Woodland Dist. 50 seeking temporary tax cap hike for A/C
Woodland Elementary District 50 voters will decide in April whether to grant the district a higher property tax cap for one year to raise money for installation of air conditioning at the primary school and other needs.
At a special meeting Tuesday night, board members of the Gurnee-based district voted 4-2 in favor of placing a referendum question on the April 7 ballot that'll ask for a temporary, one-year tax cap of 5 percent. The recently announced Consumer Price Index would otherwise set the cap at 0.8 percent for the 2015 levy.
If the measure passes, District 50 officials said, it would add $57 for every $100,000 of market value on property owners' 2016 tax bills.
"This is an important decision that will impact the students of today that we are privileged to educate, as well as the students of tomorrow," Superintendent Joy Swoboda said. "Additional funds will help the district reach its long-range strategic plan and facility goals."
Money from the increased tax collection would go into the district's operations fund to pay for air conditioning at Woodland Primary School in unincorporated Gages Lake. It also would fund enhanced classroom technology and capital improvements at other facilities.
There also is a proposal to use existing revenue to pay for air conditioning at the Gages Lake building that houses Woodland Elementary East and Elementary West, across the street from the primary school on what's known as the south campus.
Terry Hall and Vincent Juarez were the two Woodland board members who voted against placing the referendum question on the ballot.
"After all the excruciating work we did for six years to get through the recession without raising taxes and without shortchanging the kids, I am ashamed that we are turning our budget upside-down and jeopardizing our financial health for the sake of air conditioning," Hall said. "I believe this is a financially irresponsible plan."
In a letter to parents, Woodland officials say air quality is an issue for the roughly 3,500 pupils who attend the schools that lack air conditioning. Indoor temperatures topped 85 degrees on hot days in those buildings, according to District 50.
Woodland board President Mark Vondracek said the district has been living within its financial means. Its budget tightening has included the reduction of 65 positions and the postponement of technology upgrades and capital improvements since 2006.
"The district made a commitment in 2000 to not seek another referendum for 10 years," Vondracek said. "That promise was kept."
Tuesday was the deadline for government boards to get a binding referendum question on the April 7 ballot.
Elsewhere in Lake County, the Fox Lake Fire Protection District is seeking a tax hike for emergency ambulance service that would cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $144 annually.
Ambulance service also is the focus of a First Fire Protection District of Antioch request for a tax increase that would cost an extra $166 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home. Voters rejected the same ballot question last November.