Crime & Courts | My Suburban Life

D66 officials look ahead following referendum defeat

A referendum seeking a property tax increase in Center Cass School District 66 was soundly defeated during last week’s election, causing school district officials to consider ways in which the district can make up revenue shortfalls.

Slightly less than 1,400 voters cast ballots in favor of the referendum compared with 2,069 who voted against the question, according to unofficial results provided by the DuPage County Clerk’s Office.

The referendum was put forth by the district in an effort to raise its limiting tax and provide money needed to maintain a quality district. Financial troubles are not new to Center Cass, but the referendum defeat means the board will be making some tough decisions, Superintendent Andrew Wise said.

Specifically, Wise said the school board will have to make decisions about expenditure reductions and revenue enhancements. Those decisions will begin at the August board meeting. While nothing is certain yet, Wise said examples of such expenditure reductions could include anything from cutting extracurriculars to letting go of staff, the latter of which would result in much larger class sizes for students, he said. Other cuts that may be discussed could be related to bussing and cutting a number of routes, making for longer wait times for students, he said.

“I think our community does support local education,” Wise said. “The community told us ‘no’ to [this] raise, but that doesn’t mean they don’t support their schools because they absolutely do.”

Chester Szerlag, who did not support the district’s referendum, said he’s heard the district talk a lot about reducing expenditures but hasn’t seen any action. He believes there is a lack of objective information and data being provided to residents.

One example, Szerlag said, is that enrollment in the district is declining. He said he does not understand how staffing needs can rise as enrollment drops.

“I felt supporters were not in the mood to discuss things and that infuriated a lot of residents,” Szerlag said. “We want to get more people to participate in the discussions and understand the language before the vote. Hopefully at upcoming board meetings, we will all be able to talk about our concerns.”

Wise said he will recommend the district place another referendum on the ballot soon, but what that referendum will look like is unclear at this time. It could be identical to the June referendum or it could request something completely different, he said.

While some community members in opposition to the referendum expect to see another, they are not sure what a middle ground would look like. Szerlag believes it would be arrogant of the district to run the same referendum in November.

“To submit again something very similar to what voters said ‘no’ to this time around does not show respect for the voters,” Szerlag said. “A substantial part of the community doesn’t think this referendum is the right thing to do, and if the board repeats that, I suspect it may fail by a larger number than this time around.”