Oak Park schools settle on referendum rate hike

District 97 board unanimously approves $48 million


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

District 97 has finally settled on a roughly $48 million operating tax rate hike, which will cost property owners about $38 for every $1,000 paid in property taxes, if voters approve the ballot proposal on April 5.

Along with convincing voters to approve the ballot initiative, the board of education also has another task — explaining why they made the last-minute switch to go with the rate hike instead of a bond sale as first proposed.

The board unanimously approved the limiting rate hike on Jan. 18 at a special meeting. That was the drop-dead deadline date for the board to finalize the ballot. Since last October, the board had discussed and settled on a working cash bond sale of $75 million, a larger hit to property owners. The board changed to the limiting rate increase after the state raised income and property taxes on Jan. 12, which ultimately means the district is more likely to receive timely state aid payments.

The board, last Tuesday night, rescinded the bond sale referendum and approved a limiting rate-increase resolution. All seven members supported the switch but expressed concern that the public was told to expect one type of referendum and will instead get another.

"The primary reason the board went about this was a change at the state level in increasing the state income tax, which removed a lot of the risk to the school district of the state not being timely on its bill payments," explained board President Peter Traczyk.

With that risk gone, Traczyk said, the board could pursue a smaller referendum, so they opted for a traditional limiting rate hike. The rate-hike option, he added, will likely result in the district seeking a smaller referendum in the future, which would not have been the case with a bond sale.

"This was, for us, as responsive as a board can be to events that change on the ground," Traczyk said.

The board technically had until 11:59 last Tuesday to settle on their referendum question, but it did not come to that. The vote occurred at 9:52 p.m. with an audience of a couple dozen in attendance. With a 7 p.m. start, the board spent about two and a half hours deliberating.

By 2018, the district will also benefit financially once the middle-school construction bonds are retired and the village's downtown TIF expires, Traczyk added. Even if the referendum passes in April, the district would see about $900,000 in reductions, added Supt. Albert Roberts.

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Posted: February 7th, 2011 8:42 PM

@Maya - Can you be more specific? What titles have been invented to pay people more? Also, what tech jobs are you referring to? It's fine to make comments, but it would be good to give some facts rather than hyperbole. Without some facts to back this up you come off just sounding like ranting.

maya from Oak Park  

Posted: February 7th, 2011 8:14 PM

In these times of uncertainty, how can D97 even think of asking for more money? Why don't they stop inventing titles for people so they can over pay them more and start being more responsible with our money? The technology issue is a joke at D97. Most of the technology crew knows nothing of computers yet they are are being hired like weeds growing wild and being trained on the job. Give these jobs to insiders and save money. Wake up D97 everyone is cutting back, not asking more millions more!

David Barsotti  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 3:35 PM

D97 does not need a referendum if they only $7 million. That money can easily come from eliminating the TIF or making sure that Oak Park pays the correct amount for their carve-outs.

Rob from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2011 7:59 PM

Les, I'm an Oak Parker forever.

whatevs from oak park  

Posted: January 19th, 2011 2:36 PM

Les obviously has no self-interest in this election whatsoever.

Les Cut the Taxes Golden from OP  

Posted: January 19th, 2011 1:46 PM

Another Me Generation with kids. Rob is obviously a parent with a kid or kids at D97. As soon as his kids are out of the schools, he ditches Oak Park. He cares nothing for the community, just another member of the Me generation with kids.

Referendum Doomed from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2011 11:35 AM

What PSEUDO-REALITY WORLD are you from Rob from Oak Park if you think that the Board will immplement changes in an 'efficient and effective way possible.' It is the administrators(ex-teachers,cronies,hook-ups) that spend the money,and make sure it is going to a bed their own nests.D97 leadership is BLACKMAILING us OP taxpayers into believing that they need MORE $$$ to fix THEIR failing system.The ENTIRE leadership of D97 HAS NO INTEREST in reforming anything,they need a bandaid until they retire

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2011 11:28 AM

Diligent? More like dazed & confused. 1. D97 claimed the millions being diverted to TIFs was a financial benefit, as it allowed D97 to claim poverty and garner more General State Aid. Then D97 claimed the referendum served as a bridge to 2018, when the DTOP TIF expires. 2. When the village refused to provide the D200 & D97 full allocation of TIF funds last year, D97 sided with the village, and then a week later admitted they lost the allocation formulas. 3. This is the 3rd revised referenda.

W. from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2011 11:10 AM

People are out of work - 2 more people I know were just laid off - property taxes are soon due again - any increase is too much at this time for too many people. Time to scale back not ask for more - quality education (reading, writing, arithmetic) does not have to be impacted.

Rob from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2011 10:21 AM

To me, this is money well spent. It is obvious that the Board has diligently worked to make sure we can offer a necessary educational curriculum for our community in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2011 8:33 AM

Quinn and the Democrats' 2 point income tax increase, effective Jan 1, will wipe out most of the benefits of President Obama's payroll tax holiday for middle class taxpayers this year. Thie tax increase will, however, allow for a significant increase in state spending over the next four years. Any pressures for efficiency, transparency, and reform will disappear in floods of new cash. If this referendum passes, how will Dist. 97 schools, mediocre at best, reform specifically? We don't know


Posted: January 19th, 2011 7:00 AM

D97 is negotiating with the citizens like a stubborn child - no means no.

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