Reporting Dana Kozlov
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NORTHBROOK, Ill. (CBS) – A small public school district nestled among two wealthy Chicago suburbs is in serious financial trouble. West Northfield Elementary School District 31 is surrounded by Northbrook and Glenview on the North Shore. It has only two schools and severe cuts are looming if they don’t get more money.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports on the district’s push for more money and its toughest opponent.
The district has already made almost $2 million in cuts over the past few years. That’s almost a sixth of its total budget.
School officials said an ongoing tax battle with insurance giant Allstate and the obstinacy of one gated community is making the crisis worse.
District 31 Supt. Alexandra Nicholson said she could be forced to make severe cuts if a referendum calling for a property tax hike doesn’t pass in March. A similar, but more expensive referendum failed last year.
“Extracurricular will have to be completely eliminated, including all sports and our band,” Nicholson said.
District 31 board member Mary Crowe-Richards said, “More than three quarters of the community members, the people that own houses in this community don’t have children in the district and they don’t really care.”
The current proposal would raise taxes $27 on every $100,000 of a property’s assessed valuation.
“There are some cases where the communities don’t even want us to go in to provide facts,” Nicholson said.
She said the gated Mission Hills subdivision is one of them. About 20 percent of the district’s voters live there.
The subdivision’s board president said school officials have been in the independent clubhouse to hold meetings, but added the board will not take a political position.
Nicholson said, “I have been told by a few residents that the board has already advised the people to say no in order to not to have their taxes raised. In my opinion, that’s a political stance.”
Officials said the grade school’s financial instability is forcing some parents to sell their homes.
“I think the community needs to decide whether they want to support public schools or if they don’t,” Crowe-Richards said.
There’s another concern. If the district’s financial reserves drop much further, the state would take over the school, pushing more people to move.
A presentation on all possible cuts will be made at a school board meeting on Thursday. The referendum vote is March 20.