Public Watchdog.org

Can D-64 Board Melt Heinz’s Slush?

09.14.17

Recently we wrote about the roughly $33,000 that Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 would be spending the remainder of this budget year to put a modern-day “Officer Friendly” in Lincoln and Emerson Middle Schools from 8 to 10 hours per week – for what appears to be palliative reasons, at best.

Today we write about the latest boondoggle from D-64 Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz: A $70,000 slush fund so that Heinz can give raises to subordinate administrators of her choosing.

As reported by the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 holds off on superintendent’s request for pay hikes to administrators,” Sept. 5), at the August 28th Board meeting Heinz insisted the money was needed to bring those administrators up to “market” rates, presumably to keep them from jumping to higher-paying jobs in other districts. The 2.62% average bump that $70,000 of slush give to the administrators just happens to approximate the 2.60% bump D-64 teachers are scheduled to get this school year.

Don’t you just love these kinds of coincidences?

How many of you taxpayers are getting a 2.60% raise this year for doing the same job you did last year? For that matter, how many of you: (a) work for employers who can’t pick up and move to another state or another country; (b) never have to travel more than a few miles to your job; and (c) have defined benefit pension plans that dwarf the equivalent Social Security benefits, include annual COLAs, are guaranteed by the constitution of the State of Illinois, and that you can start receiving by age 60, if not earlier?

If you work in the highly-competitive private sector, we’re guessing darn few of you. In the non-competitive public sector, it’s the rule rather than the exception.

We suggest that you watch the discussion of Heinz’s slush fund on the meeting video, starting at the 3:35:18 mark and running for slightly more than an hour. If you do, you’ll hear Borrelli say things like: “If you get a 2% raise when the CPI is 2.5, you’ve lost money in reality because you’re not keeping up with the CPI.”

In other words, Borrelli and Heinz want D-64 taxpayers to foot the bill for annual raises for administrators NOT because those administrators are working harder or better but, instead, simply so this special class of public employees doesn’t have to suffer the pinch of inflation like the rest of us do.

When was the last time you heard the directors or officers of a private-sector employer demean a 2% raise that way – assuming they were giving out raises at all?

Not surprisingly, Heinz mocks the idea of performance-based raises: “There are no schools in this area that do merit-based increases [because] that is not a productive way to encourage collaboration.”

Let that be a lesson to all you non-collaborative private-sector workers who bust your humps to earn your merit-based raises!

In past years under previous school boards, Heinz’s blind-pig funding requests were heartily endorsed by Borrelli and rubber-stamped by his fellow bobble-heads with nary a question or whimper. But back in July when Heinz first brought up this slush fund bearing a $75,000 price tag, Board vice-president Rick Biagi – elected just this past April – refused to buy Heinz’s and the District’s alleged financial guru Luann Kolstad’s representations about administrative pay “targets” based on “comparable” school districts, and the “bumps” needed to hit those “targets.” He actually demanded the underlying data.

Data? Heinz and Kolstad don’ nidd no steenkink data!

As with most of Illinois’ dysfunctional local governmental units, glorified bureaucrats like Heinz and Kolstad rule by a perverse kind of Divine Right – like English kings, pre-Magna Carta. And if they rely on any data at all for their decisions, they never voluntarily share it for fear that the few competent and diligent elected officials overseeing them, or motivated taxpayers who are underwriting their follies, will realize that the bureaucrats’ edicts and fiats are factually suspect, if not totally baseless.

So even the most benign taxpayer inquiries and criticisms are regularly met with the witheringly defiant tagline: “IT’S FOR THE KIDS!”

By the August 28 Board meeting the imperious Heinz still had not provided Biagi and the rest of the Board with the data requested a month earlier. Nevertheless, she seemed to be expecting a rubber-stamping of her $70,000 of slush until Biagi let her know at least one Board member would not go gently into that dark night – no matter what his fellow Board members wanted to do.

Rather than join in Biagi’s insistence on getting the data that allegedly supports Heinz’s bald-faced conclusion that her administrators were underpaid by “market” standards, Borrelli (at the 4:41:26 mark of the video) predictably leapt to her defense:

“So I think what it comes down to is trust: We have to trust Dr. Heinz that she is being fiscally careful with our money.”

“Trust, but verify” obviously is a foreign concept to Borrelli, especially when it comes to Heinz.

Fortunately, new Board member Fred Sanchez and, amazingly, even “Tilted Kilt Tommy” Sotos provided enough support for Biagi that, with Larry Ryles MIA, Borrelli and Heinz realized they didn’t have the four votes they needed. So action on the $70,000 and another $43,000 of slush (for about 25 non-union staff members) was deferred to this coming Monday (Sept. 18).

Before the D-64 Board votes to give one more dime of CPI-based raises or embarks on Heinz’s/Kolstad’s grand plan to push those allegedly underpaid administrators up to whatever “market” salaries are in comparable districts, however, we hope that Biagi, Sanchez and Sotos – and at least one more member of the Board, in order to create a majority – force open-session debates on the following policy questions:

  • Why should D-64 taxpayers have to provide District employees with inflation/CPI-based raises?

 

  • How many administrators (or teachers, for that matter) have left D-64 for the same or an equivalent position in another district over the past five years for money reasons – or for ANY reason?

 

  • If these administrators have been so “underpaid” for so long why hasn’t there been an exodus of them from D-64?

 

  • What specific criteria were used to identify the five “comparable” districts as “comparable” for determining the newly-sacred “market” for administrators in which D-64 allegedly competes?

 

  • Why is Kolstad trying to use “average” administrative salaries – which can be skewed by outlier numbers – from those comparable districts instead of median salaries?

Frankly, we don’t expect these policy questions to get resolved, or even addressed, before Heinz and Kolstad bend a  majority of the Board to their wills and walk away with their slushies, even if they have to give their solemn assurances – wink wink, nod nod – that they will “dive deeper into the data” before next year’s slush season.

But maybe, just maybe, this slush fund discussion is a sign that some real reform is starting to get traction at D-64. After all, hope does spring eternal.

At D-64, unfortunately, hope pressure is dangerously low.

To read or post comments, click on title.

5 comments so far

I pretty much agree with this post but was a little surprised with how accepting the Board, including Biagi, was of giving raises based on CPI and of a need to boost administrators’ salaries.

Your policy questions are the right ones that should be answered before any further discussion of these raises occurs.

Borrelli is an outright disaster. It’s like Heinz has him hypnotized.

You ask how many of us will receive a 2.60% raise this year. Does the 2.60% include the annual Step Increase that teachers get every year? And if it doesn’t include the Step then aren’t the teachers really getting more like a 4.35% increase when you add the Step and contract raise together? Seems to me that’s the true % of increase.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not to our knowledge: Step (and lane) is the dirty little secret that D-64 and the PREA like to keep out of the taxpayers’ sight as much as possible.

The CPI-U increase is 1.9%, not 2.5 or whatever number Borrelli got from Heinz.
https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm

Not that it matters one way or the other. Why should D64 administrators get automatic raises tied to CPI increases?

Borrelli makes a fool of himself with these weak, poorly-imagined defenses of Dr. Heinz when he doesn’t even have the votes. If he really believes these are solid reasons to approve the extra money that would sway other board members, he’s a fuzzier thinker than I thought.

I listened to some of that video and somebody used the term “move the needle” on student performance, but I’m not seeing it.

They keep bragging about MAP test results but Googke “MAP” and “NWEA” and, once you get past all of NWEA’s self promotional sites, you can read how MAP has come under a lot of criticism in its own right.

Just because student performance per MAP tests is slightly better year-after-year doesn’t automatically make it improved over other districts that Park Ridge, as a community, is competing with.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You are right: NWEA (another “non-profit” organization that wraps itself in the “For the Kids” mantle) and MAP have received more than a little criticism once you drill down past all of NWEA’s self-serving flotsam and jetsam.

Were the administrator raises in the budget? If not, why not?

This is just more of what’s wrong with government: Elected school board idiots in other communities give undeserved raises to their administrators, that are then used by our school board idiots as “comparables” for giving our administrators raises.



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