One year ago, Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 asked voters to support a tax increase to pull the district’s education fund?”the fund that pays for the district’s everyday expenditures?”out of the red.
At that time, voters rejected that tax increase. In the meantime, the district’s financial position has not improved. Despite being able to balance the education fund by using borrowed bond money, District 95 is getting to the point where it?”and the residents that support it?”must face the music.
Sure the district could buy more time and use accumulated bond money currently sitting in the district’s working cash fund to balance another year, maybe two, of deficit spending. Doing so, however, would be a hopeless attempt to forestall the inevitable. Voters need to understand that the time will come, and soon, that it will either provide financial support in the form of higher property taxes or it will have to face drastically reduced education programs and staff.
This isn’t simply a scare tactic?”the district purposely went to referendum last year asking for less money without the threat of cuts?”this is the reality.
Why is the district asking for more money now than it asked a year ago? Because the intervening year?”which saw expenses rise while revenues stayed flat?”has put the district in a worse financial position. If the referendum fails again, the district will likely ask for more once again in the fall.
Why have revenues stayed flat? Because the state’s tax cap laws are working as intended. The problem is that the state’s duty to help finance public education isn’t being fulfilled. We wish this weren’t the case, but the only way to fund public education in Illinois is through local property taxes.
Asking for less money than last year is not the answer. Sure, it will eventually pull the education fund into the black. But by the time it does, any reserves that could be used to address capital projects or service debt for capital projects would be frittered away.
It would also likely force the district to come back to voters for another referendum sooner than later. The 47-cent hike sought by the District 95 school board will ensure that the district can fund current programs, offer expanded programs in the future and address its aging buildings at the same time.
The last time District 95 successfully asked voters for an education fund tax hike was in 1985. Since that time, deficits have been covered by issuing millions of dollars in bonds. Sure, the bonds get paid off, but what does the district have to show for it? Certainly not better-equipped science labs, classroom windows that open or modern, fuel-efficient heating systems.
Large-scale debt is for large-scale capital improvements, not for funding everyday operations. Currently, the district cannot address the state of its two old buildings, because money that should be used for their repair is being used to pay teachers.
The school board is not grasping for more than it needs. It is planning for a future in which District 95 provides a first-rate education for children in the district.
It’s time to vote yes for the District 95 tax referendum.