EDWARDSVILLE – Supporters of Community School District 7 are spending the last week before the April 4 election on an all-out blitz to warn voters about what the district says is the dire situation the state budget crisis is creating for schools, teachers and students.
The district is urging residents to pass a property tax increase, known as Proposition E, on the April ballot or face severe cuts to many extracurricular activities and accelerated programs.
Among items on the chopping block are all freshman and middle school sports programs, all elementary school band and orchestra programs, and field trips for all District 7 students. Activities like the debate team, newspaper and after-school tutoring could also be reduced or eliminated.
Over the last eight years, state funding for District 7 schools has dropped by more than $53 million, a total average annual loss of roughly $7 million. In addition to the loss of state dollars, Illinois has also enacted several costly mandates, which Illinois school districts are obligated to comply with, despite the reduction in state funding.
District 7 Superintendent, Dr. Lynda Andre, says it’s clear the state cannot be trusted to fulfill its obligations to area schools, and now it’s up to residents to protect students’ futures.
“As a school district, we have done absolutely everything in our power to avoid asking residents for a property tax increase. We’ve eliminated over 101 positions and reduced our operating expenses by $14 million. We’ve gone without new textbooks, security cameras and necessary technology updates. Our teachers have done an outstanding job of adapting to these challenges, but we have to help them,” said Andre.
The state currently owes the district approximately $2.7 million for both the current and previous school years. Since District 7 ended two consecutive school years (2014-2015 and 2015-2016) with negative operating fund balances, the district may eventually be subject to financial oversight by the State of Illinois, meaning the school district could potentially lose its local decision-making power as early as June 2019.
Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton says that situation is unacceptable.
“I hope people understand that we aren’t just trying to use scare tactics here. If we don’t pass Proposition E, and the state ends up having a say in financial decisions for District 7, it hurts everyone. Our property values will go down, and our kids’ education will be at risk. Edwardsville District 7 is known across the Metro East area as a great school district. It’s up to us to keep it that way,” Patton said.
While Proposition E would increase property taxes, the Edwardsville community would still have one of the lowest tax rates in Madison County. The Education Fund tax increase will translate to roughly $28 extra dollars a month on a $200,000 house.
For more information, contact Andre (618) 656-1182 or view the facts about Proposition E at http://www.ecusd7.org.
— From the Illinois Business Journal