Supporters of District 153 schools are meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 27 to organize for a six-week informational campaign that will bring the message of Homewood schools and the March 15 tax referendum to their neighbors.
Terry Keigher, chair of Citizens for Homewood Schools, invites anyone interested in helping spread the word to attend the 7 p.m. meeting at James Hart School, 18220 Morgan Ave.
The ballot question will ask voters to approve the sale of up to $9 million in working cash bonds over a seven-year period. In 2011, voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum that gave the district authority to sell $7.5 million in working cash bonds to help cover fiscal shortfalls as property values dropped and state aid was reduced.
By approving the referendum, taxes will go up for two years. For example, residents with homes valued at $100,000 will pay an additional $70 in taxes in 2017 and 2018. Then the rate would revert to what homeowners are currently paying under the 2011 referendum.
Keigher, who has three children in District 153 schools, said the Citizens for Homewood Schools will work to present the facts about the district and its finances and to encourage voters to go to the polls in support of their schools.
“The schools were the main reason we chose this town,” Keigher said of his family’s move to Homewood in 2002. “We have not been disappointed. Our kids are excelling because of what the district offers.”
Volunteers can agree to host a coffee for their neighbors that will be attended by a Citizens for Homewood Schools committee member and a school representative who will share information and answer questions.
The committee is developing a website and informational coffee times and dates will be listed there as volunteers get organized. The committee also will host a town hall style information meeting, Keigher said.
Supporters are encouraged to put a sign in their yards, pass out literature or serve on the organizing committee.
Since the 2011 referendum passed, District 153 has lost approximately $2 million in state funding. Declining property values have reduced tax revenues, and a continuing drop in state aid has had a direct impact on district finances. That revenue loss has been covered by the $7.5 million raised through the 2011 referendum.
Now that funding from the tax increase is about to run out.
Complicating the issue is the uncertain future of state funding for schools. Steve Anderson, chair of the school board’s finance committee, said the board has noted that the situation in the Illinois Legislature is still fluid. Also, Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed a property tax freeze which would reduce the district’s revenues even further.