High School, McHenry High School
Bachelor's Degree, Environmental Biology/Education, Northland College, Ashland Wisconsin
Master's Degree, Education Curriculum and Instruction, Loyola University
Other, Insurance - Licensed Commercial & Personal Property/Casualty, Independent Insurance Agents of Illinois
Married, Bruce Domoto
On the Record
What experiences do you have that make you a good candidate for office?
In the 10 years that I have been on the board, the quality of the education programs delivered continues to grow even as District 46 has become more fiscally sound. We have added all-day kindergarten at no cost to families, an Early Childhood Education program, RtI (Response to Intervention - to boost achievement for students who are starting to slip behind), Reading Recover, PBIS (for behavioral problems), MAPS testing, a stronger summer school program, and more technology in our classrooms. We continue to keep our class sizes low. Even though the state’s contributions are decreasing, I have pushed for balanced budgets and more effective use of funds so that local taxpayers receive the best value possible for their contributions. I have a Masters’ Degree in Education Curriculum and Instruction and I taught High School for several years, so I am also sensitive to the demands that are put on our staff to deliver great results. I have worked tirelessly to find a balance between delivering incredible services to our students and providing tools and compensation for our very hard-working qualified staff, while remembering that most of this is paid for by local property taxes.
What are your top two or three priorities if elected?
Chicago Magazine rated our district #1 in their list of “Best Schools in McHenry County”, three years in a row. This is a direct reflection of our incredibly talented employees and the tools we provide for them. However, Illinois state tests will soon replace the way “Adequate Yearly Progress” is currently measured with new “Common Core Standards”. This will have a huge impact on the way our teachers deliver information in the classroom. The first priority of this Board needs to be providing our teachers with the tools, training, and coaching needed to make this transition. The second priority is to develop a long range facilities plan. As our buildings age, we need to make sure that they are safe, and that we have a plan for improvements and repairs that can be implemented within our current financial parameters, without asking our taxpayers for additional funds. Finally, our district has integrated technology into our programs so that students have access every day. Online textbooks and other tools are changing teachers deliver material to our students. We need to continue to find effective ways that technology use can enhance the education process.
Would you support freezing your taxing district’s levy until housing prices rebound? Why or why not?
Holding the line on property tax levies is extremely important! I have two concerns with a new law that freezes tax rates: First, a freeze implies the rates can’t go DOWN or up. For the past 7 years our district has abated the bond and interest funds that we were scheduled to collect, therefore REDUCING the tax we “could have legally collected” by over $3 million dollars. In addition, we also reduced the 2011 and 2012 tax levies, with estimated savings of almost $711,000. Schools get income from many sources besides property taxes. If we receive additional federal funds for programs like President Obama’s Early Childhood Education Proposal, or if our Legislature increases school funding to the level required by the Illinois Constitution, local property tax levies should decrease, not stay frozen! Conversely, a law enforcing a freeze would not allow adjustments for expenses such as the proposal to require local districts to pay additional pension costs; that could cripple many districts. School board members are elected to make correct and fair financial decisions at all times; I am not sure how a law freezing the tax levy based on housing prices helps them to achieve this.
What one decision by the school board do you most disagree with and why?
In 2003, right after I joined the board, we refinanced our bonds. At the time, ‘experts’ predicted a large population increase in our district by 2014. The debt was restructured with the installments gradually increasing at first so that payments would double by 2014. The payments would then balloon to twice that amount by 2023. This was supposed to coincide with the influx of new taxpayers . I wasn’t comfortable with that plan. However, I did vote for it, because I respected the opinions of other Board members who “appeared” to have stronger financial expertise than I did. Obviously, the growth didn’t happen, our district has almost 200 fewer students now, and we were still scheduled to have large increases to our debt service payments starting in 2015. Over the past few months we used reserves to pay off $3.2 million in debt certificates, and we refinanced the remaining debt at a lower, flat rate. This saved taxpayers over $900,000 in scheduled interest, and it allows our district to extend our 8 year history in the top financial rating tier for Illinois School Districts. I now have learned to take a more conservative approach to economic and population forecasts.
What was the biggest accomplishment of the board in the past year?
In 2002, before I joined District 46’s Board of Education, a tax referendum passed that was marketed as a 50 cent increase; because of the method used by the county, the referendum actually became an 85 cent increase. Our board worked for the past 7 years to find a way to give that money back to our taxpayers without incurring penalties from the state for assessing less from our taxpayers than we ‘should’. We developed a plan to keep the levy at the lowest rate we could without getting a penalty, and then we ‘gave back’ to the taxpayers by not assessing the Bond and Interest Funds that we were legally able to. Last year we adopted a Board Policy to guarantee that any future elected board members will be required to ‘honor’ this plan. We are getting close to achieving our goal of returning all 35 cents; after the new tax year we will have abated more than 29 cents of the levy. Overall, this amounts to almost $4 million that our taxpayers were able to keep. We also have monitored our budget closely to make sure that the District maintains financial stability as this happened.
Why should voters elect you to office?
a)Proven track record: Our schools received the Illinois Academic Excellence award 3 years in a row for high test scores while we maintained our tax levy rates and increased the district’s financial stability. b)Commitment – I have attended over 200 District 46 meetings in 10 years, and I missed only 2 of the regular monthly meetings during that time. (I find it amazing that most of the new candidates running for the Board are not attending the meetings since they filed their election papers.) c)Education: I believe training is crucial for any job; I have been recognized by the Illinois Association of School Boards for achieving ‘Master School Board’ level 7 years in a row because of seminars I attended to improve my skills at this “non-salaried job”. d)Work experience: I believe my employment history gives me unique qualifications for this role on the Board of Education: I taught High School Science, and managed a technology department for a large corporation. I am a licensed insurance agent, and I currently work as an accountant in a privately owned company. These experiences allow me to look objectively at many sides of the issues facing our District.
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