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Facts About the Palos 118 Referendum

On March 19, 2024, Palos 118 is asking voters to approve a referendum that would allow the school district to shift approximately $4.35 million in future property taxes from its debt service fund to its operating fund to address its financial challenges.

The school district has a unique opportunity to address its long-term financial challenges without raising or lowering property taxes

  • The school district is not asking for more money from taxpayers. 

  • Voting “yes” for the referendum will not increase or decrease property taxes.   

  • The proposed increase in the operating tax rate will be completely offset by a corresponding decrease in the debt service tax rate. 

  • If approved, approximately $4.35 million in future property taxes no longer needed to pay for debt service will be shifted to the school district’s operating fund to avoid cuts, fund capital improvements and pay for the state’s unfunded free full-day kindergarten mandate.  This shift requires voter approval.

    Low Spend High Achieve

Palos 118 is a low-spending, high-achieving school district

  • Student performance on state assessments in at the 97th percentile in reading and 93rd percentile in math. 

  • Student performance in science is in the top 10% in Illinois. 

  • Palos 118 spends approximately $1,000 less per pupil than the state average. 

  • Only 6 school districts in the entire state spent less per pupil and achieved higher results in reading last year.

Unfunded mandates continue to grow, placing a significant and unsustainable financial burden on the school district’s budget

  • The unfunded portion of the school district’s two most significant state and federal mandates has grown from approximately $2.4 million in 2012 to $6.0 million in 2023. 

  • Palos 118 has been deficit spending since 2017 to pay for unfunded mandates and sustain current programs and services. 

  • The school district cannot control unfunded mandates, which will continue to grow and further erode the school district’s cash reserves.

Palos 118 receives little state support and is heavily reliant on local property taxes to operate

  • In 2023, Illinois increased state support to local school districts by $350,000,000 through its funding formula. 

  • The increase in state funding to Palos 118 was only $34,000. 

  • Palos 118 receives approximately $900 per student from the state compared to North Palos 117 that receives more than $6,000 per student.

Palos 118 has never been able to generate enough funding at the local level to maintain its school facilities

  • The school district is heavily reliant on borrowing to maintain its facilities. 

  • Palos 118 spends on average $1.9 million annually to maintain and improve its aging school buildings. 

  • Continued borrowing while interest rates are rising will lead to higher principal and interest payments for taxpayers. 

The school district cannot cut its way out of its current financial condition

  • Palos 118 is already a low spending school district. 

  • Since 1982, the Illinois General Assembly has passed 699 educational mandates of which only 4 have been fully funded. 

  • In 2023, the General Assembly mandated all school districts provide free full-day kindergarten without providing $1 in state funds to cover the cost. 

  • The school district cannot control the growth in unfunded mandates. 

The school district has a proven track record of financial responsibility and transparency

  • The school district historically spends less per pupil than the state average. 

  • It has been more than 60 years since the last successful operating tax rate referendum. 

  • Between 2012 and 2016, the school district saved $2.6 million to build cash reserves to cover projected budget deficits, which it has relied upon since 2017 to maintain current programs and services. 

  • Palos 118 is the annual recipient of the Meritorious Budget Award and the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting for transparency and accountability in reporting. 

Palos 118 creates demand for housing in the Palos area and helps maintain strong home values

  • Palos 118 is a destination district for young families in search of high-quality schools in the south suburbs. 

  • Since 2021, the school district enrollment has increased by 140 students. 

  • 86% of families on a recent survey of district families said they chose to live here because of the schools.

A successful referendum will provide financial stability for the next generation of Palos 118 students

  • $2.0 million to eliminate unsustainable operating budget deficits and avoid cuts to current programs and services.

  • $2.0 million to maintain school facilities and end reliance on short-term borrowing. 

  • $350,000 to pay for the new unfunded mandate for free full-day kindergarten, three years prior to the state mandated deadline. 

Referendum Resources


School Finance 101: A Tale of Two Buckets

State of the District 2023

PHTV4: D118 Referendum Discussion