Despite some indication online that opposition was forming to block Komarek School District 94’s proposed sale of $2.4 million in working cash bonds, no one showed up last week to register a complaint at the public hearing on the subject.
Fewer than five people, most of those affiliated with the school district, sat in the audience at the public hearing on the bond sale, held Aug. 14 at Komarek School in North Riverside.
During the hearing, Superintendent Neil Pellicci reiterated the reasons the board of education was seeking to issue the bonds, pointing out reductions in state funding for early childhood education, general state aid, transportation and special education. The state has also shifted money the district receives through the Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax to fund costs related to the regional office of education.
Between 2014 and 2017, the district estimates it will lose tens of thousands in state funding for education. The Illinois General Assembly could also begin phasing in a plan to shift teacher pension contributions increasingly from the state to local school districts.
That could result in the district paying an additional $93,000 annually for teacher pensions by 2017, according to information provided by the district at the public hearing.
In addition, said Pellicci, D94 was hit hard by successful property tax appeals in 2012. The district paid out $313,000 in property tax refunds based on successful appeals in 2012. In 2011, the district had to refund $137,700 due to successful appeals.
At the same time, some education costs – particularly ones related to mandated special education services – have spiked. During the 2011-12 school year, special education expenses came in over budget by about $200,000. Overall expenses related to education were about $370,000 over budget for 2011-12.
The decrease in revenues and increase in expenses had a negative impact on the school district’s cash reserves. By the end of June 2012, D94 had just $268,000. The school board in July voted to permanently transfer $375,000 from its operations and maintenance fund to the education fund to bolster the district cash reserve.
“They cut everything on us,” said school board President Deborah Czajka. “We need to stay afloat without hurting the public.”
The board believes that issuing the cash bonds would avoid the need for a property tax referendum and only slightly impact taxpayers’ wallets. The district’s bond underwriter estimated that the owner of a property worth $200,000 would pay $15 more per year in taxes to cover the debt service on the bonds.
Issuing the bonds will build a financial bridge to 2016, Pellicci told the Landmark in July, when the Broadview Village Square TIF District expires. The expiration of the TIF will produce significant additional revenue for the district, within whose boundaries a good portion of the TIF district resides.
Had the TIF expired in 2011, for example, the district would have been in line for $650,000 in additional property tax revenues.
“The way we were looking at it as a board, if it comes down to $15 a year, we don’t want to have to go to referendum,” Czajka said.
It’s possible that the bond sale could be forced to a referendum in November, but that appears unlikely. A petition to put the bond sale on the ballot must be turned in to the school district by Aug. 24.
George Georgopoulos, a North Riverside resident who blocked a bond sale by the village of North Riverside in the fall, hinted earlier this month at a possible petition drive against the school district’s bond issue.
On Friday, however, Georgopoulos confirmed that he was not moving ahead with the petition.
“I just ran out of time,” he said.
If there is no petition to force the matter to a vote, the school board will vote to approve the bond sale at its regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 9. Once that happens, the bonds, which would be paid back over 20 years, will be sold. The district can expect to receive the bond proceeds in October.
When that happens, said Pellicci, $900,000 will immediately be placed in the education fund to pay day-to-day expenses. The rest will be used as needed in subsequent years.