Just a year after getting turned aside by voters, school officials in Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 gave solid support to a referendum that will raise the district’s education fund tax rate by 47 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value.
With 11 of 14 precincts reporting, the question was ahead by a count of 1,535 to 1,201. That was enough for Superintendent Douglas Rudig to declare the referendum a winner at 10:30 p.m. last night.
“Based on the numbers these same three precincts gave us last year, we feel we have won it,” Rudig said.
In 2005, 54 percent of voters cast “no” votes for a lower tax increase. Rudig said district officials did a better job getting their message to voters this time around.
“The big difference for us was that we’ve been out there for a year,” Rudig said. “The board really got the word out to many, many more people, and got the message across in a much more intense way.”
In addition to getting the message out about education improvements in the district in the past several years, the school board also specifically laid out a series of staff and program cuts that result if the referendum didn’t pass this time around.
“We were certainly focused on three major areas,” Rudig said. “First, all of the excellent improvements the district has made in the last six years. Second, the cutbacks that would have to happen, and three we have a future plan that supports education and facilities both.”
The district has been helping bolster its operational fund in recent years by using bond proceeds. In 2004, the district issued $3.6 million in working cash bonds, which it has used to cover shortfalls in its education fund.
The deficit in the education fund for the 2005-06 school year was expected to be approximately $800,000. Without an influx of cash, the district projected that the education fund would be bankrupt by next year.
By passing the 47-cent tax increase, the district expects to have a surplus in its education fund of some $3 million by 2010, which will keep it solvent for many years and also allow the district to use bond proceeds it still has in the bank to address facilities renovations at its two schools, Brook Park School in LaGrange Park and S.E. Gross Middle School.
The referendum victory also marks the final major achievement of Rudig, who announced his resignation from the district last fall and will be taking over as superintendent of Elmwood Park Unit District 401 next fall.
“It makes me extremely proud that people recognized all of the improvements we’ve worked on in the last six years,” said Rudig, who has been superintendent since 2000. “They want to continue to see that in the district.”