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District 203 looks to give legislators a lesson in funding

File Photo
File Photo

NAPERVILLE — Naperville taxpayers in School District 203 will see a 3.15 percent increase in the school portion of their tax bill because of the 2014-15 budget, and some School Board members are asking when state is going to start funding a bigger share.

At its June 16 meeting, School Board is scheduled to adopt a $296.6 million budget that could mean a $206 annual increase in property taxes for a homeowner with a $375,000 home, according to Brad Cauffman, District 203 chief financial officer. The bulk of the 3.13 percent increase in expenditures is the result of providing all-day kindergarten to the remaining seven elementary schools in the district.

The budget calls for collecting $302.6 million in revenues, which nearly 80 percent comes from local sources, Cauffman reiterated to the board on Monday night.

A pie chart Cauffman presented broke down the revenue sources with 75 percent coming of the tax levy, 1 percent from Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax Revenue, and 3 percent other local sources.

The district receives roughly 3 percent in federal aid. General state aid and other state aid account for only 7 percent of the budget while 11 percent comes from the state on behalf of the district for the Teachers Retirement System.

School Board member Susan Crotty asked what the district can do because it seems that every year more of the burden is heaved onto local taxpayers.

“When do you say to the state, ‘Help!’?” Crotty said. “What is our role as a board?”

“How do we stand up for our communities here?”

Superintendent Dad Bridges said he continues to have conversations with local legislators to explain the effect of unfunded mandates and loss of revenue on the district. He added the Large Unit District Association and the Legislative Education Network of DuPage County each advocate for the District 203 and other suburban districts.

“What’s missing is a comprehensive conversation about school funding and how we fund our schools in Illinois,” Bridges said.

Board President Jackie Romberg suggested District 203 invite local legislators for a meeting to discuss school funding issues. She said including Indian Prairie School District 204 and Wheaton Warrenville 200 might be a way for the districts to show solidarity in their concerns.

One hot topic is Senate Bill 16, also known as the School Funding Reform Act of 2014. It would redistribute funds to districts with lower property values while providing added funding for low income students; English language learners; special and gifted education; summer school; special education, vocational and regular transportation; Career Pathways career development programs; and students taking AP/dual credit courses.

Bridges estimated the district would stand to lose $9.4 million in fiscal year 2015-16 if the bill is approved.

School Board member Kristin Fitzgerald said the cumulative impact of the Senate bill between Districts 203, 204 and 200 would be $30 million. She said cutting so much from the budget would cause a serious impact on student achievement.

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