Lisle subdivision wants to join Naperville District 203
When Chris Cantele looks down the street from his Lisle townhouse each morning, he sees buses from Naperville Unit District 203 picking up children in a neighboring subdivision.
Meanwhile, the handful of school-age children in his neighborhood must take 40- to 50-minute bus rides to and from elementary and middle schools in Woodridge.
Cantele says that doesn't make sense to him and the overwhelming majority of his neighbors.
So they submitted a petition with the DuPage Regional Office of Education asking to deannex from Woodridge Elementary District 68 and Downers Grove High School District 99. They want their community of 88 townhouses -- named Hidden Lake -- to be annexed into District 203.
District 68 and District 99 are challenging that plan.
"The territory is part of our school district," said Patrick Broncato, District 68's assistant superintendent for personnel and administrative services. "We'd like it to remain part of our school district."
So far, the attorney District 68 and District 99 hired to represent them has successfully argued that the DuPage County Regional Board of School Trustees shouldn't accept the Hidden Lake petition because of errors in the paperwork.
On Monday night, the regional board is scheduled to vote to dismiss the latest version of Hidden Lake's petition.
"It has to meet certain criteria," DuPage County Regional Superintendent of Schools Darlene Ruscitti said. "If it doesn't meet certain criteria, we can't accept the petition."
The situation is frustrating Cantele, who has spent months trying to convince the regional school officials to consider Hidden Lake's request. Nearly 90 percent of the Hidden Lake homeowners signed the petition.
"All we want is for them to review our petition," Cantele said. "But they haven't even read it."
Jeff Hagen, the attorney representing Hidden Lake, says he believes District 99 and District 68 are opposing the deannexation request for financial reasons.
Hidden Lake only has three school-age children -- two attend Goodrich Elementary in Woodridge while the third attends Jefferson Junior High in Woodridge.
But if Hidden Lake is allowed to deannex, District 68 would lose about $370,000 a year in property taxes, according to the regional superintendent's office. The tax revenue District 99 stands to lose is estimated at $155,000 a year.
"It does come down to money," said Hagen, who is a Hidden Lake homeowner. "District 68 and 99 don't want to lose the tax revenue they get from this property."
But Broncato said the possible loss of tax revenue isn't an overriding reason why District 68 is opposing the deannexation.
"We have students that currently go to our schools that are in that territory," Broncato said. "We believe we can provide them an excellent education. We would like to continue to have those students in our school district."
A District 99 spokeswoman, meanwhile, declined to discuss the reasons the high school district is opposing the deannexation request.
If regional school board members eventually consider Hidden Lake's petition, Hagen said all they will need to do is "look at a map" to realize the subdivision should be in District 203.
Built in 1997, Hidden Lake is located off Abbeywood Drive, east of College Road. While the subdivision is along the western border of District 68 and District 99, it can be reached only by roads that run through District 203.
Hagen said that's one reason why students from Hidden Lake must take long bus rides to and from school. He said their trips would be significantly shorter if they attended District 203 schools.
A District 203 spokeswoman said the district is aware of the annexation request and "will work cooperatively with the regional office through their process in the event a new petition is filed."
If Hidden Lake is able to annex into District 203, the school district would receive roughly $400,000 a year in new property tax revenue, according to the regional superintendent's office.
Meanwhile, Ruscitti points out that most deannexation requests in DuPage have been unsuccessful in recent years. Despite the regional school board approving five deannexation petitions over the last seven years, Ruscitti said, four of those decisions were overturned in court.