Property tax bills have arrived, and Lake Forest-Bluff residents are feeling the heat of Lake Forest School District 115's school board's prodigality.  

The portion of property taxes each household has to pay for Lake Forest High School alone increased this year by approximately 17%.

Taxpayers are currently paying the costs of the high school's three separate bond issuances, including the Board's unnecessary decision to borrow the full amount of the referendum this year instead of over time.  

Ouch.

Good Times For Some, But Not All

To be sure, property taxes are an inescapable part of life. While I believe there are more creative ways to fund education that don't disincentivize home ownership, they are what they are.

That does not mean, however, that our elected board representatives and the superintendent of our school should not serve as more responsible stewards of our tax dollars. School districts love to use the term "stakeholders" to describe the community's many residents, invoking the idea that a school is like a corporation with all of us being shareholders. If that is true, it's the only corporation that continually asks more of its investors without ever being accountable for its return on investments.

The idea that a school budget might be cut due to increasing efficiency is alien to the ears of public school bureaucrats. Why return some of the public's money when you can find more creative ways to spend it and then use the utilization of all budgetary funds as a justification to ask for fiscal increases next year?

Need proof? Lake Forest Schools has 1 administrator per every 76 students, while the state average is 1 per 147 students.

And it gets worse!

Just last year, before the bond vote had even been certified, Lake Forest Schools superintendent Matthew Montgomery asked for and received a 23% raise. This is on top of an already lucrative contract:

Superintendent Matt Montgomery's Contract Fast Facts:

  • Taxpayers fully fund the superintendent's entire contribution to the Illinois Teachers Pension Fund (TRS) and teacher health insurance security fund.
  • 42 paid days off annually (per the 2023 contract update).
  • Full no-premium health, dental, and vision insurance for the superintendent and his entire family.

His gross annual compensation easily exceeds half a million dollars, not counting the eight-figure retirement package he'll receive from Illinois taxpayers.

And he isn't the only one celebrating these record tax increases. Administrators across the district have enjoyed record salary increases amidst declining academic performance.

The truth is that all these excesses enjoyed on the backs of taxpayers have a tangible impact on families.

"So what's your solution?"

I don't have all the answers, but I refuse to accept the idea that we cannot significantly reform how much we spend on education and how those tax dollars are used.

The school budget should be thoroughly audited and scrutinized as if it were a private corporation responsible to customers and shareholders to ensure that students receive the best education at a competitive cost.

What we see, however, is a system of bureaucrats who always cite "the kids" when asking for more and somehow find a way to line their own pockets.

The bottom line: Since our schools' administrators seem incapable of being responsible with our tax dollars, we must demand that our school boards provide the oversight they were elected to provide.

If I were a school board member, I'd demand answers to these questions on my first day:

  1. Why do only half of our tax dollars go directly into the classroom instead of a minimum of 90%?
  2. What efforts are being made to ensure our schools' budgets are as efficient as possible? If more funds cannot be efficiently allocated to the classroom, how can we return them to taxpayers?
  3. Why are we allowing administrators to ask for and set raises for themselves every year regardless of trends in academic performance?

I do not believe anything is unreasonable about those questions, and I don't think it makes our organization an "opposition group" for asking them.