District 202 moves on after 'mandate' at the polls

 
 
Updated 4/6/2019 4:33 PM

Given a rare opportunity to reduce their property tax bills, Lisle Unit District 202 voters decided to leave things as they are.

They overwhelmingly rejected a ballot proposal on Tuesday that would have reduced the school district's property tax levy by roughly $1.2 million. In addition, four incumbents who opposed the tax-cut plan were re-elected over three challengers who supported it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We feel it's a mandate, or at least a clear message, that (District 202) is doing the right things," said Josh Martin, a member of the group that campaigned against the tax reduction. "The public supports the schools, and we are staying the course to give our kids the excellent education they deserve."

If approved, the measure would have reduced District 202's education fund to $17.15 million, and lowered property taxes by about $67 per $100,000 of a home's value.

But losing that funding would have forced the district to consider cost-cutting measures, including increasing class sizes, reducing the number of teachers, reducing support personnel positions, reducing the number of honors courses and eliminating 10 percent of athletic and extracurricular activities.

Now the district can focus on the future.

"I was excited to see that the community values things like fine arts and the music program and AP courses and honors courses," District 202 Superintendent Keith Filipiak said.

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By law, District 202 is required to educate students in five core areas -- math, reading, science, social studies and physical education. But because it has the financial resources, it can provide additional programs to students.

"The referendum reaffirmed, I believe, that the community still wants us to offer the additional courses in areas like fine arts and technology and advanced placement courses," Filipiak said.

A group of District 202 residents collected more than 1,400 signatures to put the tax-cut question on the ballot. One of those residents said he was pleased voters were given an opportunity to consider the idea.

"The people made their decision," resident Ray Sojka said. "It is what it is."

While voter turnout countywide was 14.7 percent, it was roughly 31 percent in District 202.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There was a lot of interest in the referendum," Sojka said.

Even with the higher turnout, Filipiak said the ballot measure was defeated in 10 of the 11 neighborhoods served by the district.

"So I was glad to see that it wasn't a topic that split the community," he said. "If anything, it pulled it together."

Filipiak said the group of voters that rejected the tax cut included people who don't have children in the district.

"This is a small, very tight-knit community," he said. "And I think residents, whether they have kids or not, want the community to thrive. Part of that is preparing these children to be ready for their future."

Despite the defeat at the polls, supporters say they believe the ballot measure helped educate residents about District 202.

"We hope it generated a lot of interest in the school district and how it's run and how decisions are made," Sojka said. "Hopefully, more people will be paying attention."

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