January 19, 2011
At its regular meeting on January 18, 2011, the District 39 Board of Education voted unanimously to place a referendum on the April 5th ballot asking voters for a tax rate increase for operating funds. Under the property tax cap, the District is required to get voter approval for this increase.
The District is asking for an additional $6.375 million, which translates to an increase of $58.80 per $1000 of taxes paid. The District is facing a current budget shortfall of $5.5 million and rapidly depleting financial reserves. Fund reserves are projected to decline to $11.7 million, or 24.2% of annual operating expenses, by the end of the current school year. This is below the District’s historically targeted levels of 40% and the Illinois State Board of Education’s minimum guidelines of 25%. District 39’s last tax rate referendum was in 1998.
District 39 Superintendent Ray Lechner made a presentation at the meeting outlining the District’s financial situation. “We are proud of the excellent education we provide to our students and our long history of efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” said Dr. Lechner. “The current budget shortfall has been brought on by a confluence of events: state budget problems, no provision in the tax cap for enrollment increases - coupled with almost 10% more students, and a nearly zero Consumer Price Index, which has limited property tax revenues. It has been almost 13 years since we asked voters for a tax rate increase. The District has implemented budget cuts of $4.3 million, which will leave a deficit of $3.7 million for 2011-2012. Our District already ranks last in New Trier Township in both teacher salaries and pupil-teacher ratios. To resolve this deficit, the District will need to make an additional $6.375 million in cuts over two years starting next fall. If made, these cuts will eliminate approximately 80 of our 328 certified teaching positions and eliminate entire programs including reading intervention, all foreign language, gifted support, and instrumental music. With the additional funds we are requesting, the District would be able to avoid making these staffing and programmatic cuts.”
District 39 Board of Education President Keith Dronen spoke to the community. “By this vote, the Board is asking the community to decide how we will move forward. We cannot continue with the budget deficits we have now. The voters have the opportunity to determine whether to increase our revenue and invest in our schools or proceed with additional cuts in staff and programs to balance the budget. I urge our voters to take the time to understand these issues.”
Last Updated (Wednesday, 19 January 2011 17:48)