$21M surplus threatens school referendum

An independent audit of District 205 revealed an education fund surplus of more than $21 million just weeks before voters will decide on a referendum that would extend the current 3.7 percent tax rate another five years. If the referendum fails, taxpayers will see some relief in the form of a 3.12 percent rate.

The district’s 2005-2006 budget was $290,979,400. District officials said the surplus was a rare result of many factors, such as retirements of veteran teachers and an overall decrease in salaries, that are not likely to be seen again soon.

Despite the surplus, Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson said there is a long way to go and still argued the necessity of approving the referendum. Thompson has warned of cuts to programs, including kindergarten and sports, if the referendum fails.

Word of the surplus comes just as the Kids Win campaign goes into full swing to get the public behind the proposition. For some, the news is all the more reason to vote no.

“It affirms that the district does not need the $14.4 million generated from the 58 cents, and that this ‘temporary’ tax should be retired,” school board member Mike Williams said. “The threats to make massive cuts in programs was greatly overstated to scare voters into supporting the referendum.” Williams added taxpayers were promised the increase would no longer be needed after 2006.

Those on either side of the proposition agree the surplus is good news, but voters will decide the need to extend the current tax rate Nov. 7.

From the Oct. 25-31, 2006, issue

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