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Unit 5 school funding referendum could return to the ballot in April

Unit 5 administration building
Emily Bollinger
Nine candidates have filed to run for Unit 5 school board next spring.

The Unit 5 school board will meet Wednesday to decide whether to ask voters for a second time whether to raise a key property tax rate to address a growing multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

53.7% of voters rejected Unit 5’s referendum in the November election, a 2,659-vote margin. Unit 5 Superintendent Kristen Weikle said “there are very difficult decisions that will have to be made” in the wake of that defeat, which left a $12 million structural deficit.

The Unit 5 school board has called a special meeting for 4 p.m. Wednesday at the district office (1809 W. Hovey Ave., Normal) to consider placing the question on the April 4 ballot.

“This question is an effort to put Unit 5 on more stable financial footing and ensure our students continue to have access to the quality education they deserve,” the district said Monday.

The April 4 election is when city council and school board members are elected. Local elections like that typically lead to lower turnout than a midterm election like the one Nov. 8.

The Nov. 8 referendum asked voters to approve a tax rate increase in one fund, while still bringing the district’s overall tax rate down in a few years. Unit 5 said that by 2026, taxpayers would see a 12.5% decrease in the current rate, which amounts to an annual $420 tax cut for the average household.

Tax-rate referenda like this one typically are difficult to pass. Over the past 15 years, around 38% of these types of referenda have been approved statewide. Districts often try more than once.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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