Unit 5 board approves tax increase question on April ballot

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 4:53 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - In the face of a $12 million deficit, the McLean County Unit 5 school board has approved a ballot question to ask voters on increasing the tax rate - again.

In November, Unit 5 voters decided not to increase taxes for the education fund, but the board says the feedback they received showed many voters didn’t understand what would happen if the tax referendum didn’t pass and were confused by the question on the ballot.

Wednesday, the school board voted to put the same tax rate question back on the ballot.

“We are going to be sunk. We are not going to be able to operate at the level that this community thinks it will be able to - that it’s hoping for us to provide,” said Board Member Alan Kalitzky.

The question will propose the same tax increase as last time, an 88-cent increase in the tax rate to $3.60 per $100 of assessed valuation. The district has answered frequently asked questions regarding property taxes.

“I think we’ve done a very good job of trying to educate our community on a very complicated matter. School finance is not simple,” said Kalitzky.

The district has previously said that if this did not pass, extracurriculars and electives could be cut - as well as class sizes increased.

“I think we need to dot I’s and cross T’s as far as if it doesn’t happen this is what’s going to take place,” said Board Member Jeremy DeHaai.

Despite the unanimous decision, Brad Wurth, now running for school board, said the board should listen to what voters already said.

“At the end of the day - the community is entrusting you with their hard-earned resources,” said Wurth.

But board members say they want to be clearer and more specific to make sure voters are more educated on the topic.

One person during the public comment period opposed the referendum, saying the board should listen to what voters already said.

Unit 5 Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle says it’s not uncommon to put a referendum back on the ballot after it doesn’t pass. She also says the overall tax rate is projected to go down in the coming years.

The election is this April.

This story will be updated.