Higher tax cap could pay for A/C at Woodland school
Woodland Elementary District 50 is seeking a higher property tax cap for one year to raise money for air conditioning at a primary school building and other projects.
Although proponents say the need is genuine for the proposed air conditioning, improved student technology and districtwide capital improvement projects, a tax watchdog group contends what's sought in the ballot measure is unnecessary and should be voted down.
Voters in the Gurnee-based district will decide April 7 whether to allow 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. An owner of a $300,000 home would pay an additional $171.
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 that would be installed in summer 2016. On a districtwide level, the extra cash also would fund enhanced classroom technology and capital improvements, such as security enhancements and building repairs.
Kellie Pappas, chairwoman of the Future for 50 resident group pushing a "yes" vote, said the entire community would benefit from the Woodland proposal, not just homeowners with students in the district. She said strong school systems typically translate into steady or increased property values.
Pappas said Woodland can't continue with one computer device for every six children or hot classrooms with overall poor air quality at the primary school.
"I think the minor amount (of money) we are seeking in this referendum is well worth the investment in our homes," Pappas said.
But Ken Arnold, of the Citizens for Responsible Government watchdog group in Gurnee, said taxpayers would not benefit from the Woodland proposal and should vote against it.
Arnold criticized Woodland for planning to commit to using existing revenue to add air conditioning to the Elementary East and West schools in Gages Lake before the April 7 referendum question is decided for the primary school building. He also said heat emergencies from the lack of air conditioning are a rare occurrence.
"Why couldn't the other two buildings wait until the April election, like this third building is waiting?" Arnold said.
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.