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.”