Roselle District 12 tax hike passes
Voters in Roselle Elementary District 12 handily approved a property tax increase Tuesday that will cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $500 more a year.
With all 13 precincts reporting, unofficial totals show 56.3 percent of voters supported the increase.
Superintendent Melissa Kaczkowski said she's already formed a parent advisory committee to begin setting spending priorities now that voters have passed the district's first operating tax rate increase in more than 30 years.
"What came across loud and clear is our community and our parents want a say in things," she said.
The revenue from the tax increase -- almost $1.5 million annually -- will help the district reach a "point of financial stability" after a series of budget deficits and a bond rating downgrade last spring, officials say.
The tax increase also will allow the district to begin completing roughly $5 million in repairs and other high-priority projects identified by architects in its two schools, officials say.
Kaczkowski said architects will revisit Roselle Middle and Spring Hills schools, both built in the 1960s, and help schedule the work.
The district previously expected to face a roughly $844,000 deficit next year. Even with the tax increase, planned budget cuts will plug roughly half of the shortfall. That includes offering only a half-day kindergarten program next year and leaving unfilled several positions after kindergarten teachers retire.
"Some of the immediate decisions are to make sure we're using every dollar as wisely we can," school board President Rob Bisceglie said.
Parent Steve Zurek attributed approval of the tax increase in part to heavy canvassing in neighborhoods by members of Save Our Schools, a group of about eight core members who supported the district's request. Volunteers visited more than 1,100 homes, he said.
"I think it's an issue that's been a long time coming," Zurek said late Tuesday. "Former school board members had seen where this was going. You can't fund on bond issues alone. The money's too expensive with the interest rates. At some point, there was going to have to be a referendum."