Economy, taxes pose threat to district’s facility plan

Times-News editorial board

A proposed $16.8 million elementary school improvement project for District 709 is finally hitting the minds of residents who will weigh in on the options to close Jefferson School and move students to the high school or disperse them among remaining elementary schools.

Volunteers are compiling information and feedback from residents as they encourage them to take part in the district’s facility-plan survey. The goal is to offer the district a better understanding of public opinion.

It appears that the feeling among some residents, at least so far, is that, yes, there needs to be certain levels of improvement to many of the district’s facilities. However, the price tag for taxpayers will be a concern, particularly when tax increases seem to be the only way for state and federal legislators to increase revenue to satisfy their budgets.

District 709 faces a tough road ahead in its efforts to win the support of Morton taxpayers, who would be asked to foot the bill for the first phase of facility improvements in a long-running list of needs within the schools.

The current project would cost the homeowner of a $100,000 home an additional $150 in property taxes per year. Some may consider that amount too much, and some could consider it a bargain.

Timing seems to be the major issue here. Though many of the district’s desires for improvements are welcome among the taxpayers, the current sentiment, from what has been expressed to this editorial staff, is that now is not the time — not because it is not wanted, but because an added expense is not desired.

Those compiling feedback from residents are noting many of the comments. Residents should continue to offer their perspective on the district’s facility plan so they can be considered by planners as they prepare a plan for a potential referendum.

At the same time, the district will need to consider the current economic situation as a major factor while district representatives continue to educate the community on its needs.

This is an important time for the future of Morton and options need to be weighed carefully.