Yes to District 45 tax increase
Villa Park Elementary District 45 is asking voters on March 17 to approve a $30 million tax increase that, if approved, would allow the district to offer full-day kindergarten in five of its six elementary schools for more than 300 youngsters; build and open a 12-classroom early childhood center that would serve about 200 kids; upgrade technology throughout the district; provide for additional safety and security in schools; and offer additional educational opportunities in science, technology, math and music.
The district, which serves roughly 3,500 students from portions of Villa Park, Lombard, Elmhurst and Oakbrook Terrace, has held eight town halls and open houses to explain its plans, which officials say emerged from two planning committees over the past three years that included stakeholders from almost every corner of the district.
The proposed 20-year bond issue would cost the owner of a $240,000 house -- who already pays the district $2,820 a year in property taxes -- an additional $170 a year. The $30 million would include $17.3 million for the early childhood center; $7.5 million for all-day kindergarten; $2 million for security upgrades at all eight schools; $1.8 million for new technology; and $2 million for other classroom upgrades.
This proposal comes with a significant price tag, but it has been 22 years since District 45 voters last approved a referendum proposal, If approved, this would mark the start of about $58.8 million in district upgrades over the next 10 years, with the remaining $28.8 million coming from already existing revenue sources.
District officials say they would begin pursuing the referendum projects almost immediately if voters give them the OK.
A $170 yearly tax increase is not to be taken lightly, but the district makes a strong case that the educational benefits are worth the added cost. There is little denying the value of early childhood programs -- especially if they are consolidated in a single location -- and of all-day kindergarten in individual schools. In addition, many of the district's schools are more than 50 years old and in need of the proposed upgrades. We support a yes vote.