Without tax hike, Warren Township High athletics to be axed in 2023, superintendent says

  • Students at Warren Township High School O'Plaine Campus in Gurnee are on track to lose athletics and a school period because a tax hike on Tuesday's ballot was rejected.

    Students at Warren Township High School O'Plaine Campus in Gurnee are on track to lose athletics and a school period because a tax hike on Tuesday's ballot was rejected. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2018

  • Stevenson's Josh Thomas guards Warren's Ryan Panek in a boys basketball game on March 5. Warren Township High School's athletic programs are on track to be eliminated by the 2023-24 school year after District 121 voters rejected a tax increase on Tuesday.

    Stevenson's Josh Thomas guards Warren's Ryan Panek in a boys basketball game on March 5. Warren Township High School's athletic programs are on track to be eliminated by the 2023-24 school year after District 121 voters rejected a tax increase on Tuesday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/7/2021 7:26 PM

Warren Township High School's athletic programs are on track to be eliminated by the 2023-24 school year, along with many classes and clubs, after District 121 voters voted down a property tax hike, Superintendent John Ahlgrim said Wednesday.

District voters were asked on Tuesday's ballot to approve adding 35 cents to the tax rate to raise about $7.75 million a year, which would have amounted to $295 more in annual property taxes for the owner of a home valued at $250,000.

 

According to unofficial results, 4,633 voters voted no and 3,666 voted yes.

In the lead-up to the referendum, school administrators warned that without the additional revenue there would be spending cuts.

For the 2022-23 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 about $1.4 million, officials said.

For the 2023-24 school year, in addition to cutting all remaining sports teams -- which would save about $3 million a year -- the district would eliminate 20 more staff positions, including educators who teach electives such as art, music and business.

As a result, the district would save about $2 million but would go from having eight-period days to seven-period days because there would be fewer electives to offer students.

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Ahlgrim said the school board might make slight modifications to the plan, but officials will have to proceed with cuts.

"The board will continue reviewing the plan and updating it in accordance with financial projections," Ahlgrim said Wednesday.

Ahlgrim said it will take a lot of planning to get ready for eliminating sports and reducing the school day to seven periods from the current eight.

"In the fall we'll start talking with all the families about the reductions coming up," Ahlgrim said. "It's very complex, obviously."

Christopher Geocaris, assistant superintendent of instructional services, said at a district information session on the referendum last week that with seven periods in a day, students could choose only one elective.

"It would cause graduates to be less competitive as they move on to life after high school," Geocaris said at the March 31 session. "We'd immediately limit opportunities."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ahlgrim said he was grateful to the community for engaging with the school district on the referendum.

"I'm also grateful to the board for putting the question on the ballot so we could work with the community and see what their thoughts were," Ahlgrim said. "I appreciate the board's strength on that to let the community weigh in."

According to the unofficial results, all three school board incumbents on the ballot -- Kathy Blair, who has served on the board since November; John Anderson, a board member since 2005; and Paul Schulz, who has served one term -- were reelected Tuesday. Joining them on the board for a 4-year term will be Natalia Alvarez Martinez.

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