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updated: 11/10/2011 6:02 PM

District 89 delays push for tax increase

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Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 officials say they won't ask voters for a tax increase next year, but they will in 2013.

In the face of an increasingly grim financial picture, school board members have talked about putting a tax-rate increase proposal on the ballot for the past few years. Officials predict there will be $4.5 million in accumulated deficits over the next five years and district reserve funds -- which have been used to make up differences in each year's budget -- are only expected to last through the 2015-16 school year.

Based on feedback received from district residents, now may not be the right time to ask for an increase, Superintendent John Perdue said.

"The consensus (is) that these are very difficult economic times for everyone. (Residents said), 'You've done a great job using the resources you do have, being efficient with them and making reductions where they could be made practically without impacting the educational programming,'" Perdue said. "But the economy makes it very difficult to propose a tax increase right now."

District board members considered a referendum push for the March 20, 2012, primary election. Now, they're looking to get a question on the Feb. 26, 2013, ballot. They won't consider the Nov. 6, 2012 general election, to allow time to develop a proposal and work with the community, Perdue said.

What voters would likely consider is a "consumer price index override question," in which the tax cap could be exceeded for a still-undetermined period of time, Perdue said.

The last District 89 tax increase referendum was in 1986. Perdue said other feeder districts within the Glenbard High School District 87 system have raised their tax rates once or twice in that time.

"They've had a little bigger cushion with which to absorb the economic times we've gone through," he said.

District costs have been affected by inflation -- everything from employment and health care costs to the price of instructional materials and fuel for buses. Other variables include state and federal funding cuts, Perdue said.

Those reductions have led to the district spending reserve funds at a faster rate, he said.

The district also implemented $2.4 million in budget reductions over the past three years.

In March, the school board voted to cut some personnel and programs to help fill a projected $1 million deficit. Those cuts, along with fee increases, actually led to the district finishing the fiscal year with a small surplus, Perdue said.

But officials still are predicting deficit spending in the next few years.

The district's most recent cuts didn't include so-called Level 2 and 3 reductions that would have had a greater impact on classroom instruction. Perdue said the board isn't considering those options as it begins formulating next year's budget.

"We're going to hold steady for the time being with the current programming," Perdue said. "We will continue to look for operational efficiencies where we can."

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