Normal, Ill. (WMBD) — On Wednesday the Unit 5 School Board held a special meeting and unanimously voted to put a referendum to raise the education fund tax rate on the April ballot. Voters rejected the same referendum in November.
Chief Financial Officer Marty Hickman said the education fund tax rate has only increased by $0.10 since 1983. Below is a breakdown of the proposed overall tax rate from 2022 to 2026.
The red represents the building bonds which will be paid off by 2024. The yellow represents the working cash and health, life and safety bonds that will be paid off by 2026. The proposed increase will bring the education fund rate seen in green from $2.72 to $3.60 per $100 assessed valuation beginning in 2024. Other funds that include transportation, operation and maintenance, tort and the social security levy are represented in blue.
With the education fund rate increase the overall tax rate will decrease by 2026.
“We’re really asking our local tax payers to substitute part of that tax that they’re already paying for bonds and interest to put it into the education fund where it really impacts our students,” said Hickman.
The board has said that if the deficit remains that overtime cuts will be made. That include programs and staff.
“It would be drastic there would really be no program that would not be touched by making that kind of budget cut,” Hickman said.
“The community is kind of taxed out at this point, ” said school board candidate Brad Wurth.
Wurth said the community has already spoken and the referendum should not be on the ballot. He said the community deserves the tax relief they were promised when other bonds were taken out.
“But to take that tax relief off the table and say the good people of the Unit 5 School District are only going to get only maybe a small percentage of that tax relief that was once promised to them. It’s not good enough,” he said.
Wurth doesn’t think cutting should be the only option if the referendum is rejected once again.
“Cutting doesn’t necessarily create success. We need to find a better way of doing what we’re doing. And we got to get our head outside the box. We got to look around and say, ‘What are the ways that we can provide a better educational environment at a lower price point for our community and these students of our community,” said Wurth.
Hickman says the district plans to host more community engagement sessions to better inform the community about the need for the referendum.
In District 87 the education fund tax rate is capped at $3.12 per $100 assessed valuation. The overall tax rate in 2022 was $5.17242 and the target rate for 2023 is $5.1749.