Dist. 67 referendum fails for third time
Updated: February 26, 2013 11:03PM
MORTON GROVE — Third time’s usually the charm, but not for Golf Elementary School District 67.
Voters rejected a tax-hike request by the district for the third time in less than a year, when a referendum seeking to generate an additional $1.14 million in revenue failed at the polls Tuesday night.
With all five precincts counted, preliminary results showed the district’s referendum lost by a 2-1 margin, 610 votes to 314.
The cash-strapped district sought to raise its property-tax extension amount by 16.3 percent in order to restore staffing position and programs.
Cook County’s tax cap law limits a levy request to last year’s amount plus the Consumer Price Index, or 3 percent. Taxing bodies must obtain voter approval to receive more than the allowable amount.
Budget cuts at District 67 over the past several years resulted in the elimination of full-day kindergarten, clubs and athletics, a part-time reading specialist, art and music programs, textbooks and professional development.
In the current 2012-13 school year, cuts and reductions in programs and personnel, as well as pay freezes, totaled $722,684 in savings.
Superintendent Jamie Reilly called the referendum results “unfortunate.”
“We won’t be able to bring back the programs for children that we’ve been trying to bring back,” she said. “We’re pretty bare-boned as it is.”
District 67 board member Samina Hussain said she, too, was disappointed by the referendum’s failure since the district wouldn’t be able to fund programs that provide a “well-rounded education.”
The district’s scaled-back STEM program, “pay-to-play” sports program and half-day kindergarten would have to suffice for now, she said.
“When school districts are struggling, it’s the non-mandated programs that go first,” Hussain explained.
Niles resident Mike Kalodimos said while he doesn’t want to see education go underfunded, the school district needed to be more practical about its requests.
Voters had rejected paying more in taxes one before and to ask again, he said, “is like a thumb in the eye to the residents.”
With the increased levy, the district had estimated Morton Grove taxpayers would have paid an extra $45 for every $1,000 in taxes. Instead, the scheduled increase based on the CPI would result in an $8 bump.
Niles residents would have seen taxes go up $49 for every $1,000 if the referendum had passed, which is $40 more than the scheduled 3 percent increase.
But dropping home values and empty houses indicate residents cannot afford any such tax hike, Kalodimos said.
He would like to see District 67 reevaluate its salaries and benefits package, especially since the current teacher’s agreement expires this year.
“I don’t think people in the district have the stomach for renewing this contract (as it stands),” he said. “We certainly don’t have the pocket book.”