School District 65 is currently projecting an operating deficit of $3.2 million in 2012-13, which increases to $8.7 million by 2015-16. This does not include the estimated incremental costs to operate the proposed new school, which range from a low of $684,000 to a high of $2.4 million.
At a Board Finance Committee meeting on Dec. 13, Board members considered whether to place a referendum on the ballot that would ask voters to increase, over and above the amount permitted under tax caps, the amount of property taxes the District could levy to fund operations of the District (an “operating referendum”). Conceptually, the added amount would enable the District to address the projected deficits, taking into account the incremental cost to operate the new school.
Four of the six Board members attending the meeting, Katie Bailey, Kim Weaver, Richard Rykhus and Tracy Quattrocki, said they thought the District should defer an operating referendum for six months to a year.
Ms. Bailey, Board president, said the Board has just received the report of the Ad Hoc Budget Committee that listed possible ways to address the projected deficits, and the Board should explore every possible way to reduce the projected deficits before asking the community to increase property taxes for operations. She added that the Board would be in a better position to assess the District’s operating needs after it knew how the community had voted on the referendum to establish the new school and other projects.
Kim Weaver agreed, stating, “We want to make sure we are asking for the right number.”
Mr. Rykhus likewise agreed that the Board should explore all other avenues to address the projected deficits before asking the community to approve an operating referendum. “When we go, if we need to go, we’ll have a more compelling case to produce to the public which will increase the likelihood of success.”
Ms. Quattrocki said deferring an operating referendum would also give the Board additional time to develop a vision for the proposed new school and needs of the students it would serve, and put the Board in a better position to estimate the cost to operate the new school.
Andy Pigozzi, chair of the Finance Committee, said he would prefer to move ahead with an operating referendum now, but added he was not hearing much support to move ahead with it at this time. He suggested the Board table the issue.