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Dist. 124 Board Discusses School Security, Passes Tax Levy

Central Junior High School remodel has board members debating safety cost issues.

Three hours and eight minutes after District 124 Board of Education gaveled open its meeting Wednesday night---and with the audience of 47 whittled down to just 15---President Kathy Rohan opened the floor to allow public comment on the proposed tax levy for the new year. 

But no one had anything to say.

The floor was then closed, and the levy passed on a quick and unanimous roll-call vote. The meeting was held at Central Junior High School.

Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124 asked for $19, 265,861 in the 2012 tax levy. This is a 3.5-percent increase over last year’s extension, the amount of money received by Cook County, of $18,608,938.

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A levy, Dean Gerdes, executive director of business services for District 124 said the next day, is only a request. The extension is what the district actually receives from taxes. When putting together a levy, the school district has three criteria that they must look at. The CPI (Consumer Price Index),which has hovered around 3 percent; additional taxes from new property growth, which has been less than one percent for the last five years; and last year’s extension.

Earlier in the meeting, board members turned their attention toward school safety and security Board members watched a presentation on various security-related projects planned for the district and deliberated at length about plans to re-design and/or retrofit Central Junior High to make it safer for children, faculty and staff and more difficult for intruders to enter.

While there appeared to be agreement on the importance of ensuring the safety of schools, there was disagreement about exactly how to proceed, especially in light of projected costs that are considerably higher than anticipated.

“We have to take into account that we were budgeting $2 million to $3 million, and now it’s up to $5 million to $6 million,” said board member Bob McDonald. “The coffers will run dry quickly.”

There also was impatience with the pace of progress, with one member observing that the board has been working on the issue for three years.

Also at the meeting, board members heard about and applauded after-school enrichment program activities, a ballroom dancing initiative, and a firefighter who assisted the district’s efforts to teach CPR.

The next regular meeting of the board is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16 at Central Junior High School.

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