An Illinois appellate court dismissed an appeal, April 11, filed by a group hoping to overturn a tax increase from the District 97 referendum that passed last April, according to a statement from D97.
But a representative from Taxpayers United of America (TUA) said the group plans to appeal again and will take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Former Oak Park resident Noel Kuriakos and TUA were the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in April 2011, weeks after a school district tax increase was approved by voters.
The lawsuit alleged the referendum’s language “failed to inform the voters of the estimated effect of the tax increase on their property if the referendum were to succeed.” A circuit court judge dismissed the suit in July
According to the D97 statement, the plaintiffs had several opportunities to file an appellate brief, but repeatedly failed to meet the court’s deadline, which led to the dismissal.
According to Christina Tobin, vice president of TUA, the court made an error and the case is still alive and well.
“You can’t lie to the taxpayers” by giving them misleading information on the ballot, she said. “They need to know what they’re voting on.”
TUA will start distributing fliers in Oak Park this week listing the top pensions of the village’s teachers. Tobin said a majority of property taxes go toward teacher pensions.
“They’re really getting a bad deal,” said Kuriakos of Oak Park residents.
Knowing that the circuit court is heavily Democratic, he said he was not surprised the appeal was dismissed, but “I still feel that we were in the right.”
Kuriakos, who now lives in Austin, Tex., but still has children in D97, alleged in the lawsuit that the state equalizer, used to calculate local tax bills, was not used in determining the estimated increase. The board estimated the increase would be $37.40 for a $100,000 property instead of $126.04, and they proceeded even though they knew the language was misleading, the suit said.
But D97 officials used a different figure — $38 per $1,000 in property taxes — in their public campaign. D97 spokesman Chris Jasculca said they were following the advice of their legal counsel by not applying the equalized assessed value, and they weren’t the only community to do so.
“A number of communities going for referendums got similar legal advice,” Jasculca said.
The district now hopes to move on. They spent $52,235 over the past year fighting the lawsuit, the statement said. D97 board President Peter Barber called it a waste of taxpayer money that will no longer drain the district’s resources.
Jasculca said it was important to defend the referendum, but “we’re excited that we’re putting this issue behind us.”