Board of Education » Funding Referendum 2022

Funding Referendum 2022

Education Funding Referendum Passes with over 70% of the Vote!

District 153 Thanks You for Your Support


*VIDEO* Referendum Facts with Board of Education President Shelly Marks and Superintendent Dr. Scott McAlister

*VIDEO* What is a "structural deficit?"

*VIDEO* Why does District 153 need this funding referendum?

Frequently Asked Questions (Click for Answer)


There are many factors that research tells us are essential to providing kids with a good education.  Those factors include having trained and committed teachers, low class sizes, superior support for those students who need extra help and for those who need more vigorous challenges, and a full menu of activities to enrich students’ minds, bodies and social development. 
Adequate and stable funding is needed both to maintain extensive programming and offer competitive salaries for the staff that is needed to make it all happen: highly trained classroom teachers, instructional coaches, interventionists, counselors and social workers, assistants, and specialist teachers for subjects like music and art, nurses and administrators. 
In order to provide this level of service to our community’s children, District 153 has been spending more than it takes in for several years. Referendum approvals in 2011 and 2016 provided funding to temporarily fill the gap between revenues and expenditures. The 2022 referendum, if approved, would create a more long-term fix. 
Revenues have increased at a slower pace than expenses year over year. The gap between them is our annual deficit, which has averaged around -$1.4M since FY2010-11. In the years shown on the referendum graph, the differences between the historical annual revenues and expenditures are shown, with the District realizing deficits in ten of the last twelve years shown. The number that appears in the green section of each bar shows our fund balance. Our goal is to keep that above 25% of expenditures (shown with the horizontal line). 
Summary of Operations chart


  1. Permanently eliminate our structural deficit 
  2. Build cash reserves (also known as “fund balance”) 
  3. Address our facility needs
It is estimated that the proposed rate increase will have the following impact: 
*$150,000 home= $38/month more until the 2025 levy year, then it will decrease to $25.50 more per month. 
*Please note: when using the tax estimator (below) you should look at your property tax bill and only enter the Property Value (see example circled below) which is the value the assessor places on each residential parcel of real estate. Do not enter the price you paid for your home. A sales price is decided by two private parties and could be higher due to a variety of circumstances, whereas real estate taxes are applied to a value amount decided by the local assessor.where is the property value found on my tax bill?
The district is currently paying off debt borrowed from the last referendum. This will be paid off in 2024. The chart below shows the District’s various borrowings, dating back to 2008 and the year when the debt is paid off. 
District 153 Outstanding Debt Service Chart
A consistent revenue source will enable District 153 to maintain our existing staff by paying competitive, market-based wages.  A successful referendum will also enable District 153 to replenish its “savings account” to address emergency situations that arise such as broken water pipes, leaking roofs, and revenue shortfalls such as those caused by the late payment of tax revenue from Cook County. Finally, we hope to generate enough revenue to enable us to pay back money that we would borrow for needed capital projects. 
Yes. Passage of this referendum should meet school district needs for the next 20-30 years. 
The school district will continue to balance the budget, as it always has. But unlike the past few years, we will not have reserve funds to fill the gap between revenues and expenditures.  This will result in substantial cuts to staffing, which represent approximately 85% of the school district budget. 
As a result, programs, services and class sizes will be negatively impacted. 


  • Security improvements to school offices and other school entrances  
  • Replacement of the mobile units at Willow and Churchill with permanent classroom spaces 
  • Improvements to and expansion of cafeterias and kitchens at Willow and Churchill 
  • Replacement of aging infrastructure: plumbing, electric, roofing, hardware 
  • Air conditioning in all classrooms 
  • Willow: built in 1953; last renovation was 1995 
  • Churchill: built in 1964; last renovation was 1968 
  • James Hart: built in 1956; last renovation was 2002 
All school districts can borrow money up to a certain limit without getting approval from the voters, similar to a household borrowing money on a credit card up to its credit limit. That is how we are paying for our summer construction work. However, in order for us to borrow more, we need voter approval through a referendum. If successful, this would enable us to borrow additional funds.  
As one example, if we were to borrow $40 million, the estimated P and I repayment over 20 years would be $2.8 million annually.
There are currently 10 sections of 5th grade at Churchill, but there are not 10 open rooms at Hart. Moving the 5th grade back to Hart would reduce congestion at Churchill and increase it at James Hart. One way or another, we need additional space and having a 3-5 grade center (as opposed to a 3-4 building and a 5-6 building) makes the most sense educationally. 
Mobile units will be needed until we can add permanent classrooms at Willow and Churchill. 


  • Creative and flexible teaching staff who recognize that children learn in many ways 
  • Lower-than-average class sizes 
  • Math and reading interventionists in all grades 
  • Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in all grades 
  • Over 70 extra-curricular activities throughout all grades 
  • Daily physical education by certified instructors 
  • A robust specials curriculum, including STEM, art, music, and health in all grades, and industrial arts in middle school 
  • Band, choir, and orchestra program in grades 4-8
The state student-teacher ratio is 17 to 1. HSD 153 ratio is 13-1. 
About 85 percent of the entire school district budget is devoted to staff salaries and benefits. 
District 153 salaries are in the mid-range of educator salaries to comparable school districts in the Chicagoland area. It is important for District 153 salaries to remain competitive so that we don’t lose talented staff to other districts. There is a very real shortage of teachers in our state and nation, and providing a competitive wage is critical to keeping our high-quality staff. 
Data from 2020: 


Average Salary 

Tinley 146 


Mokena 159 


Summit 104 


Flossmoor 161 


Lansing 158 


Homewood 153 


Matteson 162 


Worth SD 127 


Brookwood 167 


Steger 194 


The District 153 Board of Education just approved a new contract with the Homewood Education Association through 2024. That agreement calls for 3.9% raises for certified staff each year and higher increases for non-certified staff, who were paid in the bottom quartile of comparable districts.  The new contract maintains District 153 within the mid-range of educator salaries when compared to other school districts. 


On a $100,000 home, the cost to taxpayers was $12/month.
To tighten the school district’s belt, District 153 made the decision in 2016 to reduce the number of grade centers (schools) from four to three. Student enrollment created some inefficiencies in school building usage and associated costs. Moreover, it made sense educationally to have three grade centers in their current configurations. 
There has been a change in the law since our last referendum in 2016. Local tax rates are much less a factor in determining school district funding.


None. School districts do not receive sales tax revenue.
None. The new casino is not located within school district boundaries; therefore District 153 will not receive any revenue.
Our current tax rates are low compared to many nearby school districts. Without bonds, it is 4.410. With bonds, it is 5.388.


October 13, 2022 letter from Dr. McAlister:
District 153 Parents and Guardians,
Attached you'll find my presentation from [October 11, 2022) Board of Education meeting. The Board asked me and the administrative team to begin preparing for a worst-case scenario: the need to cut about $2 million from the school district budget next year if the referendum to fix our structural deficit is not approved by voters on November 8th.  
The presentation outlines my recommendations. Over 80% of our budget is devoted to the salaries and benefits for the staff it takes to provide the quality education and related services our students need and deserve.  It is just not possible to realize $2 million in savings without eliminating numerous positions and opportunities for student learning. 
In summary, District 153 is proposing to eliminate: 
•    5 positions in the District Administrative Office 
•    All after-school clubs and sports 
•    Band, choir, and orchestra co-curricular programs 
•    2-4 interventionist positions at each school 
•    1 grade-level teacher for grades K-5 and 2 teachers at James Hart 
•    1 specials/other certified support teacher at each school 
•    2 physical education teachers 
•    1 clerical position at each school 
These cuts were proposed with the goal of preserving the integrity of our core classroom learning, as much as possible, while ensuring we meet all state mandates. Nonetheless, reductions of this magnitude would have a deep and profound impact on everything that makes our district special. District 153 has always believed it is our responsibility to not only teach literacy and mathematics, but also to ensure that our students receive a well-rounded education, including experiences in specials and the fine arts, as well as an array of clubs and sports to meet the interests of everyone. Losing these options for kids would be devastating.  
If you'd like to hear the discussion about this issue, the October 11, 2022 Board of Education meeting is posted here. Discussion starts at the 55:12 mark. 
There are only two ways to eliminate our annual deficit- increase our revenues or decrease our expenditures.  We feel strongly that providing high-quality staff is what is best for our students, so to reduce spending would mean much fewer resources for our students. Put another way, class sizes would rise, and the level of interventions and enrichment would fall. 
Salaries and benefits account for 85 percent of our operating budget.  The school district has cut back as much as it can on the remaining 15 percent.  We have reached the point where the budget cannot be cut further without cutting staff, increasing classroom sizes and reducing educational offerings.
Cutting staff and services will tamper with a proven track record of success.  We are convinced that District 153 has established the right mix of staff and services needed to produce great results for our students and our taxpayers.  Our students continue to improve academically year after year. Classroom sizes are manageable.  The time and attention that is devoted to student behavior and community service expectations have resulted in small numbers of serious discipline problems within the student body.  The district provides multiple opportunities for students to shine whether it’s in the arts, sports, or other activities—opportunities that also act as crucial motivators for students to perform well academically. 
We disagree that the arts, technology and after-school activities are expendable.  These “extras” are an essential ingredient of what has made our schools and students successful.
Research shows that students who participate in co-curricular activities at school have higher grade point averages, better attendance records, and fewer discipline problems than students in general.  Moreover, more and more college admission officers are looking to see that applicants have participated in such activities as a condition for acceptance to their colleges and universities. 
If we want our students to find jobs in our increasingly high-tech world, they must be exposed to the latest technologies early.  Whatever field our students choose in life, whether it’s as a factory worker, office worker, or doctor, there is no workplace where technology will not be used.   
As a property owner, you have a substantial financial stake in your school district’s success. 
A significant part of the value of a piece of residential real estate is the quality of the school district where it is located. Homes in desirable school districts sell for significantly more than similar homes in less desirable school districts. Even in a slow real estate market, homes located in good school districts hold their value better against a decline. 
In addition to maintaining property values, good schools contribute to the overall quality of life for all the residents in the community. Research shows that the single most attractive strategy for luring business and middle-income people to a community is to maintain a quality school system. Good schools are associated with good property values, a low juvenile crime rate and a temperate tax rate.