Voters in LaGrange School District 102, K-8 district in Chicago near-west suburbs, will decide on Election Day whether to raise their taxes in order to keep operations running smoothly and class sizes in the low 20s, the Chicago Tribune reports.
On the ballot will be a referendum for an increase in the taxes homeowners would pay by slightly more $100 per $100,000 equalized assessed valuation. The owner of a $600,000 home would pay about $641 more in taxes annually if the referendum passes.
If it doesn’t pass, the school board will start discussing what cuts they need to make right after the election. “We’re not saying that X, Y, or Z is definitely happening,” or that this program or that will be cut, the paper quoted board President Matt Scotty as saying. Possible cuts include:
- closing the Science Center
- closing Barnsdale Road School (no full-day kindergarten)
- Spanish classes for elementary students
- band and/or orchestra at the elementary schools
- instructional coaches
- after-school clubs and sports
- reducing the special education staff
- putting off technology upgrades
Superintendent Kyle Schumacher said the district needs to make up for money the state hasn’t been able to provide, with Springfield providing less than 90 percent of the amount the district had been expecting. “There has certainly been several million dollars over the last few years that we haven’t received from the state,” he was quoted as saying.
Mr Schumacher, before coming to District 102, led two successful referendum campaigns in Telluride, Colorado, the Telluride Daily Planet reported back in February. Funds in the most recent drive came from Colorado’s new tax on recreational marijuana use and were used in support of drug education programs.
A few years earlier, in 2011, a referendum known as Proposition 103 failed to produce needed revenue from taxes and the district suffered through a few cuts under Mr Schumacher’s leadership. But he kept the cuts away from classrooms as much as possible. When the district put the referendum back on the ballot the following year, he had this to say:
These monies will be focused on directly improving the education our students receive in the classrooms. The hiring, retention, and training of highly effective teachers will lead directly to higher educational achievements by students. Further, appropriate use of technology, and the training to utilize it effectively, is an important trend in education. As a district, we’ve slipped a little behind the curve in this area and this mill levy override will allow us to make up some ground. Through the use of technology and a flexible approach to curriculum and space planning, we are able to fully utilize our space in a more effective manner while increasing learning opportunities for our students.
The same is true today in District 102. Illinois, like Colorado before it, has failed to deliver funds school districts were counting on. When Mr Schumacher was in Telluride, the district hadn’t counted on money that would come from homeowners paying a little more than the current levy cap allowed, but deficiencies have a nasty habit of catching up to our schools. In District 102, kids are in fact counting on the money to keep class sizes in the low 20s instead of climbing to near the 30 mark.
Public information meetings were held in August to discuss the issue with the public, and although some good questions were raised, most people interviewed by the paper gave the attitude toward the referendum a positive mark. One new resident said the district should strive to be comparable to neighboring school districts in Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills.
The district serves about 3,150 students in one pre-K/kindergarten school (Barnsdale); four elementary schools (Ogden Avenue Elementary School in LaGrange, opened in 1910; Cossitt Elementary School in LaGrange, opened in 1883; Forest Road Elementary School in LaGrange Park, opened in 1950; Congress Park Elementary School in Brookfield, also opened in 1950); and one middle school (Park Junior High School in LaGrange Park). The district feeds Lyons Township High School, which has two campuses, one in LaGrange and one in Western Springs.