A lawsuit filed by an anti-tax group aims to overturn the results of Wilmette's School District 39's tax hike referendum.
The complaint, filed Monday in Cook County court by resident Herbert Sorock and Taxpayers United of America, names the entire, newly-elected District 39 school board as defendants. This comes on the heels of a similar suit filed against District 97 in Oak Park by TUA.
At the center of the lawsuit is an allegation that language appearing on the actual ballot question misled voters. The referendum passed, with 63.1 percent of Wilmette voters giving approval.
Check out the letter that TUA sent to D39 officials here.
Weeks before the April 5 election, Oak Park Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar issued a press release saying the state's equalizer — a number the Illinois Department of Revenue determines each year to ensure that Cook County assessments are in line with assessments from across the state — wasn't factored into the ballot question's wording by District 39s law firm, who drew it up.
Whether or not the state's equalizer has to be included on ballot language is up for dispute. The law firm, Chapman and Cutler, has said it's not necessary. But legislation introduced in Springfield this month could require its inclusion of future ballots, according to Wednesday Journal.
Still, Sorock and the anti-tax group say its exclusion means voters weren't presented with an accurate estimate of the tax hike's impact on residents' wallets. According to the complaint:
The suit alleges the Board and its members knew before the election that the estimated tax increase was understated, but decided to go forward with the referendum regardless. Wilmette and at least nine other school districts understated the property tax increase by failing to include the equalizer applicable to all Cook County property tax bills.
District officials have acknowledged the confusion, but say the figures they used to inform residents — the estimated impact of the tax hike would amount to $58 per $1,000 of taxes paid on a property tax bill — are accurate.