• Frequently Asked Questions 

    Q: Is it true this referendum will not increase my property taxes?
    A: Correct. The referendum will not increase your property taxes. A successful referendum would allow the district to stop relying on working cash bonds to fund operations. These bonds expiring the next 3 years, combined with the district paying off previous building bonds, means the tax rate will not increase if the referendum passes. In fact, the owner of a $180,000 home in the district will actually see a $420 tax decrease by 2026."

    Q:  What is the Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV)?

    A:  The EAV is calculated by averaging the home value over the past three years and then dividing by three (3). EAV usually amounts to approximately 1/3 or 33% of the home’s value. Example: Home value of $300,000 = (approximately) $100,000 EAV

    Q:  What is a levy?

    A:  The amount of money a school district certifies to be raised from property tax.  

    Q:  Since the Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) went up this year, will that take care of the deficit?

    A:  No, an increase in EAV will not eliminate the deficit if nothing else changes. While an increase in EAV does help bring in additional revenue it does not make up for the last decade, where EAV has been at or below 3%.  

    Q:  Home sales have been high the last two years. Is that accounted for in the Education Fund projections?

    A:  Yes,  we assumed a 6% increase in the EAV for the next two years (levy years 23 and 24) our Education Fund projections (slide 5).  We assumed a 3% increase for the next three years (levy years 25, 26, and 27).   

    Q:  When does the uptown Normal TIF expire?  How much will it bring to the district?

    A:  The uptown Normal TIF expires in levy year 2026 which means the district will receive funds from levy year 2027 payable in calendar year 2028. Approximately $1.5M total for all funds.  These funds are included in the projections on slide 5 of the presentation.

    Q:  Are Rivian’s property taxes included?

    A:  Yes, the revenue the district will receive from Rivian’s taxes are included in the assumptions on slide 5. 

    Q:  How many administrators does Unit 5 have compared to the state average?

    A:  According to the 2020-21 Illinois School Report Card, the administration to student ratio in Unit 5 is 211:1 (211 students to every 1 administrator), whereas the state average is 157:1 (157 students to every 1 administrator).

    Q:  What are examples of the unfunded mandates?

    A:  The minimum teacher starting salary of $40,000 and the minimum wage increases are two examples that have a significant financial impact on the district.  

    Q:  What services/costs are paid from the Education Fund?

    A:  Salaries and benefits for teachers, school psychologists, school social workers, school counselors, speech/language therapists, teaching assistants, administrative assistants, administrators, technology specialists, technology, books, online resources, etc. 

    Q:  Is the district able to recoup the lost money from the State when funds were prorated?

    A:  Unfortunately no. Although the State can mandate that Unit 5 provide certain services, it is not required to appropriate funds to fully fund those mandated services. If it chooses to fund mandated services less than 100%, it is not required to eventually make up the unfunded portion of those services.  Unit 5 has lost approximately $19 million dollars from proration since 2010.  

    Q:  How were ESSER dollars spent and can’t they be used towards the deficit?

    A:  ESSER dollars were meant to be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.  Funds could also be spent on addressing the academic and social-emotional needs of students as a result of the pandemic, technology for online learning, professional development of staff, etc.  Unit 5 used money to purchase chromebooks and tablets for online learning, additional personnel who served as academic and behavioral interventionists, summer school staff and summer school transportation for the past two summers, online learning resources, professional development, clearing supplies, sub custodians for extra cleaning of classrooms and cafeterias, and improved ventilation throughout the district.  

    Q:  How long is the projected proposal going to be effective before we will need another increase?

    A:  The new rate was determined by looking at the cost of the feedback from the community engagement process and then forecasting those costs into the future.  Based on current assumptions, the increase should last the district at least 10 years.  

    Q:  Will the increase really not happen until levy year 2024?

    A:  Yes, the district will not apply the $0.88 increase in the education fund until after the building bonds are paid off.  This is structured intentionally so that the tax rate does not increase.  

    Q:  The Bonds and Interest rate goes down and the Ed Fund goes up.  Doesn’t that mean it levels out and is a flat rate more or less?

    A:  If approved by the voters, the tax rate will actually decrease. Rather than paying $1.00 towards bonds and interest payments taxpayers would pay $0.88 towards the education fund thus resulting in a lower tax rate.   

    Q:  Why not cut sports and clubs to save money?

    A:  Extracurriculars and co-curriculars provide students with an opportunity to be actively engaged and have a sense of belonging with their peers.  Students who participate in extracurricular and co-curricular activities often perform better academically, learn time management, and develop strong teamwork skills.  Even if Unit 5 cut all extra and co-curricular activities, it would save less than $1M a year.  

    Q: Why is the education fund lower than neighboring districts?

    A:  At some point in time, other districts’ communities have approved a higher tax rate in the education fund.  

    Q: What is the operating budget of similar school districts in Illinois, other Midwest states?

    A:  Each state has different funding structures, rules, and regulations regarding school finance so Unit 5 has compared our operating funds to other districts in Illinois.  Last year we compared ourselves to other large unit districts, districts serving students in grades PreK-12 that have at least 3,500 students enrolled.   This comparison showed that Unit 5 spent the second lowest operating dollars spent per student compared to six large unit districts in the surrounding area. The comparison also showed Unit 5 spends a higher percentage of dollars in the instructional fund compared to the other districts.  

    Q: Is Unit 5 larger than other districts?

    A:  Yes, Unit 5 is the 15th largest district out of 800+ public school districts in Illinois.  

    Q:   Do you feel it is an ethics violation for employees to advocate for this referendum using school district resources?

    A:  School district employees can provide factual information regarding the referendum during work hours and using district resources. Employees can advocate for or against the referendum on their own time and using their own resources. 

    Q: Explain why you are anticipating increased deficits. Are you just spending beyond your means or what?

    A:  No, the district is not spending beyond our means.  In the last 7 years, Unit 5 has cut over $5 million in expenses in the education fund.  If nothing changes in the education fund, the deficit is projected to increase due to increases in salaries and benefits, increased costs of supplies, materials and purchased services.  If we want the best instruction for our students, we need to pay competitive wages in order to attract and retain employees.  

    Q: The Pantagraph says the referendum will “benefit kids, giving them opportunities and support they need…” Be definitive - how will students be benefited - class sizes smaller, extra help for children having learning difficulties, or retention of foreign language, music, etc? 

    A:  If the referendum is approved by the community, the priorities would be:  lower class sizes, improving safety and security in our schools, and increasing student resources and support.  If the referendum passes, it will ensure we continue to provide a variety of programs for students, including music and foreign language.