Posted: Mar. 18, 2014 10:08 pm Updated: Apr. 8, 2014 10:15 pm
By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
NAUVOO, Ill. — Nauvoo-Colusa Superintendent Kent Young headed to work Wednesday with the same goal he had on Tuesday.
“We’ll just continue to be conservative and move forward with educating the children of Nauvoo-Colusa as best we can,” Young said.
But Young and the School Board might be breathing a little easier, at least in financial terms, after voters approved a 55-cent tax increase with a 532-131 vote in Tuesday’s election.
Supporters touted the tax hike as a long-term fix for the district’s finances.
“It was kind of a no-brainer,” said Spencer Berry, part of a community committee working to promote the referendum. “People knew it was a serious situation. This was the best answer for this time.”
Berry said the referendum was the fourth tried in the district’s history — and the first to pass.
“When something wins by a narrow margin, half the people are not happy. When it wins by a big margin, we’ve all made the decision to go forward,” Berry said. “It’s about putting kids first, and I think we did that really well.”
The referendum will generate about $280,000 a year, enough to close an ongoing annual funding gap in the district.
The state considers the district wealthy, based on the equalized assessed value and enrollment factored into the school funding formula, and only provides about $410 per pupil in general state aid. The bulk of the district’s funds, 77.1 percent last year, came from local sources, primarily property taxes.
With the referendum, the owner of a $100,000 home in the district will pay about $183 per year in additional taxes.
Without the additional revenue, the board had talked about dissolving the district and sending all 285 students, as early as fall 2015 without voter approval required, to neighboring Hamilton or Illini West High School and one of its elementary districts. Sending all students to Warsaw, which already has ties to the Nauvoo-Colusa district, is less likely because the two districts aren’t contiguous.
Under an ongoing deactivation agreement, Nauvoo-Colusa offers a junior high serving its students and those from Warsaw while the Warsaw district houses the high school.
Any merger would mean higher taxes for residents because neighboring districts have higher tax rates than Nauvoo-Colusa.
“Taxes would go up no matter what,” Berry said. “We wanted to keep what we’ve got. We’ve got a good thing going.”
Voters defeated the tax hike referendum in April, but several residents asked the School Board for a second try.
“Once we learned all the details, it became pretty obvious what the answer was,” Berry said. “We should be pretty strong for a while. You never know what the future brings, but I think we’ve got a good future in front of us.”
Committee members promoted the referendum through public meetings, social media and a website.
“We went above and beyond to educate people on what the facts were, what the situation was,” Berry said. “It was a lot of effort, a lot of information to voters.”
Young credit the “excellent job” done by the committee in promoting the referendum, which carried in all eight precincts, for building community support.
“People looked at the options and wanted to keep local control rather than paying taxes somewhere else,” Young said. “I’m very happy about the outcome.”