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updated: 6/13/2012 11:32 PM

Itasca District 10 might ask voters for tax hike

State funding drops, causing budget gap

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Although the possibility is almost one year away, officials in Itasca Elementary District 10 are considering a referendum asking permission to raise taxes.

The idea comes as the district is moving to use about $350,000 from its $1 million savings fund to plug a budget shortfall for next year. The district has not asked residents for a tax increase in decades.

Officials said the gap was caused by several factors, including falling property tax revenues and unreliable funding from Illinois, which is struggling with a budget crisis that has left $9 billion in unpaid bills.

During a meeting Wednesday, the school board listened to a brief presentation from Kory Atkinson, District 10 director of operations, on school referendum trends in both the region and state.

Atkinson told board members that data show voters are more likely to approve a school tax increase during a consolidated election, where roughly 42 percent passed in the last 12 years, rather than in a general election, where only about 28 percent passed.

Data reveal that voters are also more likely to approve a tax increase for specific building projects rather than for overall operating expenses, Atkinson said.

He urged the board to postpone putting a referendum on the ballot until April 2013 instead of this November. The board did not discuss how much they might ask to increase taxes.

Atkinson said a new roof and a building addition are needed at Franzen Intermediate School to replace portable classrooms, and more work must be done first if tax increase funds would be tied to the project.

"We would need drawings and a cost estimate and the time to get that completed so we could inform the public," Atkinson said. "Data suggests we would be grateful."

The board did not take action on the measure Wednesday because the idea is in its preliminary stages.

Typically, District 10 receives about $225,000 in general aid from Illinois for about 900 students. But because of the state budget crisis, the Illinois State Board of Education notified the district that the amount will decrease next year. Officials said the district is budgeting for roughly $169,000 instead in anticipation of the shortfall.

As a result, officials plan to use about $350,000 from the district's $1 million savings fund.

Superintendent Marcia Tornatore said last month that the district will hold meetings this fall with residents to discuss the district's borrowing and ideas on how to cap spending.

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