District 57 studying whether it needs to seek a tax increase

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 9/5/2017 6:58 PM
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  • District 57 added a mobile unit at Westbrook School for Young Learners this year.

      District 57 added a mobile unit at Westbrook School for Young Learners this year. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

A task force of parents, community leaders, local business owners, retirees and Mount Prospect Elementary District 57 staff is studying whether the school district should seek a tax increase in a referendum next March.

The task force, created by the school board, will help the board decide if it should seek an education fund tax-rate increase and will make a recommendation about the timing and size of the request. District officials and board members, including those elected last spring, have said they generally believe there is a need to increase taxes due to a financial squeeze and rising enrollment.

"We have been forced to resort to deficit spending, and our reserves are declining," District Superintendent Elaine Aumiller said in a news release about the community meetings. "If we are not able to increase our revenue, we will need to make even more significant cuts to our programs and services."

The task force first met on Aug. 21 and will convene again from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13; Wednesday, Nov. 1; and Thursday, Nov. 9, at Fairview School, 300 N. Fairview Ave. The meetings are open to the public but do not include a time for community comments. The public is welcome to comment and ask questions at board meetings, generally held at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at Fairview, Aumiller said.

This year, the district added a mobile unit at Westbrook School for Young Learners to house the staff workroom/lounge and a music classroom. Westbrook was at capacity last year, and this year's enrollment required two more sections, creating the need for the building.

In other changes this year:

• The school day has been restructured at Lincoln Middle School so that middle schoolers now have 39 additional minutes of math each day to ensure they're receiving the best possible preparation for high school and beyond.

• All District 57 middle school students how have their own Chromebook computers, giving them quick and easy access to online learning at school and at home.

Recent school requests haven't fared well in the Northwest suburbs.

Last November, voters rejected a request by River Trails School District 26, which also serves Mount Prospect, to borrow for a $29 million Early Learning Center. In the same election, voters rejected a request by Palatine Township School District 15 for $130 million for two new schools.

Even if the education rate is increased, District 57 likely will need a building tax-rate increase in the next five to 10 years to modernize or replace Lincoln School and address overcrowding issues, Aumiller has said.

"There is much more we need to accomplish, including finding long-term solutions to our space issues -- but not until we address our significant financial challenges," Aumiller said in the news release.

District 57 serves approximately 2,200 prekindergarten through eighth-grade students.

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