Endorsement: Yes for Mount Prospect District 57 schools
The Mount Prospect Elementary School District 57 tax request is not insignificant -- potentially more than $450 a year for a typical owner of a $300,000 home, $250 for that home with a senior exemption. But the consequences of failure are chilling to consider, both for those homeowners and for the quality of schools in the community.
Village residents should recall that seven years ago, the small district considered going to referendum to deal with its mounting financial challenges, but refrained during tough economic times and instead eliminated programs and 37 employees. Now, the district is digging into its emergency reserves to make ends meet each year. At the current rate, it will exhaust those reserves in three years.
That's an unacceptable option, so school leaders are asking for what they consider the bare minimum to maintain current programming and class sizes, an increase of 0.85 percent in its operating tax rate. They point out that District 57 has by far the lowest tax rate among its five closest neighboring elementary districts. At the same time, class sizes are the highest, its administrative costs are the lowest and its teacher pay is the lowest, resulting in annual turnover of nearly a quarter of its teaching staff.
In spite of these conditions, District 57 has maintained a reputation for excellence that attracts young families to Mount Prospect and keeps property values high. If the referendum fails, officials unequivocally have laid out an array of cuts to balance the budget that will threaten both those property values and the quality of education the schools can provide -- the elimination of all art and music programs, a shortened school day, further teacher and employee cuts that will boost class sizes to as high as 31 students per teacher in elementary grades and 40 in middle school.
Leaders in District 57 have long recognized and respected the financial commitment Mount Prospect residents make to their local schools. They do not come to the community seeking additional funds lightly. But sound financial stewardship demands they take action. The increase they are seeking will keep schools operating at their present successful levels. A rejection will result in cuts with severe consequences. We urge a yes vote.