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Voters to decide on raising D-31 taxes; electrical aggregation in Northbrook

Two hot-button issues are on the March 20 primary: raising a school district taxes in parts Glenview and Northbrook and a switching electricity suppliers in Northbrook.

Voters in West Northfield School District 31 will be asked whether the district should increase its tax rate to help raise revenue administrators say would cover a structural budget deficit. Officials are asking whether the district should collect an additional $1.8 million each year in property taxes. Due to projected property value declines, officials anticipate the actual amount collected would be $1.55 million.

If the referendum passes, property owners would pay an additional $89 for every $100,000 of their property’s value, district officials have said.

A similar referendum failed last year by a margin of about 2-1, but administrators said they feel they have done a better job this year disseminating information.

Program costs, facility repairs and corporate tax appeals have contributed to the district’s financial position. Administrators have lost millions of dollars due to successful tax appeals by Allstate Insurance Co., and they project losing millions more in coming years.

Officials have cut $1.8 million in expenses in recent years and are likely to cut $1 million more over the next two years if the referendum fails. The additional tax revenue would not allow for new expenses or facilities repairs, officials have said.

Opponents of the referendum have said recently they believe the district can rely on its  fund balance and short-term borrowing to solve its financial problems.

But Superintendent Alexandra Nicholson has said the fund balance is less than opponents suggest and issuing bonds would be like “taking out a charge card to pay for your charge card.”

She posted a response to some financial questions on the district’s website March 7.

Across Northbrook, voters also will be asked whether the village should drop Commonwealth Edison as the village’s electricity supplier.

Officials believe that by banding with seven other north-suburban communities and soliciting bids for other suppliers, residents can save money on their electric bills.

The consortium would be composed of Northbrook, Deerfield, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Park Ridge and Skokie.

Communities that approved the referendum would proceed with the bid process even if it does not pass in other municipalities, according to information on the village’s website. If Northbrook residents reject the measure, the village would drop out of the consortium.

Northbrook Management Analyst Kendal Maltas said the measure known as electrical aggregation could save people 15 to 25 percent on the supply portion of their electric bills.

Although another company would supply electricity if the referendum passes, ComEd would still maintain the system and handle problems.

Residents also would be given the option of opting out of the measure and sticking with ComEd as the supplier if the referendum is approved, according to the village.

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