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Education and Family

Unit 5 Property Tax Bills Expected To Stay Put

Unit 5 schools plan to pursue a property tax levy that will mean almost no change for the owner of an average home in the district.

The proposed tax levy discussed at Wednesday's school board meeting is about $111 million. That would produce a $5 decrease in taxes for the owner of a home worth $150,000.

Unit 5 Business Manager Marty Hickman said the school district may also choose to take out $9.8 million in loans for health, life, and safety projects.

"We use those to finance different projects for replacement of mechanical systems or roofs at our schools," said Hickman.

The tax levy for education funding totals at nearly $111 million for 2017. That's up from $110 million in 2016. Hickman said property values also rose by about a percent.

“It appears to be driven almost entirely by new construction, not increase in existing homes or business value,” said Hickman. “What that will do is that we're projecting the total tax rate to drop very slightly in 2017 versus '16.”

If the district approves both the levy and the borrowing, the owner of a $150,000 home would end up paying $3.50 more next year to help pay off that debt.

Closed Session

Meanwhile, several Unit 5 parents called for an immediate closed session meeting following the regular board meeting Wednesday night.

David Cobb, who said he worked on past committees for Unit 5, signed up for public comment and approached the board on behalf of multiple parents sitting behind him to meet with them in closed session to discuss a national issue becoming a problem within Unit 5 schools.

Cobb and other parents would not tell GLT on what they wanted to privately discuss with the board.

At first, Board President Jim Hayek hesitated to agree to a closed session. Hayek said individuals must schedule a closed session with the board at least 48 hours in advance. Cobb urged the board to meet with them out of respect for the parents who came to make the request. The board overrode the rules and met with the parents when the regular meeting adjourned.

The Open Meetings Act exception cited by the board in order to enter closed session indicates the parents' concerns were related to a Unit 5 employee or employees:

The appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee of the public body or against legal counsel for the public body to determine its validity.

The parents had specific names to bring up that they couldn't disclose in a public setting.

Welcoming Schools

The board also officially declared Unit 5 schools welcoming environments for students and faculty regardless of their immigration status. A lengthy discussion on the resolution took place at the last Unit 5 board meeting.

Several students from Kingsley Junior High School also prepared statements on social justice reform they want to take place in their school during public comment. One student said they want to rename Columbus Day "Indigenous Peoples Day" to recognize the Native Americans killed by European settlers.

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