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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Geneva Unit District 304 School Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married, three children.
Occupation: Sales and engineering of Investment software for bond fund managers and credit analysts. I specialize in municipal debt credit analysis and portfolio management.
Education: MBA and business information systems from Drake University, 1985
Civic involvement: Candidate did not respond.
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers of district 304, holding the line on tax rates balanced with continued excellence in education. A 30% increase in tax rates while enrollment has been the same over the past 5 years demands a review.
Key Issue 2
Restructuring our compensation strategy to reward based on results, not on seniority or continued education alone. This was a key planning point that came out of the recent contract renewal, and we have time to get it right before the 2015 contract negotiations take place.
Key Issue 3
A long term plan for debt restructuring.
What do you think about the shift to the common core standards? How big a role do you think the board of education should play in setting the curriculum for students and what ideas do you have for changes to the current curriculum?
The common core standards have merit. The lack of foundational knowledge complaint from both colleges and businesses needed to be addressed. The core standards provide guidance, based on informed research, with age-specific goals for content/skill requirements that will equip students to compete globally. The board's role is to encourage and support the administration in creating a curriculum that meets these standards, and stress these are minimums to be enhanced with additional content to challenge our Geneva students. Core does not imply "only" and our students and teachers have proven we perform near the top of the nation in education achievements. I've talked to a few teachers who see implementation challenges. For example, the kindergarten common core adds content and skill practice time, so prioritize and revamp other curriculum to keep a half-day plan or move to a full day for K students? Asking for input from teachers, perhaps through online forums or emails, with questions such as: what's working so far? challenges?, improvements?, what board action would you suggest to streamline or more cost-effectively meet the common core standards?
How satisfied are you that your district is preparing students for the next stage in their lives, whether it be from elementary into high school or high school into college or full-time employment? What changes, if any, do you think need to be made?
Geneva has an excellent reputation for high achievement and placement of our students at all grade levels. We need to retain that performance on a leaner budget. Careful planning for new technology to keep up with workplace changes and how we will work in the future (remotely, distributed, social networking) needs to be funded with savings found in eliminating dated education methods or those no longer cost-effective. Teachers are the best ones to make these recommendations and we should reward teachers that make cost saving suggestions.
What budget issues will your district have to confront and what measures do you support to address them? If you believe cuts are necessary, what programs and expenses should be reduced or eliminated? On the income side, do you support any tax increases?
Construction & enrollment stopped growing just as we built 2 new elementary buildings in district 304. We now face high debt service payments, excess capacity without growth in numbers of students nor the new construction property tax revenue to cover the debt payment and added utilities. The result has been a 30% tax increase over the past 5 years on existing homes. We need to reduce operations/maintentance and transportation - two areas residents have suggested the board complete a thorough review for savings, but such studies have not been done. We also need recommendations from staff for where they could cut 10% from budgets - not that the board would or should cut 10%, but some contingency planning. I want input from those closest to the spending cost/benefit to help the board and administration set priorities in partnership rather than forcing cuts top-down. One cost savings is to tear down a 90 year old building to save $70,000 per year, and avoid the $2million repair cost, renovations to make the building usable for students is nearly $16 million, which is close the the cost of building new. I don't support new taxes, we have had 30% increase in our tax bills with flat enrollment so its time to make our budget fit our needs and ability to pay. Higher taxes hurt property values, lower values reduce EAV and raises tax rates - without a break in that circle, we face a long term problem. We need to tighten budgets until 2017, when the debt service starts to come back down as debt is repaid - then review where enrollment and needs are projected to be for setting future budgets, capital spending and tax levies.
As contract talks come up with various school employee groups, do you believe the district should ask for concessions from its employees, expect employee costs to stay about the same as they are now or provide increases in pay or benefits?
Generous increases were set in the 3 year contract ending in 2012. Increases were set using much rosier revenue projections than what actually happened to home values, salaries and unemployment for taxpayers. Many in the community lost their jobs or faced no raises, including the district administration staff, and the teachers must share that hardship. We all are hopeful 2013-2015 will be better, but economic projections have low interest rates, home values and unemployment taking a few more years to fully recover - some even say home values may take 10 years to return to pre-2008 levels because of the backlog of short sales and foreclosures. In Geneva, we just finalized terms that kept pay about the same with a slight increase in years 2 & 3. I agree with the terms that were reached and the goals the board suggested for phase out of the out-dated pension mechanism, with final year pay boosts solely for pension benefit boosts. Also a salary review committee was formed to provide guidance on whether a performance results pay system would be better than a seniority and continuing education achievements system.
If your district had a superintendent or other administrator nearing retirement, would you support a substantial increase in his or her pay to help boost pension benefits? Why or why not?
No. Salary "spiking" is not necessary to attract administration and is not a prudent use of the taxpayers money - the key responsibility of a board member.