Warren High athletics would get ax in 2023 if voters reject tax hike, administrators say

  • Athletics and many elective courses could be cut if the proposed Warren Township High School District 121 tax hike is unsuccessful, administrators said during a virtual presentation Tuesday night.

    Athletics and many elective courses could be cut if the proposed Warren Township High School District 121 tax hike is unsuccessful, administrators said during a virtual presentation Tuesday night. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2018

 
 
Updated 3/31/2021 2:42 PM

Warren Township High School's athletic programs will be eliminated by the 2023 school year along with many classes and clubs if voters do not approve the proposed property tax hike, district administrators said Tuesday.

District voters are being asked on the April 6 ballot to approve adding 35 cents to the tax rate to raise about $7.75 million annually. That would amount to $295 more in annual property taxes for the owner of a home valued at $250,000.

 

District administrators explained the consequences of rejecting the tax increase to community members during a virtual presentation Tuesday night. For the 2022 school year, the district would have to eliminate 13 staff positions, including band director, and four special education case managers as well as cut one level of each sports program to save around $1.4 million in expenses, they said.

For the 2023 school year, in addition to cutting all remaining sports teams -- which would save around $3 million annually -- the district would cut 20 more staff positions including educators who teach electives like art, music and business. As a result the district would save around $2 million but would go from having eight-period days to seven-period days because there would be fewer electives to offer students.

Christopher Geocaris, assistant superintendent of instructional services, said with just seven periods in a day students could choose only one elective, meaning that a student learning to speak Spanish who also takes band would have to choose between the two.

"It would cause graduates to be less competitive as they move on to life after high school," Geocaris said. "We'd immediately limit opportunities."

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Superintendent John Ahlgrim said the district began reaching out to the community about the financial problems last year. After a community outreach initiative that included thousands of residents, Ahlgrim said the district reduced the tax hike amount from 60 cents to 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Administrators framed the fiscal issues facing the district as a lack of revenue and noted voters' tendency to reject tax hikes in the past.

The last approved tax hike in District 121 was for 12 cents in February 2001, and the only other time voters approved one was in 1972. Proposed tax increases were rejected in referendums in April 1995, November 1995, November 2000, February 2003 and April 2007.

For six out of the last seven years the district has run a deficit despite making cuts. Over the past five years, Warren Township High School District 121 has eliminated 51 teachers and staff positions, refinanced debt, reduced the cost of employee benefits and taken other measures to cut costs and drawn down reserves to the lowest recommended level.

Ahlgrim encouraged anyone with questions about the referendum to reach out to him at jahlgrim@wths.net or by calling (847) 548-7144.

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