District 31 Property Tax Increase Fails 2-1

According to unofficial results from the County Clerk's office, a referendum to raise property taxes in District 31 failed by a margin of more than 500 votes.

A referendum to increase property taxes in appears to have failed two to one, according to unofficial results from the Cook County Clerk’s Office.

With 10 of 10 precincts reporting, 1,106 people voted against the proposal to increase property taxes and 508 people voted yes. 

“We’re very saddened that we are going to have to move forward with a million dollars in cuts,” said Superintendent Alexandra Nicholson, who had gathered with administrators, staff and parents at her home on Tuesday evening. “We’re saddened because it’s going to impact a number of staff.” 

The property tax increase would have upped voter’s tax bills by $59 per $1,000 paid in taxes last year, according to administrators. It would have also netted the district $2.23 million annually in additional tax dollars. The income would have helped make up for an expected budget shortfall of $3.3 million, according to Nicholson—the amount the district will have to refund to Allstate  for 2004-2006. That’s on top of an additional $2.3 million District 31 already had to pay Allstate for tax appeals between 1992 and 2003.

The board of education is expected to consider budget cuts at its next meeting, April 14, Nicholson said. Those could include letting go of teachers and staff, eliminating student competitions, cutting middle school sports, reducing the number of special classes offered (like art and music), and eliminating student competitions, among other programs and activities. 

Nicholson said she believed the referendum’s failure was caused by a number of factors.

“First of all, we all knew from the beginning that we were asking for a tax rate increase during one of the worst economic times in the state,” she said. “But we had to go out for it.”

Additionally, she said some individuals may have had personal budgetary circumstances that led them to vote no. 

“Thirdly, people from the opposition were giving information to the public, and some of that information was false, and the district has done nothing but tell the facts about the referendum from the very beginning,” she said.

Finally, she cited a flap over the way the district calculated the tax increase on the ballot. Township assessors alerted local media that, along with other school, fire protection and library districts with referenda on the April 5 ballot, District 31 did not estimate its proposed tax increase using a countywide multiplier that is ultimately applied to all taxpayer’s bills. That meant estimates of the referendum’s impact on taxpayers were off by as much as 70 percent, according to Ali ElSaffar, president of the Cook County Township Assessors Association and Oak Park Township Assessor. But District 31, along with other municipal districts, maintained that it was simply following the law, which Nicholson says mandated that the ballot estimation be calculated without the multiplier. 

Ultimately, 68 percent of District 31 voters checked no on the ballot, according to unofficial results from the Cook County Clerk’s office.

“There was no belt-tightening, for the most part,” said Richard Chase, a parent with kids in District 31 schools who voted at just before the polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening. “I just didn’t believe all the information that was out there about the referendum.”





Brett Johnson April 06, 2011 at 08:38 AM
Well, I for one voted YES on this referendum. This tax would have been a pittance compared to the ridiculous Illinois personal tax increase that started this year. It's sad that the kids are the ones to suffer. I guess that's what happens when you live in a wealthy suburb filled with greedy people. It should be interesting to see what cuts District 31 will now have to make. I imagine the suburban soccer moms are going to whine about the cuts after voting NO on this referendum. Sad.
j anderson April 06, 2011 at 01:49 PM
The spending has to stop somewhere. Families continue to get hit with escalating costs that are out of control while they lose jobs or take pay cuts. What will gas cost this summer? Congress cant seem to get a grip on things either. When do govt officials and school administrators tighten their belts? Take a pay cut like everyone else. Likely they will get a pay raise and take from the kids they "serve". The state of Ill has abused their priviledge of "serving" and in the end have served themselves. Quit asking for money. Oh and how about using the same books for several years instead of insisting we buy the new addition. (Amazon is a great way to cut those costs.) You call the residents greedy?? Gee it makes me ponder who do you work for, do you live in the district and do you have kids?
j anderson April 06, 2011 at 02:48 PM
I forgot to mention Ive asked other Moms in other suburbs what they pay for bus service and books. They are shocked at what we pay for these on top of taxes. Most of them pay nothing for bus service and 1/3 of what we pay for books. Hmmm whats wrong with this picture? Many of the wealthy you call greedy bequest big dollars to worthy causes.
mike April 06, 2011 at 03:23 PM
When you put "marks" around the word serve, are you implying that teachers don't actually provide a service to students? Interesting. The ref. resulted from Allstate appealing YEARS of property tax assessments. Amounting to millions a year that the district will have to pay back. They are tightening their belts, and they are cutting programs. It doesn't appear that they are asking for money to service themselves only to continue with the level of education and programs that have made the district successful (i.e., above average test scores). Ponder this J Anderson! Millions must be cut from the district’s budget, they may not be able to pay the bills, if so, they will merge with another district in the Twnsp. By law, when two districts merge, the tax rate of the two districts always becomes the higher of the two. The prop. ref. rate was 1.796. The LOWEST of the other 4 districts within the Northfield Township is 1.876 (District 34). If the school can’t pay its bills and is forced to merge, by law district residents will automatically take on a tax rate of a minimum of 1.876. Voting YES would have locked you in at 1.796 – STILL the lowest in the Twnsp. I won’t even comment on the impact to your property values (hint - they'll decrease). It makes me ponder YOUR motivation, since its obviously not students, your taxes or your property value. Perhaps you just didn't fully understand the ref.; don't worry it'll be on the ballot next year so you can redeem yourself.
j anderson April 06, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Mike, NEVER stated teachers dont serve! They do and Im a HUGE FAN! Perhaps you should read it again. Looks like I did not appreciate the first comment about soccer Moms and greedy residents. Families arent looking to move here already due to taxes and other costs so housing will continue to drop regardless.
H gould April 06, 2011 at 05:00 PM
I find the soccer mom comment offensive. The parents in the district were supportive of the referendum. In fact, many of us used our own money to spread information to support voting yes. We spent hours talking to people in our neighborhoods trying to convince them that the tax increase was necessary. There were large groups from 2 neighborhoods in particular who spent a great deal of time and money to spread lies about the needs of the district. These people were not parents of children in 31. They were older residents without children in the schools. The " soccer moms" were willing to do anything to pass the referendum. We are all devestated.
David Hjelmgren April 06, 2011 at 08:29 PM
As a parent of the district that voted YES, I respect everyone's right to vote as they choose, and I won't get into the name calling of those that I disagree with. There is a general impression today that all government is corrupt and all bureaucrats incompetent. I wonder how many people voted NO as a result of this general impression? I wonder how many people gathered facts about the referendum and have criticized the district for decisions made a decade or longer ago? As a newcomer to the district, I have been very impressed with the forthrightness and transparency of the district as it currently stands. I attended several meetings where the Superintendent laid out her reasoning for the referendum. Their presentation was thoughtful and to the point; questions answered with clarity. This isn't just about cutting back; cuts HAVE been made already. Sadly, what these presentations had in substance, they lacked in listeners. Few people came out to learn about the referendum, and took cues from anonymous handbills misrepresenting the district. The one I received had the heading that if the referendum passed our "taxes would go up 37%." Clearly absurd and patently false - I would have voted NO if that was the case! Next year, when the referendum is back on the table, I ask that we take a moment to gather the facts, ask the right questions, and remember that the district is run by competent individuals that have the best interests of our children in mind.
Marie C. April 06, 2011 at 08:33 PM
Very sad for the parents & students of dist 31! Unfortunately, the seniors in Mission hills obviously don't care enought about their community to vote yes!! Wilmette's passed & they were also asking for money for the same reasons to continue the high quality education that we all move here for, not for a new school or gymnasium like some of the neighboring schools were asking for. We won't give up trying for our children!!
JR April 07, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Since it probably will be back for another vote at some point, could someone for the record tell me what increase I would face if I already pay $13,000 in property taxes a year. Also, is Allstate's appeal legitimate or should we organize to boycott Allstate?
Marie C. April 07, 2011 at 07:47 PM
JR your increase would be $59 for each $1,000 of taxes pd. All the surrounding districts in Northbrook have a much higher tax rate already. Although Allstate is doing nothing illegal, its the moral behind it. They are forcing a small dist to have to make cuts of teachers, extracuricular activities. We are not asking for an increase to build a new gymnasium or give our students all lap top computers as some of the neighboring schools have,we just want to continue the quality of education that we all live here for.
Oagie Oaglethorpe February 04, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Allstate is a member of this community. If their company's large campus was not there, it would be filled with homes or businesses that would be paying their fair share of taxes to the community. Instead, like all the corporations in this country, they are sitting on mountains of cash and sitting pretty. What they prefer to do is bleed the people in their own community dry so they can continue to enjoy massive profits and a nice setting for their corporate campus. They are not being a good corporate citizen and are forcing the families in their own community to be squeezed out of their homes by exorbitant property taxes. I don't know about most of these people who say our taxes in this district are low. My property taxes are now over $13,000 a year and have went up 40% in the last 3 years. That amounts to over $1000 a month in property taxes and for an average middle class family that is huge. We are being squeezed out of our home by sky high property taxes that are approaching the same as our monthly mortgage. I will never ever buy AllState insurance or any other products and I will urge everyone I know not to either.


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