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Local News

Mokena School District 159 referendum asks for funding for building repairs

Chris Dallner and Rick Helstley put together voting booths Oct. 30, 2014, at Parker Road Bible Church in Mokena.
Chris Dallner and Rick Helstley put together voting booths Oct. 30, 2014, at Parker Road Bible Church in Mokena.

Residents in Mokena School District 159 will vote April 2 on a referendum asking for an increase to the limiting tax rate to raise about $1.8 million in needed funds without raising residents’ taxes.

The referendum asks voters whether they would approve permanently increasing the limiting rate by an additional 0.3 percent, which would equal about 2.8 percent of the equalized assessed value of taxable property for fiscal 2019.

However, according to documents on the district’s website, this referendum will not increase residents’ taxes. The district will pay off the bonds sold to build Mokena Junior High School in two years, and the referendum asks residents to merely move the 30 cents used to pay off the MJHS bonds to other projects.

The money is not for new projects, but instead to maintain, repair and update current buildings.

The district’s McKinstry facility has a number of short-, medium- and long-term projects to complete, which will cost tens of millions of dollars. For example, the facility is in need of upgrades to its heating and cooling system, security, interior surfaces and parking lots. Among long-term projects, which are estimated to cost between $11 million and $21 million over a span of 10 years, are roof replacements, electrical service updates and interior sealants.

The owner of a $300,000 home pays about $289 toward the bonds. This amount will be applied to the repair projects if the referendum is approved.

A limiting rate increase also would mean no interest payments. According to the district’s documents,
100 percent of the money will be used to complete the projects. Although this will provide a continued source of revenue, it could increase over time because of inflation.

The district documents also mentioned having to plan for possible changes in funding and stressed the importance of local property taxes to the financial health of District 159. In 2017, the average Illinois school district’s budget relied about 68 percent on local taxes, about 7.5 percent from the federal government and about
24.4 percent from the state. Local taxes now make up about 87.8 percent of District 159’s revenue.

It also compared its tax rate to other nearby districts, saying it has the lowest rate of all comparable districts in Joliet, Frankfort, Troy, Homer Glen, New Lenox, Lockport and Manhattan.

For information, contact superintendent@mokena159.org or 708-342-4900.

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