Lake Bluff residents upset over District 65 reserves
Updated: October 1, 2012 1:45PM
LAKE BLUFF — Nearly 50 residents packed the Lake Bluff District 65 Board of Education meeting Tuesday night to voice their concerns about the district’s more than $12 million reserve fund amidst declining enrollment.
Those who addressed the board said to audience applause that the reserves should be used to pay debt and expenses, returned to taxpayers and that future construction and maintenance be postponed until a strategic plan is completed.
“The reserve level is increasing to an amount we believe is excessive,” John Marozsan of Lake Bluff said. “At the same time, young families are not moving to Lake Bluff.”
Marozsan blamed high property taxes for the lack of families with young children buying homes in Lake Bluff and a resulting decline in enrollment from 1,100 in 2003 to 850 in the current academic year.
Ed Holstein of Lake Bluff said he is “alarmed” that property taxes for his home on Ravine Avenue have increased more than 64 percent between 2001 and 2011, while the amount he has paid toward District 65 — minus pensions — has mushroomed nearly 95 percent.
“School District 65 taxes increased approximately two times the rate of all other taxing bodies, including Lake Forest High School District 115,” he said. “All of this while enrollment was dropping.”
Eric Grenier of Lake Bluff encouraged the board to use the reserves to pay for expenses and reduce future tax levies.
“Many people in this community need tax relief,” Grenier said.
“Return it to the taxpayers,” Bob Swee of Lake Bluff agreed. “That’s our money.”
School Board President Mary Jane Brady told the audience that the board “consciously made the decision to increase its operating funds” after the state put the district on financial watch in 2003. Voters approved an operating rate increase through a 2003 referendum.
Brady said the board will look at putting a cap on its fund reserves at its Committee of the Whole discussion on next year’s tax levy at its meetings on Tuesday, Oct. 9, and Tuesday, Nov. 6. The levy will be finalized in December.
Director of Business Services Jane Lair said the board will be presented “various options on how to reduce the levy, how much to reduce the levy, including (tax) abatement” at its meeting on Oct. 9.
Board member Mark Barry thanked the residents for coming forward and voicing their concerns.
“We really listened,” he said.~.