Seeking to alleviate the growing burden of property taxes for Illinois homeowners, a group of legislators is considering a host of options that include consolidating school districts and allowing voters across the state to dissolve units of local government.
The legislative task force, created this summer by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, has a Dec. 31 deadline to deliver its recommendations. Its report is expected to lead to “very multifaceted” — and likely controversial — legislation this spring, said Rep. Sam Yingling, the Grayslake Democrat chairing the panel. […]
Funding for public schools in Illinois is heavily reliant on property tax revenue, and another possibility under discussion within the tax force has been school district consolidation and finding other revenue sources for education.
Also on the table: Reducing the 23-year limit on tax increment financing projects and overhauling the state’s property tax extension limitation law, which places a limit on tax increases that governments can enact. The collar counties became subject to that law in 1991, while Cook County was added in 1994.
School district consolidation sounds like a no-brainer, but good luck trying to consolidate, say, Dunlap’s schools with Peoria’s schools…
The buses keep coming. On a brisk autumn day, one after another pulls up next to the grandstand to let out dozens of students. The kids walk in bunches past the flagpole. A metal sign near the main entrance, glinting in the sun, reads, “Dunlap High School.”
The high school may not look it, but it’s something of an oddity. It’s a typical suburban-style school in a country setting, framed by rolling hills and cornfields. Its enrollment of 1,300 students nearly equals the population of Dunlap, Ill., itself. But the vast majority of its students are not from Dunlap. They’re from Peoria.
The city of Peoria has its own school district, a chronically troubled system with a declining enrollment that serves mostly black students. About 70 percent are low-income. White families have been avoiding the troubles of the inner-city school district by moving to the northern part of town, where they can send their kids to Dunlap instead. As a result, Dunlap’s school system is booming. The number of students enrolled has nearly doubled since the 2002-2003 school year. Nearly two-thirds of Dunlap’s students are white; only 7 percent are black. The Dunlap School District isn’t shy about its enviable position. Until recently, the high school’s website made that clear in bold lettering at the top of its profile page: “The high school graduation rate is 90 percent, and the low-income rate is 10 percent.”