Election 2023: Woodstock School District 200 candidates talk property taxes

Four candidates vie for three seats on Woodstock School District 200 board

A composite of the four Woodstock 200 School Board candidates. They are incumbents Michelle Bidwell and John Headley on the top row, and incumbent Jerry Miceli and challenger Gina Willard on the bottom row.

Cutting costs, but not programming, and finding new revenue sources are some of the ideas Woodstock School District 200 school board candidates have for reducing the district’s property tax burden.

Four candidates are running for three positions on District 200′s school board. The winners of the April 4 election will secure a four-year spot.

Jerry Miceli, Michelle Bidwell and John Headley are all incumbents looking to hold on to their seats, while Gina Willard, who has a human resources background and running for public office for the first time, is looking to get onto the board.

The election is the first competitive one the district has seen since 2017, when 10 candidates ran for four seats, according to McHenry County election results.

In December, District 200 increased its property tax levy while lowering its tax rate for the eighth straight year. The new levy called for nearly $66 million in property taxes, which was about 4% higher than the previous year.

The new rate meant a $200,000 home saw its tax bill fall by an average of $172, assuming the home saw no change in value.

Schools in Illinois make up about 60% of a resident’s total property tax bill, the district said in December.

Headley and Willard said they want to find ways to reduce costs and both consider it a top priority.

I’m a taxpayer myself, so I don’t want to have to pay more than I have to. Saving money and reducing taxes for everyone is my goal.

—  District 200 school board candidate Gina Willard

Compared with other school districts in the area, Willard said she thinks a lot is going to the schools, but doesn’t think the amount is “ridiculous.”

A deeper dive into where money is going and potentially finding other sources of revenue are things she thinks can be done to reduce the tax burden. However, she said at this point she doesn’t have enough information to give specifics.

“I’m a taxpayer myself, so I don’t want to have to pay more than I have to,” she said. “Saving money and reducing taxes for everyone is my goal.”

Headley proposed restructuring the district’s bonds and reducing energy costs. However, as a former teacher, he is “wholeheartedly” opposed to cutting programming.

To reduce energy costs, Headley is pushing for a solar initiative for Woodstock North High School he hopes will save the district “hundreds of thousands of dollars” each year.

“It’s carbon footprint [concerns] first and economic second,” he said. “The funding issue is not going away, and we can’t continue to spend more without looking at how we’re spending it.”

Miceli said he thinks the district gets “a lot of bang for our buck,” saying the board is constantly monitoring where its money is going. He added that the board this past year tried to keep their tax rate flat due to ongoing inflation and its effect on residents.

“We are financially sound,” Miceli said. “We count every penny.”

One concern Miceli has going forward is how much funding the district might get from the state and federal government and how that might affect the budget going forward.

If, and when, lowering taxes is financially responsible for the district, I will always support that.

—  District 200 school board candidate Michelle Bidwell

Bidwell said taxes in McHenry County are “very high,” saying the school board has tried in her tenure to keep them as low as possible. She thinks the district’s taxes are at an appropriate level.

With its current rate, she does not think the district could lower its taxes right now and keep programming the same. Bidwell said she would not support cutting any current programming to lower taxes out of concern that it would “impact our students’ education and academic experience.”

“If, and when, lowering taxes is financially responsible for the district, I will always support that,” Bidwell said.

District 200′s boundaries include Woodstock, Greenwood, Wonder Lake, Bull Valley and parts of unincorporated McHenry County.

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