000 Allstaters in the Chicagoland area. We are proud of the partnerships and programs we have with local schools and non-profit organizations in Northbrook and across Illinois.”

  • Debbie Schwartz Silver

    So sad that a big company like Allstate had to prey on our small school district. I guess we are NOT in good hands with Allstate.

  • Bob

    Allstate did nothing wrong here. They were overtaxed and got a tax refund, just like what you or I would do if you found out you were overtaxed and entitled to a refund.

    • Ed

      United is based in Chicago, why not vilify them because they haven’t come forward to pay for the district’s short fall? Allstate is doing normal business. If this settlement happens 5 years ago, nobody is the wiser. It is just Allstate getting what is rightfully theirs.

      In addition, the voters decided that they didn’t want to foot the $1m bill, so they apparently don’t care about teachers being laid off and curriculum being cut…

    • Just Thinking

      “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” – Karl Marx

      – I believe this is the quote you were looking for.

    • Margaret

      Bob, please don’t ASSUME what YOU would do is what I would do. While Allstate may have done nothing wrong legally, morally they could take the high Road just as Abbott Labs did when they were under the same situation and they let their schools keep the money!

      • Bonnie Barr Schoenberg

        This is for Jason in response to Margaret’s posting. Jason, if you knew Margaret, you would know that she and her family do give a significant amount of money to the District every year. As the Chairperson of the District’s Education Foundation for the past 3 years, Margaret gave not only significant amounts of money but countless hours of her time raising funds for the school district. In fact, our Foundation recently granted enough money to the District to bring it into the age of technology as we were lagging so far behind. Without the work and financial suuport of Margaret and others like her, our students and teachers would have far less than they have now. Margaret is not one to criticize others without stepping up to the plate to make sure she is “walking the walk.” Now it’s you turn to do the same.

      • Jason

        Take the “high road” yourself and donate directly to the school since you are stating that this is what you would do. How about 5-10% of your income? I believe there is a link on the District’s homepage for direct donations.

        When it is not YOUR money, it is easy for people like you to tell people and companies what they should do with it and to criticize their actions if it does not align with yours.

  • Tim

    Merge your two-school school district with a neighboring one, and you’ll save a $1M easily. The superintendent alone makes $131K/year + benefits. Then you could keep all of your precious programs. Everyone wants it all, but no one wants to pay for it.

  • Heather

    Many of the voters in the community were given false and deceptive information from a group of residents in the area without children in the district. Many of the children in our district come from lower income homes, and many of the families in our district are recent immigrants who are living in the US with green cards and were not able to vote. The families of 31 were are a complete disadvantage. I don’t believe that United’s taxes go to support District 31, so that is why they are not being mentioned. Allstate is doing nothing to work with the school district, and has, in fact, declined to comment on the situation altogether. I have yet to come across another major corporation that has done what Allstate has done to District 31. Although Allstate has done nothing illegal, it is certainly unethical, to say the least. I believe that Allstate’s revenues were up this year, they are not a business in trouble. The families of District 31 do not “want it all.” We don’t want to lose services that are criticial to our children’s education and growth.

  • Bonnie Schoenberg

    While it is true that Allstate has done nothing illegal, a good corporate citizen with very sizable profits (and a CEO making multi-millions in bonuses) would look at this situation and donate at least a portion of its windfall back to the children of District 31. Allstate, which has spent millions of dollars positioning itself as a charitable company and has told us for years that “we are in good hands,” could benefit from the tax write-off the donation would give to it. That way it would still benefit financially, it would look good to its shareholders and the public, and it wouldn’t be destroying the education of hundreds of innocent children. This small school District does not have the large tax base of many other districts. Unfortunately, we don’t have any large shopping malls or other industry to help keep our schools running efficiently. To say that United Airlines should help foot the bill is ridiculous and further exemplifies the pettiness of our opponents. The Board of Education and Administration of District 31 have done everything in their power to operate the schools efficiently. The fact that almost no one ever shows up at a meeting to complain and that very few residents are putting their names on the ballot to join the School Board indicates to me that residents are happy with the way things have been done. It is very easy to sit on your sofa (or your golf cart in Arizona) and criticize the Board or the Administration. But, none of you are offering any help or coming up with any viable alternative sources of funding. If your suggestion is to cut every service, put 40 kids in a class (many of whom speak no English), provide no extra-curricular activities and fire teachers and principals, I hope you are not around in the future when these same children are running the country and making decisions about your social security and Medicare benefits. I challenge every one of you who has criticized and complained that a tax increase isn’t necessary to come up with a better alternative.

    • Rosemary

      I don’t sit on my sofa and heaven only knows that the only time I “get” to Arizona is when I’m watching pre-season baseball. I’d come to more meetings but because I work for a company that is 24/7, I often have to work the evening shift. Please don’t make judgements about those of us who wish we had more time to give to the district. Do you work full time out of the home? I’m guessing you don’t. Maybe I’m wrong. Regarding your comment about my children running the country and making decisions about my social security and medicare benefits. I wish that my social security benefits would come even *close* to the pension benefits earned by teachers. The government takes 6% out of my paycheck for social security. I’m personally on the hook for the rest of my retirement income. How much do district employees have to pay toward retirement benefits? Now that I think about it, maybe this is a place where the district could cut expenses. If my kids have to decide to cut my social security benefits, it will probably be because the money needs to be diverted to public employee pension plans. Do you even read the newspaper?

      • Bonnie Barr Schoenberg

        Rosemary, I want you to know that I have the utmost respect for the fact that you work full-time and I do understand that it prevents you from coming to Board meetings. I also work, have a special needs child with many different appointments, volunteer my time at both schools, have been a member of the Education Foundation Board for many years and raise two daughters. Please know that the comment about “Arizona” was not directed at you but at others who disseminated false information in bad faith. Since I have never met you and don’t know who you are there is no way it could have been directed at you. I know that there are many people out there who are unhappy about the benefits teachers receive. However, most teachers don’t make a fortune. It has always seemed silly to me that professional althletes make millions of dollars annually when the men and women who educate our students make a very small fraction of that amount. I believe that if any employee, including a teacher, is fairly and adequately compensated for the job they do, they will do an overall better job. You may think I am wrong, but I truly believe that our children are the future of our country and if we don’t educate them well the advances we have made in medical treatments, reversing the effects of global warming, and other similar problems will come to a grinding halt. I don’t blame the voters of District 31 for not wanting a tax increase. Times are tough, property values are falling, some businesses (but not Allstate) have declining revenues. Please be assured that the District 31 School Board looked for another option to avoid a tax increase, including asking Allstate to grant back just a portion of the milliions of dollars they took from us. Had Allstate been willing to donate back even a third of what they took from our budget, we would at least have been able to maintain the status quo.

  • Margaret

    In case anyone is unaware, Allstate has a report called the Social Responsibility Report that you can read on-line (see link below) It talks about its generosity and the numerous ways they give back to the community.
    Page 1 opens with
    “At Allstate we care about the world beyond our walls not because its expected. Or required. Not because it scores PR points or wins awards. We do it because who we are as people and where we come from as a company. Our job is to restore lives. We take that to heart”

    Page 65 reads

    “HOMETOWN COMMITMENT” “Allstate takes a special interest in the greater Chicago Area, our hometown for more than 75 years. A vibrant community life, solid infrastructure, good schools and a strong talent pool all contribute to the companies overall success”

    This is GREAT news! I am certain they are in the planning process of fulfilling their Social Responsibility commitment by gifting back the money to District 31!

  • Joel

    Allstate reported $928 million in net income in 2010 – just short of $1 billion (an increase from $854 million in 2009, so not too bad in this economy). We’re talking about a couple million dollars here that could literally change the lives of hundreds of children. So right or wrong, it’s hard to justify Allstate turning their backs on its own community over a fraction of what it pays its executives in bonuses. Allstate paid its top 5 executives $18 million in bonuses in 2010 alone (all financial information is publicly available at Allstate’s refusal to work with the school district to even come up with a compromise demonstrates the greedy corporate giant mentality that is all too sad, especially when it’s at the expense of young children’s education. So while Allstate has the right to fight for what’s theirs, it lost sight of the bigger picture here, and failed to carry out its social responsibility. I could not be more disappointed with the way Allstate handled this situation. But hey, we can all sleep better at night knowing that Allstate has $928 million in the bank instead of $925 million, right?

  • Phil

    A pamphlet dropped on residents the night before the election stated that the moneys were not needed… the inference was that nothing would change. Too bad that well-timed scare tactics work. Our students will be directly impacted. Property values will decrease.

    The silver lining is that Allstate has an opportunity to show that they are the “good hands” people. If they do the right thing, they will earn my business’ and family’s long-term Insurance business.

  • Sue

    Probably nobody from Allstate is reading these comments. Because if they were, the company might be even LESS inclined to collaborate with the District. Or, worse, the company might be MORE inclined to play hardball. No one likes to be accused of unethical behavior.

  • Julie

    Sorry. I just have to ask this. I mean no disrespect and I am not making any judgments. Really, there are WAY too many judgments being made around this whole issue. I grew up in the Woodstock generation, so these kinds of questions come naturally:

    To those of you who believe that Allstate is acting unethically or immorally. Have you checked your own investment portfolios to be certain that you do not own any Allstate stock? Because if you do, you may be profiting from Allstate’s decision regarding its tax obligation.

  • Gayle

    I agree with Margaret and Bonnie. Just because a corporation or person has a RIGHT to do something, doesn’t make it the RIGHT thing to do. Allstate could come to the table and talk with the District and perhaps make a sizable donation to keep existing class sizes, services and programs while plans to make up the shortfall in future years are explored. Now that would be socially responsible, show that Allstate really does care about it’s community and being a responsible corporate citizen, and build goodwill which could translate into future revenue… and get a tax write-off while they’re at it!

  • Pam

    Uh, Rosemary…teachers in the state of Illinois pay 9.4 percent of their annual salary into their pensions. The state of Illinois pays LESS per teacher for the retirement system than it would pay if we received Social Security. Do you understand what I am saying? Do YOU even read the newspaper? What a snide comment for you to make since you clearly don’t know the facts. In other news, your commentary has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand which is that the referendum failed, and largely in part because anonymous people in the District’s community spread misinformation (and by misinformation I mean LIES) and swayed voters and their common sense. I won’t even get started on Allstate…

    • Rosemary

      Pam, I apologize. I was very weary last night of being accused of not caring about children. I had not right to make the heated statement to bonnie. Thank you for calling me on it.

      I don’t think the 9.4% is an apples-to-apples comparison. The Board funds 9.4% to the TRS, as I understand it. My employer funds 6% to FICA, on top of the 6% that I fund. I just compared my social security estimate of what I’ll get when I retire at 65 to that of a teacher in the district who makes roughly what I make. My government funded benefti will be less than half that of the teacher. I don’t begrudge teachers; I think they desrve to be well paid. But I work in substance abuse treatment and have for the past 30+ years. I happen to think that my peers and I are as valuable to society as teachers are.

      Again, I apologize. Bonnie, I hope you scroll down this far. I gotta run, but will try to apologize to you directly.

      • Pam

        Thanks for the comment. Apology accepted and I agree 100% that you are equally as valuable to society. Here’s where I get so frustrated. I do not sit around scrutinizing others and their jobs and lambasting them for what they have. I do not spend time trying to take away the good things that come their way because of their chosen profession. Teacher bashing has gone viral. It’s out of control and unacceptable. As for the 9.4%, that is what I pay directly into the TRS. I do not believe (but I will find out and report back…today!) that the school districts match it equally. If I am wrong, I will update with the correct information.

      • Bonnie Barr Schoenberg

        Rosemary, thank you for your apology and I absolutely accept it. I don’t think anyone would say you are not as valuable to society as teachers. What you do is a commendable and much-needed service. Both groups deserve to be fairly compensated for the services they provide.

      • Pam

        Hi Rosemary,
        Just wanted to let you know that the 9.4% contributed to TRS comes from District 31 salaries and there is no contribution beyond that from the district. The state is required to contribute a percentage to TRS but the percentage is less than 6% (it’s around 4%) This is just for District 31. Other districts do contribute to the TRS for their employees, however those teachers probably have lower salaries, so it evens out. Also, not only do teachers in Illinois not receive social security, they don’t even receive survivor benefits of a spouse!

        Still, none of this has anything to do with the referendum. Just wanted to clear up the question of the pension.

  • Aren

    The referendum failed to pass not because the votes don’t support the district but because it didn’t get out for grass root support and didn’t spell out exactly what they would cut if the referendum doesn’t pass. It was a poorly rund campaign by an inexperienced group of people, including Supt. Alexandra Nicholson. The district was also asking too high of tax increase. A moderate house of $500,000 would have to pay around $800 more. That is a big increase.

  • Pam

    Here’s a response for Tim. Just so you know, merging school districts is not really a viable option at this time…iunless the state were to restructure the entire K-12 system and make mandates (which of course, would reek of BIG GOVERNMENT, which I assume you think is a no-no) Anyway, let’s say hypothetically that D31 were to merge with D30 (a fair hypothesis since the idea has been brought up numerous times)…D30, first and foremost, has to WANT to merge with D31. I’m not sure why they would wan’t to, since they would be taking on the financial burdens that come with the district, but let’s just say their school board unanimously agreed. Once that happened…then the limiting tax rate in D31 would AUTOMATICALLY be raised to that of D30…which incidentally, is the HIGHEST in the Northfield Township. Did you know that? Also, the salaries of D31 would have to be elevated to that of D30. Are you starting to see how “just merging” sounds very convenient but would actually cost the taxpayer in D31 more and without a referendum at that??

  • Brenda T.

    For all you people against district 31 can you please just SHUT UP!!!! You all are so irratating! Why are you ganging up on these poor children! All they did was try hard and learn and you wanna take away all of their oppurtunities? You all are nice people? So do u just to leave them alone and go bother something else? Thanks i appreciate it! OK… thats all!

  • Brenda T.

    And also Allstate back off them! Your not so great, don’t think so fond of yourselves and just give them the god damn money!!!!! Thanks again:)

  • Bonnie

    Now that we know for certain that the money isn’t coming, that programs are being cut, and that we will soon be in dire straights, it is more important than ever for the District’s fundraising organizations to raise money. In this regard, whether you voted in favor of or against the referendum, if you truly care about the children and the District you can get involved by joining the Education Foundation. You don’t need to be a parent. You just need to be a giving person who wants to help raise money to keep programs in place and to help the kids get a better education. We generally have one meeting a month, in the evening. We hold two fundraisers each year and have provided much needed services to Winkelman and Field Schools, including continuing education for teachers, books for the libraries, technology grants, and more. If you want to step up to the plate and do something to help, please feel free to contact me or the District office.

  • Nancy MacRae

    I strongly support our school district, and see the value a strong school district, with a sound financial base, has on us all.

    I wish the community had taken the opportunity to become educated on the true facts regarding the issue. Unfortunately, the opposition circulated inaccurate information that made it too easy for find an excuse to vote no.

    While tax increases are never easy, the simple facts are:

    1–The requested amount was small, representing only about a 6% increase, or only approx. $600 increase on an “average” district home
    2–The amount of taxed District 31 currently pays is the lowest in the area, and would have remained the LOWEST, with the increase
    3–We all benefit from a strong local school district–with our home values direclty tied to a strong school district.
    4–The need for the fund is result of many factors, including the effect the economy has had on lowering all our property values, resulting in less tax revenue going to the schools, the large amount of money a small district had to refund to Allstate as a result of its successful appeals, and ongoing struggle a small district has in keeping up with increasing costs.
    5–This wasn’t a referendum on how teachers are paid, our state’s pensioin system, or any other big-system issue, but rather simply, how our community can support a strong school district in our community

    Unfortunately some hard decisions lie ahead moving forward to continue providing a quality education for our children. I wish the community would COME TOGETHER to find a solution that works for all. One great option would be to publicy ask Allstate to make a charitable contribution back to the school district in its backyard, to demonstrate that “actions speak louder than words.” This forum provides an opportunity for us to come together and be part of the solution!

  • Eleanor

    Don’t blame the “opposition” because they were better organized. The district and the small group of rebel rousers who tried to threaten residents into voting “yes” did a horrible job. The harrassment and threats came across as belittling and selfish. Not an effective campaign at all.

    Next time, hire a professional to get out the message.

  • Jane

    Everyone, please go to this website and just see for yourself how horribly overpaid the superintendent, principles and teachers are in District 31. Perhaps they should opt for a pay cut to help pay the tax bill rather than ask us to pony up. Frankly, the grossly over inflated salaries are absolutely mind boggling.

  • heather

    Wow, Eleanor. I am totally speechless. What a hurtful, degrading comment directed towards parents who just want the best for their children. I agree with Nancy that it is now time to come together and look at who this is all about… the children. It takes a village to raise a child. I would love to see our village embrace our children. Eleanor, why don’t you come to my house and explain to my 5 year old why her education is not a priority for you or the “opposition”. I am sure she would love to hear your reasons.

  • heather

    Jane, are you aware of how your property value is connected to the quality of the schools in your district?? If we want good teachers, we need to pay them, or they will leave to work in a higher paying district. Bad teachers= low achieving school= lower property values. Maybe you should move to a district where teachers are paid less… if you can even sell your house now.

  • Jane

    Heather, just as one for instance – you don’t think $102,000 salary for a gym teacher is a bit much??????????

  • Pam

    Jane…it’s “PRINCIPAL”…not PRINCIPLE. Maybe you had some grossly underpaid teachers in your time?

  • Pam

    Jane, the gym teacher you are referring to has 27 years of experience and a PhD. It is very normal (even if you disagree) for teachers to be paid for their years of service AND their level of education. At any rate, this referendum has nothing to do with teacher salaries. It has to do with the lack of funding coming in from the tax base of the community.

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