D51 board to decide fate of override next week

The School District 51 Board of Education will decide Tuesday whether to move forward with a proposed mill levy override on the Nov. 1 ballot.

The board heard results Tuesday evening of a mail-in survey sent to 32,744 local households in July and a phone poll of 400 voters administered July 26–28. Both surveys were intended to gauge the popularity of the school district and the possible override.

Fifty-two percent of the 8,253 households who responded to the mail survey expressed support for a $14.5 million override that would increase property taxes by $5.39 a month for every $100,000 of a home’s worth within District 51 boundaries. Forty-four percent of respondents said no to the idea.

Support dipped to 41 percent among phone-survey respondents, and 57 percent of those polled said they would oppose an override. After receiving some more information about the override, some people changed their opinion: 42 percent said they would support the measure, and 55 percent said they would not.

Support and opposition were at a dead heat of 42 percent to 42 percent when voters were asked to weigh the idea of an $8.7 million override in the phone poll.

Items the override would pay for, particularly restoration of 80 lost teaching jobs, received support in both polls. But 43 percent of voters polled over the phone said they were concerned about what the override would do to their finances. That made board member Greg Mikolai cautious about proposing an override with an indefinite time period.

“I would feel more comfortable with a mill levy override on the ballot if it included a sunset,” Mikolai said. “What we need to do is send this to staff and come back with a modified proposal that takes all this into account.”

At least two proposals will be considered by the board when they make their decision Tuesday whether to place an override on this November’s ballot. Mikolai suggested both proposals include a sunset, possibly of four or six years, and that at least one proposal include a fixed number for how much a property owner’s taxes would increase. School Board member Leslie Kiesler said including a fixed number will help people budget for an increase.

“I don’t look forward to raising my taxes, but I look forward to it helping kids,” Kiesler said.

District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita said the average homeowner would lose about half of a projected $300 savings in property taxes expected to accompany next year’s property-value decreases if a $14.5 million override passes.


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