Lester: What a property tax freeze would cost suburban schools

A property tax freeze would cost schools in the collar counties up to $360 million by 2019, and $830 million for schools statewide, a new report finds.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability crunched the numbers in light of ongoing negotiations over a state budget. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says a property tax freeze must be in place before he'll agree to raising Illinois' income tax from its current rate of 3.75 percent for individuals and 5.25 percent for corporations.

The $830 million cut in local funds for K-12 education is calculated assuming school districts do not increase their tax levies for debt and pension payments, which a current version of the tax freeze bill allows.

The House Democrats' bill, filed this week, would have frozen property taxes through 2020 but exempted Chicago Public Schools and several other cash-strapped districts. The bill on Wednesday did not get the three-fifths majority needed to take effect immediately.

Center for Tax and Budget Accountability officials say that translates into a $476 drop in funding per year for every student in Cook County; $382 in DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties; and $375 for students in central and southern Illinois. Statewide, it's a $422 per-student funding decrease.

Republican lawmakers in favor of the property tax freeze say the state should make up the difference. But the state has gone 24 months without a budget, and Friday is the final day in the state's fiscal year.

<h3 class="leadin">Another budget victim

Officials from Family Focus, a nonprofit that has provided early childhood development programs to residents of Aurora, Glendale Heights, Evanston, Highland Park and Highwood since 1976, tell me they're laying off 100 workers Friday - roughly 70 percent of its staff - because of an “extreme cash flow crisis.” Director of grants and operations Sarah Holliday said the state owes Family Focus $2.7 million. The missing funds have caused the organization to take out emergency loans from board members and donors, but it wasn't enough to stay afloat.

<h3 class="leadin">Higher ed 'funeral'

Faculty members from Northeastern Illinois University on Monday held a New Orleans-style funeral march through the streets of Winnetka and up to Rauner's driveway, complete with jazz music and a tombstone depicting the death of higher education in Illinois. NEIU operates on a $90 million budget, one-third of which is state funding. School officials say they're trying to figure out how to open in the fall if no state money comes through.

Rauner did not comment about the march.

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  Owner Brad Garlin displays how to use a hoverboard at the HoverPark in West Dundee. Brian Hill/

Hoverboard expansion

A first of its kind hoverboard park in West Dundee attracted so much attention in its first six months in business that its operators were invited to open another location in the Wisconsin Dells. HoverPark manager Brian Wright tells me Chula Vista Resort officials “came down and kind of took a look at our location down here, and said, 'We'd love to have you come up,' and we'll be smack dab in the middle of a water park.”

That location is scheduled to open next month. Like the facility in West Dundee, it will rent hoverboards and tethered harnesses so both novices and more experienced hoverers can wend through the indoor courses.

I have to admit I really want to try this. For information,

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  John Nebl of the DuPage County Office of Homeland Security shows how the top of a Cold War bunker would be sealed in a nuclear bomb attack. Daniel White/

Bunker razed

It's the end of an era, as the Wheaton Cold War bunker on DuPage County's government campus was razed this week. Emergency Management Coordinator Sabbit Abbasi tells me the ceiling of the structure was “jackhammered and destroyed” and the rest will be filled in. DuPage County officials deemed the bunker, built in 1958 and billed as the first A-bomb-proof command and control center in the country, too expensive to repair.

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Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki Associated Press

Paprocki's suburban roots

A central Illinois Catholic bishop who has instructed priests to deny some sacraments and rites to people in same-sex marriages worked for years in the suburbs.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, the marathon-running, hockey-playing “holy goalie,” was an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago from 2003 to 2010 and presided over a number of parishes in Riverside, Forest Park, North Lake, Oak Park and Westchester.

In Springfield, Paprocki told priests to deny communion, last rites and funeral rites to people in same-sex marriages, unless they repent.

Archdiocese of Chicago officials say they have no such policy and some suburban priests, including the Rev. Corey Brost of the Arlington Heights-based Viatorians, have spoken out against Paprocki's mandate. “We as a church are better than this,” Brost said.

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