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Oswego

Will Oswego School District 308 Board try a third referendum?

The Oswego School District 308 Board of Education will continue the discussion of further budget cuts and fee increases, due to the failure of the operating fund referendum on the April 2 ballot.
The Oswego School District 308 Board of Education will continue the discussion of further budget cuts and fee increases, due to the failure of the operating fund referendum on the April 2 ballot.

Would a third time be the charm for an Oswego School District 308 tax hike referendum?

Voters rejected the school district's operating fund property tax referendum in balloting April 2. That defeat followed the voters rejection of a November referendum that would have established a sales tax for District 308 and other Kendall County public school districts.

The issue now before the Board of Education is whether or not the district will again seek passage of a referendum and, if so, when.

OSD 308 Director of Communications and Public Relations Theresa Komitas said that discussions on a future referendum will wait until the end of this month when newly elected board members Ruth Kroner and Alison Swanson and incumbent board member Lauri Doyle begin their terms.

"Then future discussions will happen about the possibility of putting either the (sales) tax or operating referendums back on future ballots, but the timing of that is unknown until the new board has that discussion," Komitas said.

Matt Dietrich, public information officer for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said state election laws vary concerning the timeframe that a failed referendum can be placed back on the ballot.

Some referendum, Dietrich explained, have lockout provisions attached, meaning that they cannot be placed on the ballot for a certain amount of time following a failure to pass. The ability to call for a special vote for a referendum is most often reserved for an emergency situation, he added.

Dietrich said there is no lockout provision in the law for the recent operating fund referendum, meaning that the board could bring it before voters in the March 2020 primary election, the Nov. 2020 general election, or the 2021 consolidated election.

The referendum were both proposed by the board in order to help offset projected multi-million dollar budget deficit. The County School Facilities Sales Tax which voters rejected last November, would have established a one percent retail sales tax in stores and restaurants in the county, and would have been added to current county and municipal sales taxes.

The tax would have been added onto the cost of clothing, shoes, housewares, restaurant dining, electronics, and fast food; but would not have been applied to the purchase of prescription medications, unprepared foods/groceries, services, vehicles (cars, trucks, ATVs and boats) mobile homes, and farm equipment and parts.

Proceeds from the County School Facilities Tax would have been distributed to county school districts based upon their enrollments. Under state law, the districts could have used the revenues to abate property taxes or pay for school construction and maintenance projects. School districts are barred under state law from using the funds to pay for teacher or administrator salaries or pensions. Prior to the Nov. 2018 election, the board voted to guarantee that 100% revenue from the tax would go towards the abatement of property taxes through retiring outstanding bond debt.

The operating fund referendum, as listed on the ballot, would increase the tax levy rate for the district's operating fund by 30 cents, for every $100 of equalized assessed valuation, providing the district with needed revenue.

District administrators had previously estimated the referendum would cost the owner of a home valued at $200,000 an additional $182 annually, while the owner of a home valued at $250,000 would pay an extra $232. The tax bill for a $300,000 home would increase by $282.

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