Most school districts that seek additional funding support through a property tax referendum aren't asking for gold-studded frills.

In the case of River Forest Community School Corp., administrators and teachers there literally just want to keep the lights on.

Voters owe it to the children living within school district boundaries to pass a funding referendum on the May 7 primary ballot to keep the district from plunging off a fiscal cliff.

River Forest serves the Hobart Township and Lake Station area in the heart of Lake County.

Like a number of local government bodies in the county, the school district faces the full impact in 2020 of state-imposed property tax caps, which have created funding challenges throughout Lake County government.

The tax caps have sapped $250,000 per year in River Forest funding, but a previous voter-approved funding referendum helped the school system survive, school officials there have said.

In 2020, however, the tax caps are set to take full effect, increasing funding cuts in River Forest to an additional $600,000 per year.

The previous voter funding referendum is set to expire, so River Forest leaders are merely asking for residents to help keep the lights on with the new referendum.

The impact is minimal compared with the cost the community would endure if the school system failed.

Beyond that, the economic impact on property taxpayers within the district becomes a bit more complicated.

It would assess an additional $1.19 tax rate on each $100 in assessed property value.

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River Forest encompasses five different base tax rates, including portions of residents in Hobart Township, Lake Station, New Chicago and Gary.

A calculator for residents can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/y2cvml7z.

Regardless of the expense, voters should be looking at the big picture, considering what their communities would look like if public schools were unable to provide quality education and existing programming.

If the new referendum passes, it essentially would replace the old one, allowing the school district to maintain and survive.

A review of what is happening north of River Forest, in the Gary Community School Corp., should be enough to motivate community investment in schools.

Gary has been taken over by a state emergency manager because of funding shortfalls, mismanagement and poor performance.

It's nearly impossible to see a clear path on the horizon for success in Gary schools.

Fiscal management has been responsible in River Forest. The district hasn’t issued additional debt and has been working within its means.

But without the proper funding, River Forest likely would be subject to a state takeover in the future.

Voters shouldn't let it come to that.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.