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updated: 11/14/2017 5:52 PM

District 59 leery of consolidating with District 57

But Elk Grove Twp. school board doesn't completely shut out the idea

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This story has been corrected to indicate Mount Prospect District 57 has talked to River Trails School District 26 about consolidation.

Elk Grove Township District 59 school board members indicated Monday that consolidating with Mount Prospect District 57 wouldn't be advantageous, but they did not completely shut down the possibility of combining.

Talks of consolidation have arisen as District 57 struggles to balance its budget and may have a tax referendum on the March ballot. Residents who've attended community forums about the tax referendum have asked the district to gauge interest in consolidating with neighboring districts.

The district is also seeking feedback from Arlington Heights District 25 and River Trails District 26.

"I'd like to help them, but I just don't know if that's another responsibility -- financially, particularly -- that we should enter in to," board member Mardell Schumacher said.

However, Schumacher said she was open to discussing consolidation. Board member Sharon Roberts had a similar response.

"Out of common courtesy, I feel like we should say we're willing to have a conversation," Roberts said.

But other school board members had no interest in consolidating.

"I'd rather us just use our resources to continue to advance the goals that we've set for ourselves," board member Sunil Bhave said.

The referendum, which the District 57 school board is expected to consider in December, would ask voters to approve its first tax increase in 29 years, with the exception of building bonds.

Last week, a community task force voted unanimously to recommend the school board put a tax referendum on the ballot that would ask to add 85 cents to the tax rate. The added cost to a taxpayer with a $300,000 home would be about $408 per year.

District 57 board President Joe Sonnefeldt said he asked the neighboring districts to discuss consolidation at the request of community members.

"I think some community members see it as a silver bullet -- that consolidation would solve all our problems," Sonnefeldt said. "I don't think that's the case."

He said the district has large class sizes and low-paid teachers compared to surrounding districts. The process of putting the referendum on the ballot would continue whether or not a district shows interest in consolidation, Sonnefeldt said.

"I can't say one way or another whether it would be advantageous to consolidate," he said.

"It's a pretty complex process, and there's quite a bit of research that goes into it. Only then would we know if it would be beneficial to either or both districts."

Consolidation has five main steps:

• First, school boards from both districts or at least 50 voters in each district would need to submit a petition to the regional superintendent.

• Then the regional superintendent would hold a public hearing to hear testimony.

• Next, the regional superintendent would decide whether to approve the petition.

• If the petition is approved, the state superintendent would need to approve the petition.

• Lastly, the proposition must pass by a majority of voters in each school district.

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