District 57 weighs tax hike referendum in 2018
Mount Prospect Elementary District 57 school board members are considering placing a referendum on the March 2018 ballot to raise property taxes due to growing financial pressures and a significant spike in enrollment.
But the board is first expected to make a decision about immediate space constraints on Feb. 2, when it may vote on an estimated $200,000 summer project for the lease and installation of two mobile classrooms at Westbrook School.
District 57 Superintendent Elaine Aumiller also is recommending the relocation of the SOAR special education program from Fairview to Lions Park schools.
A specific proposal for how large a tax increase the district might seek next year has not been made, but it would be researched if the board gives direction to do so, Aumiller said.
Board President Joe Sonnefeldt said he and fellow board members already are aware of the causes of Aumiller's recommendation.
"The board wasn't really surprised by anything in the recommendation," he said. "No definitive decision will be made until the fall."
Though the financial pressures on the district have been mounting, officials had been hoping to bide their time while awaiting a breakthrough in the state's budget impasse, Sonnefeldt said.
"We can't wait any longer," he said.
Even if an education fund rate increase were approved by voters next year, another increase for the building fund could be needed within the following five to seven years to rebuild or renovate the more than 60-year-old Lincoln Middle School, Aumiller said.
Such a project -- which would satisfy the district's facility needs for the next 20 years -- would reconfigure Lincoln into a school for grades five through eight, alleviate overcrowding at Fairview and Lions Park schools, and possibly create a full-day kindergarten program, she said.
While enrollment has been gradually increasing throughout Aumiller's eight years with the district, there was a significant spike in this year's kindergarten enrollment -- from just under 200 students up to 236.
The upcoming kindergarten registration for next year may indicate whether that was a fluke or the start of a trend, she said.
The option of staying at the current financial levels was also presented to the board, but Aumiller said the district's dwindling reserves would start to hurt operations within three to five years.
No board members advocated for that option, Sonnefeldt said.