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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Wednesday, October 5, 2022
CONTACT: Connie Beard, Chairman
McLean County Republicans
Email: [email protected]
McLean County Republicans Urge a "NO" Vote on Unit 5 Tax Proposition
The Unit 5 tax proposition on the November 8 General Election ballot asks Unit 5 school district voters to approve a 32.35% increase in the “maximum annual educational tax rate.” The notes accompanying the proposition can leave a voter perplexed. What does it all mean?
This proposition, if approved, will raise property taxes from $2.72 per $100 of assessed valuation to $3.60 per $100 of assessed valuation. For example, if a $300,000 house is assessed at $100,000 (typically 33% of its fair cash value), the school portion of the owner's real estate taxes will increase from $2,720 to $3,600 per year. If passed, this owner will pay an additional $880 each year going forward.
Per note (c), the current total annual budget of Unit 5 is $200,164,128. Of this, the most that can be spent on educational purposes is $83,615,548 according to note (b). This means that $116,548,580 is set aside for operations, including administrative overhead, building maintenance, utilities, supplies, employee benefits, bussing, and other such costs. Operational overhead consumes 58% of Unit 5’s total budget. Sure, there are 25 school buildings to maintain and plenty of services to provide, but lots of administration too. Of the current budget, only 42% is “extendable for educational purposes.” What are the implications?
Let’s consider the cost of educating a single student in the CUSD 5 school district. Unit 5’s operating budget was just over $200,000,000 last year, and it enrolled 13,600 students. Total per pupil spending was $14,700 – all costs included. Educational expenses are $83.6 million or $6,147 per student. With 26.2 students in a classroom on average, it costs $161,000 to operate a typical classroom. Now, the teacher isn't paid anywhere near this amount. Where are the excess dollars going? Just as importantly, what sort of results are we getting for this money?
MCGOP believes that we need suitable answers to such questions before taxpayers will support increased school taxes. Perhaps Unit 5 should reduce the administrative overhead, eliminate unnecessary programs, and spend the savings on educational purposes.
How to Decide – A typical knee-jerk reaction is to demand more to support bureaucratic programs because ‘nothing is too good for our kids,’ despite how much Unit 5 is already spending. Others say, “Enough is enough! There is no guaranteed that increased funding will improve the educational outcomes," which is true. We already spend a considerable sum of money on education, and what are the results? According to the most recent Unit 5 School Report Card, only 53% of students are proficient in the Illinois Science Assessment, only 30% pass 8th-grade algebra, and only 78% are on track in 9th grade. 35% need Community College remediation.
MCGOP recommends that Unit 5 reduce administrative spending and unnecessary programs and improve the quality of its educational results before the public is asked to approve such a tax increase. This is the most reasonable approach to school funding, given the amount of money we are currently spending.
Again, there is no guarantee throwing more money at education will improve outcomes. We've seen year after year that this is rarely the case. There are many districts and states whose schools spend far less on education per student and achieve far better results. A lack of funding does not appear to be the root of the problem.
Let's first cut non-essential spending before asking for more money. Reduce the bloated administrative overhead and eliminate unnecessary extracurricular activities before asking for more of our tax dollars.
Yes, some will use scare tactics to tell us of the horrendous outcomes if taxpayers do not approve an increase: decrease in schoolteachers and staff, increased class size, loss of extracurricular offerings, shorter school days, closed school buildings, and increase in school fees. Yes, this might be true, but only if administrative overhead is NOT cut. Our suggestion, cut administrative bloat first.
Consider, too, that local real estate values rose from 6 to 9 percent recently due to rampant inflation. That increased the assessed valuation, the base upon which school taxes are generated. These inflated property values have already produced increased revenues for the schools.
Right now, Illinois is competing for the highest overall tax rate in the nation. We have insanely high sales, fuel, excise, utility, motor fuel, and income taxes – not to mention crazy high licensing and unending user fees. When will we reach a limit on taxes? How much will be enough? Will the tax-and-spend liberals be happy with anything less than 100% of our income?
In addition, inflation has effectively reduced the income of all Americans by about 8% over the past year. The cost of energy, building materials, food, commodities, and everything else has gone up. As a result, we all have less disposable income. Now is not the time to reduce our income even further by adding a new tax. It's time for a bit of belt-tightening, making do with what we have. We all have to do it, and Unit 5 should too.
The leadership of McLean County Republicans urge a "NO" vote on the Unit 5 tax proposition.
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