Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why has WTHS District 121 placed a limiting rate proposal on the April 6, 2021 ballot?

    Posted by:

    WTHS seeks to protect academic, activity and athletic programming, as well as improve academic support and mental health services. If approved by voters this spring, the 35-cent limiting rate increase would address, to the fullest extent possible, the following operating needs:

    • Maintaining the 8-period day needed to continue offering many Advanced Placement (AP) opportunities, ensure full participation in career and technical education classes at the Technology Campus, and preserve current curricular and co-curricular programs.
    • Improving academic support and mental health services.
    • Continuing to offer band, drama, choir and other student activities and clubs.
    • Continuing to offer athletic programming across all grade levels.
    • Maintaining an adequate fund balance to help protect the district’s credit rating and reduce the need for short-term borrowing.
    Comments (-1)
  • What are the anticipated benefits of the limiting-rate proposal?

    Posted by:

    The anticipated benefits include:

    • Protecting the quality of Warren Township High School and, in turn, property values.
    • Helping to fund advanced and diverse programs that ensure students are not at a competitive disadvantage when applying to college.
    • Protecting Advanced Placement (AP), career and technical education, and other academic and job training opportunities.
    • Keeping students engaged in high school by continuing to offer activities/clubs and athletics.
    • Continuing to allow students to explore academic and career interests
    • Providing more students, including at-risk students, the academic help they need to be successful.
    • Addressing growing mental health needs.
    Comments (-1)
  • Has the size of the original funding proposal been reduced?

    Posted by:

    Yes, the limiting rate proposal has been reduced from 60 cents to 35 cents. This size request better aligns with the community’s priorities, as identified in the public opinion research. The more modest request will, however, still allow the District to maintain an eight-period day, protect activities and athletics, and strengthen academic support and mental health services.

    Comments (-1)
  • What has WTHS done to reduce expenses?

    Posted by:

    WTHS has already taken many steps to balance its budget, including eliminating 51 teacher and staff positions over the past five years, refinancing outstanding debt, reducing the cost of employee benefits through a new healthcare cooperative, and renegotiating vendor contracts. The District has also continued to draw down its fund balance, which has reached the lowest level recommended by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). 

    Comments (-1)
  • When was the last time voters approved additional operating funds for WTHS?

    Posted by:

    Voters approved a 12-cent limiting rate increase 20 years ago.

    Comments (-1)
  • How many additional teaching positions will be eliminated if the proposal is not approved?

    Posted by:

    While some staff may continue to be laid off to account for declining student enrollment, it is projected that over the next three years 46 more teaching and staff positions will be eliminated resulting in increased class sizes, fewer curricular and co-curricular programs, as well as a reduced school day (moving from eight to seven periods). Retirements and attrition are not likely to offset these reductions.

    Comments (-1)
  • What are the likely impacts if the school day is reduced from 8 periods to seven?

    Posted by:

    Eliminating one period per day, which will shorten the school day, will impact WTHS students in various ways:

    • Students applying to college will be at a disadvantage compared to neighboring districts when academic opportunities, including some of the District’s Advanced Placement (AP) courses, are reduced.
    • The 8-period day allows students to explore academic and career interests, take multiple AP classes, and have access to many curricular and co-curricular programs. A reduction to a 7-period schedule will reduce those offerings and will also impact students who participate in job training.
    • The 8-period day allows for full participation in Tech Campus programming, while the 7-period day will not. Tech Campus is a Lake County Cooperative that allows students to participate in career training and earn college credits while they are still in high school.

     

    Comments (-1)
  • What types of activities and clubs would likely be eliminate if additional funding is not approved?

    Posted by:

    Without additional funding, it is projected that WTHS will need to eliminate many of the District’s 55 activity programs and clubs over the next three years. This could include band, choir, drama, the fall play and spring musical, robotics team, Scholastic Bowl, Science Olympiad, speech team, foreign language clubs, student council, and others.

    Comments (-1)
  • If additional funding is not approved how will athletic programming be impacted?

    Posted by:

    Without additional funding, it is projected that WTHS will need to eliminate many of the District’s 32 athletic programs or reduce program levels by eliminating Freshman and JV teams over the next three years. This could include baseball, basketball, bowling, cheerleading, dance, football, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, as well as other athletic programs.

    Comments (-1)
  • How have previous funding cuts already impacted the District’s student support services?

    Posted by:

    Previous rounds of cuts have negatively impacted academic support programs, including math and English intervention programs. Mental health support services have also been reduced. For example, the District currently has one school psychologist for every 2,000 students. Most of the other Lake County high school districts have a student-to-psychologist ratio of 600-to-1 or lower.

    Comments (-1)
  • If the District is short on operating funds why did it invest in solar panels?

    Posted by:

    The net cost of the solar project was $4.8 million.  This capital expenditure paid for with bonds, rebates, and incentives. It generates $300,000 in annual savings. The District is not permitted to use capital funds for operating expenses, so this was a prudent way to reduce both our carbon footprint and annual operating expenses. Learn more about the solar project here https://www.d121.org/Page/764

    Comments (-1)
  • What is the District’s mission when it comes to equity programming?

    Posted by:

    WTHS wants to ensure that every student, including at-risk students, has access to and success in the most academically challenging programs.

    Comments (-1)
  • How does WTHS’s funding compare to other Lake County high school districts?

    Posted by:

    WTHS has the lowest per-pupil funding compared to other high school districts in Lake County.

    Comments (-1)
  • Has the State determined that WTHS is underfunded?

    Posted by:

    In 2018, based on the Illinois State Board of Education’s Adequacy Target Calculation—which considers what each school district needs in order to adequately educate its students—WTHS was only 67% adequately funded, below the statewide average of 74%.

    Comments (-1)
  • How do WTHS’s staffing ratios compare to other Lake County high school districts?

    Posted by:

    The District has fewer teachers, certified staff members, and administrators per student. The District’s student-to-teacher, student-to-certified staff and student-to-administrator ratios are higher than those of its peer districts.  For example, there is one teacher for every 20.3 (1 to 20.3) students in WTHS. The state average is 1 to 19 and in the Grayslake and Stevenson districts it 1 to 17.5. With additional staffing cuts that number will increase.

    Comments (-1)
  • Does Grayslake 127, which has about 1,200 fewer students, receive the same funding as WTHS?

    Posted by:

    That is correct, even though Grayslake has 1,200+ fewer students, their total funding is about the same as WTHS.

    Comments (-1)
  • Will cuts continue this year, even if voters approved a limiting rate increase in April 2021?

    Posted by:

    Yes, due to the timing of the election and the time of the year the District receives tax payments, staff reductions will continue. These include eliminating up to 13 more teaching and staff positions and some bus and shuttle routes.

    Comments (-1)
  • Will the District’s fund balance be drawn down even further next year?

    Posted by:

    The District will need to draw down its fund balance below the minimum amount recommended by the Illinois State Board of Education for the 2021-2021 fiscal year. This may reduce the District’s credit rating and require short-term borrowing.

    Comments (-1)
  • Based on projected revenues and expenses, when would the District’s fund balance be depleted?

    Posted by:

    Without additional funding, or further cuts in staffing and programs, WTHS’s fund balance will be depleted within the next four years. Districts operating with negative fund balances may be subject to additional oversight from the State.

    Comments (-1)
  • What role do property values play when evaluating costs and benefits?

    Posted by:

    The quality of WTHS impacts demand for local real estate and, in turn, property values.

    Comments (-1)
  • What is the estimated tax impact?

    Posted by:

    The estimated tax impact of a 35-cent limiting rate increase is $10 per month per $100,000 of a home’s fair market value.

    Comments (-1)
  • How was the community involved in vetting the funding proposal?

    Posted by:

    WTHS assembled a Community Task Force comprised of business, civic and education leaders, including District alumni and parents, to vet various funding proposals. The District also sent two districtwide informational mailers, held several informational webinars, and conducted two surveys to gather community feedback. After reviewing the results of the public opinion research and other public input, the task force was unanimous in their support of the District placing a limiting rate referendum on the April 2021, with a majority of the task force members participating in the final meeting recommending the size of the original 60-cent proposal be reduced.

    Comments (-1)
  • Has the District explored additional State and Federal funding?

    Posted by:

    Federal funding represents approximately 2% of the District’s budget and is earmarked for specific programs including special education and transportation. Illinois provides about 15% of the District’s revenues in the form of grants and general funding. The District will continue to pursue additional grants, but these are typically tied to capital projects, not operating expenses.

    Comments (-1)
  • Are salaries and benefits driving the need for a referendum?

    Posted by:

    WTHS spends about 62% of the annual budget on salaries and benefits. This is lower than most other Lake County high school districts and is typical of school districts, which are people-driven enterprises. WTHS compensation is median for Lake County high schools—five districts have higher average salaries and four have lower. D121 teachers have an average of 15 years of experience and 73% hold master’s degrees. An individual’s compensation is tied to his/her years of experience and education. The current teachers’ contract runs through June 30, 2023.

    Comments (-1)
  • How has the Illinois pension system impacted the WTHS?

    Posted by:

    The pension system is not controlled at the local level. Therefore, the District is obligated to contribute at specified levels. There are currently no options for decreasing costs or converting to another type of plan like a 401K.

    Comments (-1)
  • The District owns property on Stearns School Road. Have you considered selling it to raise funds?

    Posted by:

    This 100-acre parcel was purchased in 2008 for $8 million dollars. Just over half of the acreage is currently leased for $10,500 annually. Selling this land would require approval from the Board of Education, an appraisal, and of course a buyer. A one-time cash infusion, on an undetermined date, will not resolve the District’s long-term operational needs.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can the District borrow (sell bonds) to cover these expenses?

    Posted by:

    In a word, no. Bonds typically are sold to cover capital needs including buildings and renovations. Increasing operating funds to meet educational costs on a long-term basis requires a limiting-rate tax increase like the one D121 is considering.

    Comments (-1)
  • How were the comparison school districts selected?

    Posted by:

    The comparison data includes all Lake County high school (9–12) districts. Unit (K–12) districts including Waukegan, Lake Zurich, and Round Lake are not included because their operating expenses and enrollment are not comparable. Wisconsin districts are not included because although they are geographically nearby, every state has different funding mechanisms.

    Comments (-1)
  • How is running a school district different from running a business?

    Posted by:

    School districts are obligated to educate all students and meet state and federal mandates. Regulations designed to ensure sound educational and financial practices place constraints on school districts that are quite different from those that businesses face when developing budgets. Unlike businesses, revenues for school districts are in large part tied to taxes. There are constraints on how much Illinois school districts can raise their tax levy each year to address growing expenses. In fact, over the past decade, districts have not been able to increase their tax levy by more than 2% annually.  WTHS has attempted to cut every possible expense that does not directly impact students and many that have. It has been about 20 years since an operating rate increase was approved. If expenses are further reduced it will mean eliminating additional staff and programs.

    Comments (-1)
  • How can District residents learn more about the referendum proposition and provide feedback?

    Posted by:

    WTHS will be hosting additional informational webinars in March. Following are the dates and times of the upcoming webinars:

    • Tuesday, March 9, 2021, 7:00 p.m.
    • Tuesday, March 30, 2021, 7:00 p.m.
    Comments (-1)
  • What if I have additional questions?

    Posted by:

    Superintendent Dr. John Ahlgrim is available to answer any questions you have regarding the funding proposition. He can be reached at jahlgrim@wths.net or (847) 548-7144. Time is also made available at WTHS Board of Education meetings for public comment. The schedule is posted on the District website.

    Comments (-1)