We’re not endorsing their tax hike referendum. Not yet, anyhow. But we are endorsing the District 97 elementary school board’s creative thinking as they craft the details of the long-anticipated spring referendum.

Typically a government body asks for a hike in the tax rate that will be perpetual. In other words, you are guaranteed your taxes will never go down, that a tax hike will never come to an end.

Understanding that this is the worst possible moment to ask taxpayers for more money, District 97 is respectfully proposing a middle ground. Instead of a permanent hike in the tax rate, the schools will seek voter authority to issue working-cash bonds. The bonds are sold, cash is received by the schools, our taxes go up to cover the repayment costs, but at a fixed date those bonds are paid off. At that point, your taxes would decline.

The school board has two other milestones in mind; both occur in 2018. First, in that year the two middle schools will be paid for. The repayment of those bonds is currently costing taxpayers $3.5 million a year. Also in 2018, the downtown TIF will expire. Incremental property tax increases in the TIF area will no longer flow to the special fund, but will instead be redirected to schools, parks and other taxing bodies.

Together, those events will positively, notably influence school finances. In looking for a bridge from 2010 to 2018, the elementary schools are treating taxpayers as valued partners in education and not as perpetual saps.

We appreciate that distinction.

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