Just 202 votes separated Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 from new tax revenue on April 5. The school district, which hadn’t sought an increase in its education fund tax rate since 1985, lost 11 of 14 precincts in the two villages with 54 percent voting against the measure.
Unofficial numbers from the Cook County Clerk’s office showed that 1,431 people voted against the tax increase, while 1,229 voted in favor of it. A successful referendum would have raised taxes by approximately $350 per household this year and another $50 or less next year.
“I think in terms of percentage we did win in a way,” said District 95 President MariAnn Leibrandt, who did not run for reelection. “We lost a lot of precincts by small margins. Maybe we as a group need to get the message out better. We were so close.”
In fact, the district lost by fewer than 15 votes in six precincts and won out in Brookfield’s 63rd and 90th precincts. The measure also prevailed by two votes in LaGrange Park’s 154th Precinct.
But the question fared poorly in Brookfield’s 32nd Precinct, where voters objected by a 69 to 31 percent margin, in Brookfield’s 84th Precinct (62 percent against) and LaGrange Park’s 117th Precinct (61 percent against).
According to Leibrandt, there were also 471 voters who took ballots, but didn’t vote one way or the other on the referendum question.
What the failure of the referendum will mean for students and programs in District 95 is not entirely clear, although Superintendent Dr. Douglas Rudig said no programs would be cut next year as a result. However, he added that the district would likely seek another referendum in 2006.
“We’re not in dire straits,” Rudig said. “We’ll certainly have to look at this year’s budget.”
Rudig indicated that the district may opt not to hire new staff to replace some teachers who are retiring at the end of the year. As a result, he also said that class sizes may inch up a bit next year.
“We’ll make minor cuts in various areas, but our intention is not to eliminate any programs,” Rudig said.
Asked whether he could make enough smaller cuts to close the gap between expenditures and revenues, Rudig said that would be hard to do without eliminating staff or programs. The 2004-05 budget for District 95 called for expenses to outpace revenues by some $350,000 in the education fund and by $790,000 across all funds.
“We don’t have a lot of fluff in the district,” Rudig said. “We don’t have a business manager or a curriculum coordinator or a central office person in charge of buildings and operations. We have tried to be prudent.”
Also unclear is how the failure of the referendum will affect negotiations with teachers on a new contract. The current contract expires at the end of the school year.
“It certainly does have an impact, since we’re not able to count on revenues we could be using to support the entire education fund,” Rudig said.