Public Watchdog.org

Building $50 Million Surplus On $78 Million Of Debt Borrelli’s “Greatest Achievement”

03.12.19

In our post “Is Tonight’s $20 Million Bond ‘Hearing’ Another D-64 Charade?” (April 24, 2017)), we criticized the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board for issuing $9.25 million of high-interest, non-referendum “debt certificates” in March 2017 and then, a month later, approving the future issuance of $20.7 million worth of working cash bonds (“WCBs”) without adequate notice to the taxpayers.

We pointed out that $9.2 million of debt certificates were issued while the District’s reserves were already 60% above its target amount: 30% of annual expenses. We also noted that Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli appeared to be pushing through that borrowing before four new members – a potential Board majority of Rick Biagi, Larry Ryles, Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu that might not share Borrelli’s love of non-referendum debt – were to join the Board in May, 2017.

Our critique prompted a rare Watchdog comment from Board member (and dependable Borrelli stooge) Tom “Tilted Kilt” Sotos, a comment that so marvelously illustrated Sotos’ cluelessness as a school board member that we turned it into its very own post on 04.28.2017 (“D-64 Bd. Member Sotos: Trizna Failed To Do My Job On WCBs”).

But that was when Tilted Kilt Tommy still had two more years left on his first 4-year term of office and would jump like a playful puppy whenever Borrelli and/or Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz commanded.

Now, however, Sotos is running for re-election against two men (Steven Blindauer and Sal Galati) and a slate of women campaigning as the “MOMS for D-64 School Board!”, so we suspect somebody may have told him he needs to stop acting like Borelli’s and Heinz’s lap dog if he hopes to win another four years on the Board.

That’s likely why, a few weeks ago when Borrelli tried to push the Board into issuing an extra $11 million in bonded debt to fund this summer’s construction projects, Sotos suddenly became the taxpayers’ BFF by joining a “consensus” of Biagi, Sanchez and Bob Johnson (yes, Johnson…can you believe it?) in rejecting Borrelli’s idiocy and deciding to use some of that stockpile of cash (a/k/a, the $50 Million “slush fund”) to cover this summer’s construction costs.

According to a February 12, 2019 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 opts not to borrow money for construction projects, instead will pay with available funds”), Borrelli bragged about that $50 Million “surplus” being “the greatest achievement that this and prior boards have been able to achieve,” no doubt because of his presidency over the past six years .

Not surprisingly, what Borrelli failed to mention during his verbal victory lap was that much of that $50 Million “surplus” has been built up through the District’s accumulation of over $78 Million of…wait for it…DEBT, all of which appears to have been rung up on Borrelli’s watch.

But don’t take our word for it: Check out the “Long-Term Debt” section of the District’s financial report contained in the packet from the Board’s December 10, 2018 meeting.

There you’ll discover that almost $9 Million is still owed on the non-referendum General Obligation bonds issued back in 2014; and another almost $9 Million is still owed on those high-interest, non-referendum Debt Certificates issued in April 2017, on which the District will pay over $3 Million of interest during the expected lifetimes of those certificates.

So why was Borrelli pushing another $11 Million of bonded debt like he was Ron Popeil pitching a Showtime (“Set it and forget it!”) Rotisserie?

We don’t know and, frankly, we no longer care: With his departure from the Board already scheduled for this May – a long overdue addition by subtraction – his motives, however stupid or self-serving they may be, are mercifully irrelevant.

We encourage you to watch the entire discussion of Borrelli’s mostly arrogant, sometime comic efforts to ram through more District debt while keeping his $50 Million slush fund intact, starting at the 1:13:20 mark and running through the 2:03:31 mark of that 02.04.2019 meeting video.

If you don’t have the time or the stomach for all of Borrelli’s bloviations, however, we suggest you check out his attempt to bamboozle his fellow Board members with a bunch of back-of-the-envelope calculations (conveniently – for him – missing from the meeting packet) from 1:15:02 to 1:17:20, followed almost immediately by District finance chief Luann Kolstad’s refutation (“So there’s really no need to rush to issue [bonds]”) from 1:17:35 to 1:18:08; and Borrelli’s explanation, from 1:27:03 to 1:29:14 of the meeting video, of how issuing more bonds might not actually “increase” taxes but merely “extend” prior increases as the new bonded debt replaces the expiring older debt.

Chalk that up to more Borrelli sophistry.

Where the video starts to get interesting is when Biagi calls out Borrelli and the pre-May 2017 board for a lack of honesty, integrity and transparency in connection with the issuing the debt certificates and the approval of working cash bonds in the Spring of 2017, first from 1:29:45 to 1:30:38 and again from 1:50:40 to 1:52:30 of the meeting video.

Those comments chafed Johnson’s chaps, causing him to launch into a feeble-but-rambling defense of his and that prior board’s rubber-stamping of all that additional debt in Spring 2017 – from 1:55:37 to 2:00:12 of the video – before his spine seemingly calcified and he dared to indicate to Borrelli that he would not be supporting more District debt at that time.

Once Borrelli realized he had failed to stampede anybody but Eggemann into backing more bonds, he launched into Biagi – starting at 2:00:36 and continuing through 2:03:24. Borrelli staunchly defended his integrity and joined in Johnson’s defense of the transparency of all these debt matters, suggesting that taxpayers had no excuse for not knowing all they needed to know about the District’s finances and how to legally object to any of the debt rung up by the District.

In one sense, Borrelli and Johnson are right: There were “so many discussions” (per Johnson) by the  Board about the District’s finances and its debt, many of which we have watched. But we can’t recall even one of them mentioning any of the really important information – such as the $78 Million of District debt, the $3 Million-plus in interest those debt certificates will cost the taxpayers, the District’s $50 Million cash reserve slush fund, or the process and timing for taxpayers to legally object to the WCBs – that might have made those discussions something more intelligible to the average listener than a lot of yada, yada, yada.

And it should come as no surprise to anybody who has observed Borrelli’s and Johnson’s tenures on the Board that neither of them had the decency to admit that those high-interest debt certificates, unlike WCBs, could not even be legally challenged by the taxpayers – which we would submit is the exact reason Borrelli, Johnson, Sotos, Mark Eggemann, Terry Cameron, Vicky Lee and Scott Zimmerman unanimously voted to issue them at the March 13, 2017 meeting.

Too bad we can’t put the $3 Million-plus of interest from those boneheaded certificates on their personal tabs.

Fortunately, Cameron, Lee and Zimmerman are almost two years gone; and Johnson is joining Borrelli (and Eggemann) in a march to the exit this May. Heck, with a little luck and a decent turnout of informed voters, Tilted Kilt Tommy will be sent packing along with his comrades-in-harms.

Happily, we get to end this post on a humorous note thanks to Borrelli himself, who prefaced his attack on Biagi by grandly stating that, as Board president, he has “served as a figurehead for this Board….”

“Figurehead” is one of the things we haven’t called Borrelli during his tenure as Heinz’s sock-puppet (something we have called him, in our posts of 04.28.2017 and 02.02.2018). So it’s gratifying to see that, in his waning days on the Board, Borrelli has finally accepted the truth about his presidency.

Hopefully that truth will set him free.

To read or post comments, click on title.

16 comments so far

Always calling names and making sport of our neighbors who are doing their best to represent us. You are despicable.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If this truly is their “best,” they have no business holding public office.

Opinions vary.

D64 is really screwed up (not as bad as D207, but that’s another story). Is Borrelli getting paid off by the district’s bond consultant to push all this debt?

Near the end Johnson talks in circles for what seems like forever and makes no sense. The same with Eggemann. At least you could tell what Borrelli was saying, even if it was wrong.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The three together made less sense than Sotos, who is the benchmark for that perfect blend of stupidity and ignorance.

What’s this “4 MOMS” stuff? Gender politics? Or a subset of gender politics, non-mom women need not apply? I cannot imagine that this kind of thing would fly if it were “4 DADS.” Crazy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Didn’t you get the memo? Only “MOMS” care about the schools.

Any thoughts on the candidates running for the open/contested seats ?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes.

What is the $45M of debt on the their books related to? It sounds like they have assets offsetting this liability? If that is true, their liability is already funded.

That being said, Biagi is correct. WTH are they doing issuing more debt? How can this occur without more transparency to the public?

EDITOR’S NOTE: If they do have such offsetting assets, we didn’t see them reflected in the financial report from which we took the embedded pages; and we would expect that, should there be offsetting assets, the liability itself would be footnoted accordingly.

Borrelli, Johnson and Eggemann cannot leave soon enough. I also agree with you that the voters should boot Sotos, even though the candidates for his 4-year seat (3 of the “4 MOMS”) have not sounded very impressive to date.

Just taking a moment to remind everyone that the name calling is toward people he endorsed. 8:26, you are seriously looking for guidance from PD on who to vote for? If you did so in the past that would mean you voted for Borrelli. It goes something like this…..1.Endorse….2. Vote…….3. Bitch……..4. Repeat.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you suck at being a public official we most certainly will draft an indictment of you and, at our discretion, call you names – even if we endorsed you for election/re-election. That’s because we can be fooled on occasion by people who talk the talk but then can’t walk the walk.

But not only do we admit our mistakes, we archive them so that people like you can read and remind us of them – not like some of those snowflakes who post on FB pages like Concerned Homeowners who pull their whole post down without a trace if the don’t like the way the discussion is going.

For the record, we tepidly endorsed Borrelli for re-election in 2015 (in our 03.31.2015 post) primarily because we didn’t want a known PREA tool like Bublitz negotiating and voting on the 2016 PREA contract along with a merely-suspected (but later proved) PREA tool like Tilted Kilt Sotos. We even enthusiastically endorsed Eggemann, only to watch him almost immediately fall under Borrelli’s and Heinz’s sway.

In a similar vein, we endorsed Mel Thillens in 2011 just because he was an alternative to a slate of candidates backed by the SEIU. Unfortunately, he sucked so badly that four years later, with only 4 candidates vying for 3 seats, the field was so lame that we couldn’t even choose between incumbent Mary Wynn Ryan and challenger Cindy Grau for who was the worst candidate – which you can read about in our 04.06.2015 post.

By the way, I neglected to mention, he endorsed Borrelli not once but twice!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: See the Editor’s Note to your last comment.

10:01 Whoaaaaa, pump the brakes a bit. I asked for ” thoughts “, not a wholesale, ” Gee, PD, who do you want me to vote for ? ” Switch to decaf before you hurt yourself.

Give me a break. Why would you ask the question if you were not looking for information or guidance on who to vote for? I never said you would follow the guidance like a lemming.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Or perhaps on whom NOT to vote for?

For example, I would want to know whom YOU – and a host of other folks like Kathy Meade, Cindy Grau, Tony Borrelli, Tom Sotos, Mary Wynn Ryan, Mel Thillens, et al. – were voting for, if only to avoid the candidates of their choice; or to at least seriously reconsider those candidates if they also were ones I favored.

I just read about the $1.2 million tax abatement at Maine Twp. because they were sitting on millions of dollars in their slush fund, but that’s nothing compared to D64’s $50 million slush fund that Borrelli is bragging about. GOodbye, Borrelli, you won’t be missed.

11:32 Man, you are really wound up. I love when dialogue starts with ” Give me a break “, it can only go downhill from there.

Since you are so wise, and apparently have the unique ability to read minds and emotions, what are YOUR thoughts on the candidates ?

Anon on 03.13.19 10:01 am:

If you do your research, PW was on the committee that appointed Mazzuca, endorsed Moran over Cline in 2015, and supported Melidosian’s appointment, yet he ripped all three of them for the way they wimped out and ignored the City’s procurement policy to let the police chief sole-source the Axon body cameras at 5x the cost of what Niles paid for another brand after they tested 3 cameras while our police dept. only tested one.

EDITOR’S NOTE: True enough. The incompetence and/or irresponsibility of those three aldermen in dealing with Chief Kaminski and his no-bid, sole-source Axon body cam deal is almost incomprehensible; and their post-approval attempt at CYA with their uber-lame, Kabuki motion to reconsider was pathetic. Which is why we had to call that spade a spade in our 12.27.2018 and 01.14.2019 posts.

I went to the Action Ridge d64 candidates forum last night and was appalled by the bland, seemingly uninformed and superficial positions the candidates were taking. “We need better communication,” “We need more accountability from the administration,” “We need more SEL,” with nothing to back that up that might convince me that these weren’t just a bunch of empty buzz words and phrases.

None of those candidates said anything meaningful about d64’s lack of objectively measurable (your term, ‘Dog) academic performance results that would cause us parents and taxpayers to believe that these candidates will be exacting stewards of the taxpayers’ money and demanding advocates for the highest quality student education and achievement.

Finally, nobody talked about the 500 lb. gorilla in the room: The 2020 teachers’ contract negotiations, which this new board will negotiate and which will consume 80% of the district’s annual budget.

From the start of this campaign through last night’s event, the “4 MOMS” haven’t shown me anything more than the “4 DADS” (Blindauer, Galati, Kennedy and Sotos), except that only the “4 MOMS” are waging the gender war.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We weren’t there, and we haven’t been able to find a video or audio of that forum either on the Action Ridge site or elsewhere. But because we actually checked out the Action Ridge website we found it interesting that an organization that proclaims “ALL ARE WELCOME TO JOIN THIS PARK RIDGE SOCIAL ACTIVIST GROUP” features a homepage photo of 11 white suburban women – and not 1 man, or even 1 woman “of color” – holding signs such as “The Future Is Female.”

We suspect that if there were a Park Ridge organization (“Faction Ridge”) with a homepage featuring 11 white suburban men – and not 1 woman, or even 1 man “of color” – holding signs such as “The Future Is Male” (or even “The Past Was Male”), there would be a wailing throughout the land, probably from some of the very women currently featured on that Action Ridge homepage, about how “sexist” and “non-inclusive” such an organization is.

As for those critics of the current D-64 Board’s being all male, that appears to be nothing more than a function of no women even bothering to run in 2015 or 2017, and only 1 woman bothering to run in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013.

Typical sexist tripe from a male reactionary Republican editor who want to take this community backwards to when white men ran everything.

Don’t look now, Bob, but the future IS female and progressive. Women continue to be the majority of the D-207 board and come May they will control the D-64 board. And now that women run every important blog in town and organizations like Action Ridge and PROP, dinosaurs like you will soon be extinct.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor will cop to “male” and “editor,” but plead not guilty to “reactionary” and “Republican.”

Women were represented on the 14-member City Council by the likes of Jeannie Markech, Andrea Bateman, Sue Bell, Sue Beaumont, Dawn Disher and Mary Wynn Ryan, as well as by “progressive” male aldermen like Mark Anderson, Jeff Cox, Don Crampton, Rex Parker and Jim Radermacher, while “this community” slid into the financial tank from 1998 to 2008.

And it was a majority of woman on the D-207 board over the past several years that enabled the incompetent superintendent to almost criminally neglect the facility infrastructure while Maine South’s academic performance declined so substantially that U.S. News & World stopped ranking it once it slid to 46th among Illinois high schools – and then rewarded him with a new 5-year contract.

Anonymous on 3.17.19 @ 10:00 AM – Seriously? Anyone foolish enough to vote for a candidate solely based on gender is rowing with one oar in the water and deserves exactly what they get in return. This election there are women running for seats on the D64 board and that’s great, some are qualified, some are not imho and so I won’t be voting for the ones I don’t think are qualified. The operative word is qualified. I’m not voting based on gender but on whether or not I think they can do the job. Period. I am sure PW is quaking in his white Republican boots at the thought of the Progressive women taking over the blogs and organizations in town, but life do go on!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor doesn’t do “quaking” or “Republican,” but he will plead guilty to “male” and “editor.”

While “this community” slid into the financial tank – from 1998 to 2008 – women were represented on the 14-member City Council by the likes of Jeannie Markech, Andrea Bateman, Sue Bell, Sue Beaumont, Dawn Disher and Mary Wynn Ryan, as well as by “progressive” male aldermen like Mark Anderson, Jeff Cox, Don Crampton, Rex Parker and Jim Radermacher. Since mayor Howard Frimark cut the size of the Council in half in November 2006, however, only two women have run for the Council: J.B. Johnson (unsuccessful candidate for 4th Ward ald. in 2013) and current Ald. Gail Wilkening.



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