District 153 meeting Monday includes information on Nov. 8 referendum

The District 153 school board is inviting residents to a special information session on Monday, Aug. 15, on the proposed Nov. 8 tax referendum to support Homewood schools.

The discussion will be part of the board’s regularly scheduled 7 p.m. meeting at James Hart School’s gym, 18220 Morgan Ave., Homewood. Guests are asked to enter through district office door R.

It’s been 30 years since the board raised what is called the foundation rate – the rate that appears on tax bills to support the schools. Residents have approved two referendums for bond sales to fill the structural deficit – in 2011 and 2016. The community “gave overwhelming support” for the referendums that provided the district with needed revenues, Shelly Marks, school board president, said at a recent presentation on the referendum. 

However, these were short-term fixes that haven’t put the district on a sound financial footing.  Increasing the foundation rate by $1.20 per $100 assessed value through a tax increase is the best way to solve the repeat efforts of going to referendum, Marks said. “This is finding a permanent solution,” she explained. In the past, the district didn’t have the option to increase the foundation rate.

District 153 is primarily funded through property taxes. It also gets funding from the state through an Evidence-Based Funding Formula, Superintendent Scott McAlister said. The state rates a district based on 34 points that constitute an adequate education, like low class sizes, interventionists, art programs, etc. District 153 has a Tier I ranking for the most poorly funded school districts. 

“We receive 65-cents on the dollar to fund education,” McAlister said. “We’re still short, and that’s why we need the referendum. It ultimately comes down to two things, additional revenue or you reduce spending. We feel the supports we provide for our families are so incredible that reducing our spending is not something we want to do.”

“There’s never a good time to tell children they can’t have the education they deserve and what our community has come to expect from our schools. Without this referendum’s success, that’s exactly what we will be doing,” Marks said.

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