NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD)– The Unit 5 School District is getting a lifeline in hopes of crawling out of a nearly $12 million deficit. Voters said “Yes” to a tax rate referendum on Tuesday after previously rejecting the referendum in November.

In 2024 the education fund tax rate will change from $2.72 to $3.60 per $100 assessed valuation. Superintendent Kristen Weikle is thankful voters approved the referendum.

“Very grateful, excited, and really because of our students. You know they’re the ones who are going to benefit from the funding in the education fund that will allow us to provide opportunities both in and out of the classroom that our students want and deserve,” she said.

The school board previously approved the cutting of programs for the 2023-2024 academic school year had the referendum been rejected once again. Some of those changes included the removal of freshman teams, reducing funding for field trips and the elimination of extracurricular activities like clubs and athletics at the junior high level. Weikle thinks the adjustment in engagement with the community helped change the vote.

“We certainly saw an increase in the engagement from November to the spring. Whether that was people attending in-person or virtual meetings, reaching out and asking questions. Certainly a lot more conversation in the community about it, said Weikle.

The “Yes For Unit 5” Campaign released a statement following Tuesday’s results.

“This is a momentous day for our community! As a group, Yes For Unit 5 is thrilled voters have made a commitment to support our students and save our schools. Today’s victory is one we can all share, regardless of background or political persuasion. 

We thank all the groups and individuals who worked so hard on this critical effort. We especially thank our teachers and staff for all they do every single day. And we look forward to watching the Unit 5 school board, including its new members, follow through on this opportunity. 

Yes For Unit 5 has always solely been about advocating for this referendum and how important it is for our kids’ future. Our work is done. We will make no further statements. Interview requests should be directed to Unit 5 school board members, administrators, teachers, or staff – the ones who do the most important work.”

Weikle said she will ask the board to reinstate the programs approved for cutting at a special meeting on April 11.