ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles School District 303 Board on Monday approved a budget for this school year over the objection of three of its members.
School board members on Monday voted, 4-3, in favor of adopting the fiscal 2014-15 district budget at its regular meeting. Board members Jim Gaffney, Judith McConnell and Corinne Pierog voted against the proposal, each stating their concerns that taxpayers cannot continue to endure the anticipated increase in tax rates that will result from a higher budget than last year.
The total expenditures on the 2014-15 district budget are nearly $190 million, an increase of about $4 million from the nearly $186 million budget they approved in Aug. 2013 for fiscal 2013-14. Board members have tried in recent years to keep the levy increase to 2 percent, but this year’s budget might make it difficult for them to do so, as it represents about a 2.3 percent increase from the previous year.
Pierog was the first to speak on voting against the budget, saying she has received many calls from residents who asked her to put an abatement on the tax increase. The district expects the levy to drop in 2017 when some of its debt is scheduled to retire, but Pierog said people are struggling now and live in homes with underwater mortgages. McConnell said she has heard similar concerns about residents with homes that can’t be sold or paid off.
Board Vice President Kathy Hewell reminded board members that the latest teacher contract they approved called for salary increases of more than 2 percent. Teachers and staff have to understand the difficult financial decisions the board and district leaders have to make, Gaffney said.
“I think it’s time we draw a line in the sand,” Gaffney said during Monday’s meeting.
District Superintendent Don Schlomann said he was disappointed to hear the board members talk about rejecting the budget when administrators already spent time planning and making cuts to bring the budget before them.
Schlomann said the only room he would have to adjust the budget at this point would be to cut positions and increase class sizes.
“You will fill this room with parents that are angry,” Schlomann said to the board members before the vote.
Board President Steve Spurling said the property taxes in the country are obscene, but he said the board has been fiscally responsible and he has high expectations of the district because of the high taxes.
Board members will vote on the levy this fall.