Judge keeps District 202 tax-cut question on the April ballot
Lisle Unit District 202 voters likely will weigh in on a tax-cut question in April after a DuPage County judge refused to remove the measure from the ballot.
Judge Bonnie Wheaton on Wednesday upheld a decision by the DuPage County Electoral Board that the ballot should include the question that will ask if District 202's levy -- the portion of its budget paid for with property taxes -- should be lowered by roughly $1.9 million.
"I couldn't be more happy for the taxpayers of Lisle District 202," said Susan Cassa, one of the residents who collected more than 1,400 signatures to put the binding question on the April 2 ballot. "The people will have the opportunity to vote their feeling about the level of taxation."
Cassa and other members of a group called "Go Refund Me" were able to push for the referendum because of a state law approved last year.
As part of the law, school districts that have an "adequacy level" for education funding that's 110 percent or more are eligible for referendums that seek tax cuts. The adequacy level reflects how much the state believes a school district should be spending to educate students in comparison to what the district actually spends.
Ray Sojka, one of the Go Refund Me members, says District 202 has an adequacy rate of 149 percent. "It's the second highest in DuPage County," he said.
But after the group submitted enough signatures to put the question on the ballot, Lisle resident Joshua Martin filed an objection to the petition.
Martin argued the proposed ballot question fails to meet a requirement outlined in the law because it calls for a reduction of property taxes "for the 2018 levy year." He said the ballot question should request a reduction of property taxes for the 2019 levy year -- the same year the election is held.
That argument was rejected by the electoral board and the judge.
On Wednesday, Martin said he's worried about the financial impact the referendum could have on District 202 if voters approve a cut in the levy.
But Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, Martin's attorney, points out the proposal could fail.
"It's a pretty smart electorate in Lisle," Krafthefer said. "They may vote it down realizing the consequences of it."
By law, a successful request would reduce the district's levy by 10 percent or the amount that would bring it down to a 110 percent adequacy rate, whichever is less.
So if District 202 voters approve the ballot question, the levy for the district's education fund would be reduced to $17.15 million from $19.06 million.
Sojka insists the reduction wouldn't have a negative impact on District 202. He said the school district still would have healthy cash reserves.
"We wouldn't have collected 1,400 signatures if we had any thought that there would be a risk to teachers, students and student services," Sojka said.
Meanwhile, it's estimated the property taxes homeowners pay to the district would decrease about $100 per $100,000 of a home's value if the ballot request is approved.