District 97 estimates that it will lose roughly $5 million next year in state funding due to proposed cuts in education by Gov. Pat Quinn.

About $3 million is expected to be lost in general state aid alone, well over the district’s original projections. The expected cuts will add to the district’s own fiscal crisis, warned Therese O’Neill, Dist. 97’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

She delivered the bad news to the district’s school board March 16. Members met that evening to also discuss their ballot options for a proposed tax hike referendum in spring 2011. Among the five options discussed, the one that drew support among most members was an operating tax increase. Other options included issuing school bonds for capital improvements but not operations.

The board, though, has not settled on any specific tax increase, district officials stress. Peter Traczyk, president of the elementary school board, added that he personally favored a referendum to fund an operating rate increase. He also cautioned that all of the options were only examples to give voters an idea of different ways the district can raise revenues. Members met for about an hour and a half in discussion.

But Traczyk maintained that the state’s fiscal crisis will have an impact on the district’s decision concerning running a referendum next year.

“If there is a change at the state level in terms of education funding that prevents us from taking these cuts that have currently been announced; if we can avoid those, I personally would not be supportive of running a referendum in spring of ’11. I would like to push it out farther if possible,” he said.

Board members were also adamant in providing voters will some idea of what cuts the district would need to make as an alternative, or in addition to, running a referendum.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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