Endorsement: Yes to taxes to shore up Roselle District 12 finances

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted2/26/2016 1:00 AM

Roselle Elementary District 12 is in trouble, it says. It's facing unfunded federal and state mandates, and it's only patching up structural and maintenance problems in its two schools and administrative building. Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the district's bond rating and assigned a "negative outlook," citing the regular operating deficits, "declining, though still satisfactory" reserves, and a modest tax base.

So, District 12 is asking residents for a tax increase -- what would be its first in 30 years and one amounting to about $500 a year for the owner of a house worth $250,000.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Roselle District 12 is a small school district -- 725 K-8 students total ­-- in a bedroom community with no real desire or capability for expanding retail to supplement residents' property taxes, the district contends. It has about a $12 million annual budget with a deficit approaching $1 million. Furthermore, a facility study completed last year recommends millions of dollars' worth of needed replacements and repairs.

District 12 has already made cuts of about $450,000, it says, reducing full-day kindergarten to half-day and cutting its teaching staff through attrition. Plus, teachers offered to freeze their cost-of-living raises for a year to save $35,000. The district says that if the tax increase is not approved, a second round of cuts would be required: art, music, band and the school newspaper, plus extracurriculars like athletics and dance.

Class sizes, already in the mid- to high 20s, could exceed 30. The district acknowledges its teachers are well-paid, comparable to other teachers in surrounding suburbs, but their experience and continuity benefit the children, it says.

The district even threatens that state officials could in a couple of years take over the district's finances if it doesn't solve the budget problem.

This is not a big, bloated district. It's not hard to believe the district's conclusion that it doesn't have much more room to cut -- other than some of the curriculum and extracurriculars that parents value.

There certainly is sticker shock from an increase of $500 for the average homeowner's tax bill. But it's needed if citizens want to maintain the district's educational standards, and if they don't want to risk having to pay even more later. We say "yes" to this tax increase request.

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