Voters will decide April 5 whether to authorize a tax increase expected to generate more than $2.2 million for West Northfield School District 31 after previous efforts to plug its budget gaps have failed.
The district's board issue last October, which officials were hoping would offset the cost of repeated property tax appeals by Allstate, delayed delivery of property taxes and the increasing price of student services.
The district authorized $3 million of the $6 million to be used for operational costs and held the other $3 million, explained Superintendent Alexandra Nicholson. The remaining money would have been used for building safety and infrastructure maintenance, she said.
"But at that point, we found out we could owe Allstate $3.3 million in tax refunds," she said. Now, the district is hosting three information sessions for voters in an attempt to explain why the district needs more money: 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, in the Learning Center and 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at .
Allstate has already seen some refunds from the district. In 2005, the insurance giant was refunded $2.3 million for 1992 to 2003 tax appeals. The district could be facing a refund of another $3.3 million for 2004 to 2006 appeals and Allstate has already filed appeals for refunds for 2007 through 2009.
"Because these could be such large tax refunds, the bond issuance is not going to work for us," Nicholson said.
The district Allstate's actions, but it could take months before the matter is resolved, the superintendent said.
Nicholson said District 31 was not planning to go to voters for a referendum for another three to five years.
"We wanted to see what the economy and the market were going to do," she said. But the tax appeals meant "we had to go to Plan B."
Nicholson encourages parents and community members who want to know why the district is in financial trouble to access a brochure posted on the district's site.
If the referendum isn't passed, the district will have to consider reduction and/or elimination in the areas of instruction, extra and co-curricular activities, family and community, technology and facilities, according to the brochure.
If it passes, the new levy will cost taxpayers an estimated $59 for every $1,000 paid in real estate taxes. The district will reportedly use the revenue generated for expansion and updates of instruction and technology and facility maintenance.
Editor's note: The original version of this story contained inaccuracies as to the date of the April election and the amount of money taxpayers would have to pay if the referendum passes.