Michael Burns: Candidate profile
Name: Michael Burns
City: Long Grove
Office sought: Kildeer-Countryside District 96 Board of Education Member
Family: Married (Suzanne), 2 children (Lauren, 20 and Braden, 15, both D96 graduates)
Occupation: Retired; spent 11 years in commercial lending and treasury management before becoming a full-time stay-at-home parent
Education: BA in Economics, Cornell University, 1986; MBA, Duke University Fuqua School of Business, 1989
Civic involvement: Current KCSD 96 Board Member
Previous elected offices held: Current KCSD 96 Board Member
Incumbent: If yes, when were first elected? Incumbent; appointed 2014, elected 2015. Currently Board Secretary (since 2017) and a member of Finance Committee (since 2014). Member of Negotiating Committee in 2016/17 when both certified staff and support staff bargained new contracts.
What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
The District faces several issues going forward. The financial issues facing our District are external in nature. These include pension reform and school funding by the state. The District factors these issues into its financial and strategic planning, and is well prepared to meet these challenges. We also face changing demographics in our District, and we need to understand how those changes impact parents' expectations for their child's education. The District has begun community engagement efforts in this area, and must continue these efforts going forward.
How satisfied are you that your school district is adequately 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?
As a parent of two D96 graduates who have gone on to success at Stevenson and beyond, I can say D96 prepares its students well for life after the District. Annual high school placement and freshman academic achievement data provided by Stevenson support this contention. We work closely with Stevenson to make sure our curriculum and other programs are aligned. The Districts also puts a lot of resources into Professional Development for its staff, so that our teachers can improve their skills. We should continue to refine and expand our curriculum and our programs to challenge our students. The recently announced Dual Language Immersion program, beginning in 2019-20, is a result of these efforts. Outside of academics, we must continue to improve in the area of Social and Emotional Learning, to equip our students to succeed in and out of the classroom.
What budgetary issues will your district have to confront during the next four years and what measures do you support to address them? If you believe cuts are necessary, be specific about programs and expenses that should be considered for reduction or elimination. On the income side, do you support any tax increases? Be specific.
Unless the state of Illinois makes major changes in the area of pension reform, the District should not face any budgetary issues over the next four years. Therefore, no spending cuts should be necessary. The Board and the Administration collaborate on a robust Five Year financial planning model each year, including Five Year Capital and Technology plans (the financial model accounts for some pension cost shifting each year, even though the State has not done anything in this area). We also have constructive and collaborative relationships with both employee bargaining units. As a result, the District is on sound financial footing. It has a responsible level of financial reserves, funds both operations and capital projects from cash flow and reserves, and receives the highest ratings for financial management from the State each year. On the income side, the District last went to the community for a referendum in 2006/07, and I see no need for a referendum to increase taxes over the next four years.
Are you currently employed by or retired from a school district, if so, which one? Is any member of your direct family -- spouse, child or child-in-law -- employed by the school district where you are seeking a school board seat?
The Board maintains a positive and collaborative relationship with both its certified staff and its support staff. We view all employees as partners, and do not approach negotiations as a "zero sum game". The Board meets annually with leadership of both bargaining groups so that both sides are current on all issues facing the District, and so that the Board understand the concerns of the union members. During the next four years, the District will negotiate new contracts with both groups. As part of the Negotiating Committee when new contracts were put in place in 2016 and 2017, I can attest to the benefits each side gains by having ongoing dialogue and a collaborative relationship.
As contract talks come up with various school employee groups -- teachers, support staff, etc. -- what posture should the school board take? 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?
School districts are limited in their ability to "substantially increase" pay in the final years of employment without incurring significant financial penalties from either TRS or IMRF. For our Certified Staff, increases are contractually limited to 6 percent or the maximum TRS allows. The Board holds the Superintendent and the District administrators to the same limitations. I would not support any increases beyond the TRS limitations.
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?