Public Watchdog.org

Is Tonight’s $20 Million Bond “Hearing” Another D-64 Charade?

04.24.17

For the past few years taxpayers of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 constantly have been told how D-64’s financial management has been so wonderful that the District won’t have to go to referendum this year, as was expected back in 2007 when the last D-64 funding referendum was passed.

So a recent article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 board members OK plans for $1.2M project at Lincoln Middle School,” 04.04.17) got our attention. Not because of the headline, even though wasting $1.2 million of taxpayer money on not-really-“secured” vestibules for yet another D-64 school is hardly sound fiscal management. Or effective “security,” for that matter.

What pinged our radar was tucked away in the last paragraph of that H-A article: School officials are holding a “public hearing” at tomorrow night’s School Board meeting regarding the Board’s “plan to sell $20.7 million worth of working cash bonds (“WCBs”), allegedly to fund “mandated health and life-safety repairs to district facilities” – which bonds reportedly will be issued “in stages over the course of several years.”

For those of you unfamiliar with school finance, the purpose of WCBs is pretty much what the name indicates: To provide short-term working cash to cover a district’s temporary cash flow needs or operating, deficits. It’s not to do long-term capital improvements, including those masquerading as “health and life-safety repairs.”

So why, pray tell, does D-64 need almost $21 million of short-term borrowing for “working cash”?

Didn’t D-64 Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli – after obtaining permission from Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, of course – assure us just last Fall that (as quoted in a H-A article, “School board president: District 64 exceeding financial projections made prior to 2007 referendum,” Oct. 7, 2016) “the district is operating in the black and not operating within a deficit spending pattern”?

Didn’t financial guru Luann Kolstad proclaim – as reported in that same Oct. 7 article – that, as of June 2016, the district’s operating fund balance was $48.1 million, or 60 percent of annual operating expenses, which is twice the District’s 30% target and means D-64 already is sitting on $24 million more taxpayer dollars than they say they need?

Can you say “slush fund”?

What we didn’t know until reading the article in last week’s H-A (“District 64 projects include maintenance work, vestibule, library makeover,” April 18), however, is that at its March 13 meeting the D-64 Board voted to issue $9.25 million of “debt certificates” – thereby pushing the slush fund balance to over 70% of the District’s reserve target.

Why didn’t we know it?

Because this opaque School Board, with the able assistance of propaganda minister Bernadette Tramm, didn’t publicize it.

And our clueless local press apparently didn’t understand it or care enough about it to do its job: The first mention of “debt certificates” was in that April 4 H-A article, three weeks after the March 13 meeting at which the Board voted to issue them. And no “official” evidence of that vote appeared in print until last week, when the draft minutes of that March 13 meeting were finally posted on the District’s website as part of tonight’s Board meeting packet.

According to a fact sheet published by Stifel, a financial services firm that advises governmental bodies as well as businesses and individuals, debt certificates are a pricier type of financing that requires no voter approval or even a Bond Issue Notification Act (“BINA”) hearing. So it should come as no surprise that this secretive-bordering-on-dishonest D-64 Board would look to borrow $9+ million using debt instruments that don’t require taxpayer approval or even require a public hearing like tonight’s, which they are required to have for the issuance of WCBs.

And in typically deceitful D-64 Board fashion, the minutes of that March 13 meeting fail to mention the discussion during that meeting of the likelihood that the interest on those debt certificates will cost District taxpayers at least an additional $2.7 million of interest at the expected rate of 3.36% – something you would have to watch the meeting video (from the 51:36 mark to the 58:55 mark) to discover – thereby pushing the total cost of these debt certificates up to approximately $12 million over their 15 year life, paid off at the rate of $800,000 per year starting next fiscal year.

What is more problematic, however, is how this Board may have cheated D-64 taxpayers out of any opportunity to force a referendum on the WCBs.

That’s because the Board also voted on March 13 to declare its intention to issue the $20.75 million of WCBs. WCBs require a devious legal device known as a “Back Door Referendum” that puts the burden on the taxpayers to get petition signatures from 10% of the District’s 33,263 registered voters – or 3,326 – within 30 days of publication of a notice of that intention. Otherwise, no referendum need be held.

If you listen closely to the District’s bond advisor’s colloquy with Borrelli (at from the 1:00:08 mark to the 1:04:50 mark of the meeting video), you will hear her describe what sounds like a “plan” to publish the required BINA notice, which starts the 30-day back-door period running, immediately after the authorization vote.

Not surprisingly, you won’t find that information in those meeting minutes, either. But they do report that, just like with the debt certificates, the $20 million WCB authorization passed unanimously – only with far less discussion.

Which means that if the District published its notice of intent on, let’s say, the Ides of March (03.15), the 30-day back-door period ran out on April 14; and the WCB authorization has become bullet-proof from referendum.

Which makes tonight’s “public hearing” on those WCBs a mere technical requirement that has been turned into just another meaningless charade by a D-64 Board whose members operate on the theory of “the taxpayers be damned.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

7 comments so far

Interesting they are pushing this thru before the 4 new board members take their seats. Seems kinda shady.

EDITOR’S NOTE: From everything we’ve seen and heard, it was pushed through back on March 13.

It appears that our elected officials on the D-64 Board, along with the salaried dissemblers in the Administration, simply kept it under wraps for the past month-plus while the 30-day back-door referendum period ran.

What a bunch of scalawags!

Lame ducks defiling their offices before waddling away. This is just outrageous.

What is wrong with these people? It is like they go out of their way to be devious.

Maybe they have rigged it so they don’t have to go to referendum, but they should voluntarily do so. If they were working on this financing scheme for as long as the board members on the video were saying (as a reason why they were so wonderful for doing the incoming board a favor) they could have put this on this month’s ballot.

What a bunch of shysters!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly what we were thinking. But you have to remember: Borrelli et al. DIDN’T WANT taxpayers voting on this $30 million of debt, which is why he can continue to pat himself et al. on the back while effectively lying about “extending the 10 year life of the 2007 referendum.”

And your use of the term “shysters” follows the previous comment referring to “scalawags” – two terms we rarely, if ever, see in comments, much less back-to-back. Maybe folks are finally catching on to how D-64 is being governed.

Why not hold the public hearing BEFORE the vote, not a month after it? If you care about the public’s opinion, seek it out when it matters, not after the fact.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s the line from Alice in Wonderland: “Sentence first, verdict afterwards.”

Assuming “I’m The Boss” Heinz is orchestrating this, we might have to start calling her the “Queen of Hearts.”

Thank you for pulling all of this information together so that we taxpayers can see what these school board people are trying to pull.

I would like to think that our elected board members and our high-paid administrators would present this information so that we would know what is going on, and know it in well enough in advance of official action being taken. But I guess that is too much to expect with these board members, every one of whom I regret to say I voted for.

Here is hoping that Mr. Biagi and Mr. Sanchez do what you endorsed them to do, because what we have now is a sad state of affairs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’ve got to remember: Heinz, Borrelli, and the sock puppets DON’T WANT US TO KNOW THIS STUFF – because then a lot more folks might start showing up at meetings with torches and ropes demanding honesty, integrity and accountability from school officials who treat those virtues as if they were war, pestilence and death.

We understand a few folks showed up at last night’s meeting to raise hell with the Board about this debt and D-64 taxes, creating visible agita among the elected officials and bureaucrats alike. Just think what agita would ensue if as many people showed up to beef about irresponsible, non-referendum debt and taxes as showed up to complain about “screeching vaginas”!

We wonder how long it will take D-64 to post the meeting video.

It’s a shame that Mr. Trizna, who obviously is well informed and educated in these matters, didn’t mobilize and follow the procedures to halt this vote.
Mr. Trizna knows full well how he could have been heard. He knows exactly what he could have done to lead a challenge to be the voice of the tax payers.

Yet, it apprears that Mr. Trizna only cares to be a voice with no action.

Why, Mr. Trizna, did you wait until it was too late to speak up?

Why did you fail your followers and not inform them that they could have petitioned. Why didn’t you inform them and lead the charge?

You claim the board was secretive. Yet the board held multiple discussions surrounding this matter in open session over the course of several meetings.

I can’t blame the regular tax payer of PR for not sitting through these meetings or viewing them on line.

However, you sir, have proven that you will sit through many meeting videos to gather your information.

How is it possible that you didn’t care enough, when you could have made a “difference”?

Your readers, if upset with the board, should be more upset with you. You are the one they look to for information and guidance.

Either way. Thank guy for not using many insults in your recent article. It shows growth.

EDITOR’S NOTE: See 04.28.17 post.

It seems like the D64 Board gamed the system.

This hurts the flexibility of the two new board members to ask the tough questions. Well, not necessarily to ask the tough questions, but the financial deals being completed will be difficult if not impossible to unwind.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It absolutely was a gaming of the system because the $9.25 million of debt certificates can’t be reversed. However, the new Board – IF Heinz can’t extend her puppeteer influence over Borrelli to a majority of that new Board – CAN ask the taxpayers, via referendum, whether the $20+ million of WCBs should be issued for the projects the departing Board earmarked them. But that will require a Board majority of non-puppets.



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