How much revenue would District 153 receive from the proposed .25 percent local sales tax increase?
District 153 would receive an estimated $700,000 a year from this new revenue stream, about 3% of the school district's total revenue.
Q: Would this sales tax revenue eliminate the need for another school district funding referendum?
No. While it would help significantly, the added $700,000 does not solve the inequity and/or lack of necessary State funding. The sales tax revenue would allow us to extend the dollars from our most recent referendum an extra year or two than we originally projected. It would also reduce interest expense paid by taxpayers.
Q: I heard the school district will need another funding referendum in one or two years. Is that true?
No. Our current projections show a referendum may be necessary in 4 years. We estimate that the additional sales tax revenue generated from passage of home rule would extend that timetable further to 5 or 6 years.
Below is a chart showing our latest financial projections--with and without passage of home rule.
Q: Is it true that enrollment at the schools is growing?
Yes, at least this year. This school year we experienced our largest kindergarten enrollment in 15 years, about a 25 percent increase. The addition of these 40 kindergartners meant we also needed to hire two additional kindergarten teachers. We'll see if this is a one-time bumper crop of students or a longer lasting trend.
Q: Didn't the State just pass legislation to address inequities in state education funding?
Yes. The General Assembly passed and the Governor signed "evidence-based funding" legislation this past summer. However, the State Board of Education is still trying to figure out how to implement the legislation to redistribute education dollars. When the bill was being debated, projections showed District 153 receiving little in terms of additional money, so we're not particularly hopeful.
Q: So what is the financial outlook for District 153? What are the issues that lie ahead?
Thanks to passage of the 2016 referendum, we estimate we can meet expenses through 2021.
When we look ahead, however, there are issues that must be addressed.
The majority of our operating budget is fixed and driven by staff salaries and benefits. District 153 recently approved a five-year contract with our staff that allows us to be competitive with nearby school districts when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff.
We are also keeping a critical eye on issues of enrollment and facilities. After many years of declining or stable enrollment, District 153 has started to see an uptick in the number of students coming to our schools. If enrollment continues to climb, we will need to hire additional staff. Greater numbers of students also strain the existing space to meet the needs of those students, especially at Willow and Churchill, our older buildings.
Schools Closed, Tuesday, March 20
Finally, just a reminder that schools are closed on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20...don't forget to vote!
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent