Is it time for another referendum in Mount Prospect District 57?
Voters in Mount Prospect Elementary School District 57 approved a tax hike referendum in 2018 to address the school system's struggling finances.
Three years later, is another referendum needed to fund an upgrade of Lincoln Middle School and pay the costs of a potential switch to full-day kindergarten?
Candidates for the district's board of education in the April 6 election recently addressed those questions.
Six candidates are running for four seats on the school board: incumbents Vicki Chung and Eileen Kowalczyk, and challengers Robert Hattenhauer, Jennifer Ciok, Kevin Bull and Corrin Bennet-Kill.
Kowalczyk, the current school board president, said the 2018 referendum put the district on a steady trajectory, but upgrades at Lincoln would be a whole other "ball of wax."
"That would be a referendum, whether we were to do a renovation or whether we did do a new school," she said. "And that would be something that we would have to bring forward to the community."
Bennet-Kill said she is concerned with overcrowding at Lincoln. But she said the district is at a disadvantage of because of the village of Mount Prospect's reliance on tax increment financing districts that siphon tax dollars away from its schools.
Addressing the situation at Lincoln would require a referendum, she said. As for full-day kindergarten, it would "be a boon to our community," Bennet-Kill added.
Bull said he would like to continue the district's tradition of fiscal responsibility.
"Obviously, Lincoln's a whole different animal. That's something that's going to take a lot of work," he added.
Chung, the board's vice president, said Lincoln is an issue that will loom large in the coming years.
"Unless we do some minor renovations here and there, it will require, I think, a referendum with community support, whether we do an addition or whether we rebuild," she said.
But she also noted that district leaders promised in 2018 they would wait at least a decade before seeking another tax hike through referendum.
"That actually is the mindset right now of our current board and our current administration. We want to live up to that promise of the community," she said.
Ciok suggested seeking funding through other sources, such as partnerships with the business community.
"If we're going to try and go bigger and obviously take care of the big problem at Lincoln ... I do think that's going to take a substantial amount of money that may require a referendum," she added.
Hattenhauer said he has a huge interest in the renovation of Lincoln.
"Ideally, it would be nice if we would able to find a way to do that without a referendum," he said. "I don't think that's going to happen just based on what I have seen."