Why do we recommend a NO vote (again) April 4?
There is way too much undefined in the School Board’s plan for $140 million in bonds ($180 million including their Capital Projects budget of $2 million/yr over the next 20 years). The only thing defined is $70 million total to tear down and rebuild 2 schools. That leaves $110 million of “other” that can include any building or grounds improvements, including a 2nd artificial turf field (see the bottom of p. 67 here, where the estimate is $5.6 million for the turf in the “Like to Do” category). We’re voting for a $140 million blank check. It’s obviously very easy for the Board to put a bond issue on the ballot, so make them come to voters with smaller, well-defined questions in the future, to give taxpayers more control over where our tax dollars go.
The School Board raises property taxes every year. Their annual operational tax increases are capped by PTELL (Property Tax Extension Limitation Law) at the lesser of 5% or the cost of inflation (CPI). The property tax levy the Board passed in December will see an increase of around 5.6% (5% capped + new construction), or approximately $5 MILLION. Following a NO vote, the Board could allocate some of these big tax increases to Capital Projects. They somehow found over $2 million to replace the football stadium’s bleachers in the summer of 2022, so if the referendum improvements are so direly needed, surely they can find more money in their regular budgets and/or dedicate some of their increased levies to them. If the economy of 2022 repeats in 2023, add another 5% tax levy increase ($5 million+) and between that and the 2022 levy, they would already have more from taxpayers in their standard budget than the $9.1 million additional they’re seeking from taxpayers through the referendum. With the student enrollment declining every year besides, funds should be further freed up.
THERE IS NO CAP ON BOND AND INTEREST TAX LEVY INCREASES. The Board promised the $75 million referendum in 2007 would not increase taxes, but then went back on their word 4 short years later in 2011. There is no guarantee that bonds as large as $140 million won’t increase taxes. In fact, they will already increase your taxes over what they would be when the current bonds expire. But then they could increase your taxes MORE. Bonds must be paid, with no limit to increases as to tax rate or amount. The School Board needs to rebuild trust before expecting the voters to gamble $140 million + interest on them.
For more detailed arguments, please see our post from the November election: https://b4rg.org/2022/09/26/vote-no-to-140-million-referendum/