Five public forums slated for D95 referendum push

First session on Thursday at Gross School

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By BOB UPHUES

As a way to increase awareness of its March 21 referendum question and to educate voters on the financial position of the district, the Brookfield-LaGrange Park Board of Education is sponsoring a series of public forums beginning tomorrow night.

According to a letter sent home with students Jan. 11, the school board and district administrators will be on hand to present information and answer questions from voters on the following dates:

? Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. at S.E. Gross School, 3524 Maple Ave., Brookfield

?  Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at Brook Park School, 30th Street and Raymond Avenue, LaGrange Park

?  Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at S.E. Gross School

?  Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at Brook Park School

?  Wednesday, March 8 at S.E. Gross School

The format for each of the forums will be similar in order to accommodate voters who may be able to attend just one session. The forum will begin with a 15- to 20-minute presentation on the basics of the school district's financial situation, followed by a question-and-answer session.

District 95 is asking voters to approve an increase in its education fund, which pays for day-to-day operating expenses, such as teacher and administrator salaries and benefits. Early on Superintendent Douglas Rudig indicated that a successful referendum would mean a tax increase of roughly $450 per year for the owner of a home valued at $250,000.

Last week, however, school board members backed off that number, saying it didn't take into account various exemptions open to property owners. At a meeting of the board on Jan. 12, school board President James Landahl said that figuring out individual tax increases was more complicated than a simple blanket figure.

"There's no way we can determine any one individual burden [for all taxpayers]," Landahl said.

Rudig suggested perhaps using several examples of properties within the district to give voters an idea of the potential increase.

"We may have to use examples and invite people to go to the [Cook County Assessor's] web site and figure it out for themselves," Rudig said. "If you look up your house at the Cook County web site, they'll give you the assessment."

Board Secretary Thomas Powers, said that senior citizens, especially, need to be assured that they may qualify for certain exemptions that cap the amount of the tax increase. But, he said, "We want to make sure we don't cross the line of confusing people."

This is the district's second attempt at passing a property tax increase to bolster the district's education fund, which is expected to be bankrupt, according to current financial projections, by the end of the 2006-07 school year.

In April 2005, a referendum question was defeated by District 95 voters by a 54 to 46 percent margin.

If the district fails to win a tax increase in March, school officials have warned that the result would be cuts in teaching staff and programs at both Brook Park School and S.E. Gross Middle School, the two schools in the district which serves Brookfield residents in Proviso Township and a portion of LaGrange Park.

 

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