Keystone Montessori, Village of River Forest involved in taxation lawsuit

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Keystone Montessori and the Village of River Forest are in the midst of a lawsuit after the school filed a complaint with the Circuit Court of Cook County on Tuesday, alleging unlawful property taxation up to over $1.1 million since the building’s permanent location on North Avenue opened in 1998, according to a story reported by Steve Schering of the Pioneer Press.

Keystone claims that they were forced to enter into an unlawful agreement, alleging that village officials would grant them the occupancy permits required for the building so long as they never pursued tax exemptions, according to the complaint.

“We have long tried working with village officials to get this injustice fixed,” said Keystone Montessori Administrative Director Vicki Shea in an interview with the Pioneer Press. “The village is placing a significant burden on our school and families. They pay taxes to support the River Forest public schools, then pay tuition to Keystone to educate their children at no cost to River Forest. Through their tuition, they also pay taxes on the school building to benefit the River Forest public schools even further. Is that fair?”

Village officials claim the school entered into the agreement voluntarily, and they were “disheartened” when they heard that Keystone filed the complaint on Tuesday, March 6, according to the story.

“The village is saddened that Keystone Montessori has chosen to file a lawsuit against the village for an agreement that it signed and executed 20 years ago,” River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci said in an interview with the Pioneer Press. “Through this lawsuit, Keystone Montessori has made it clear they want the residents of River Forest to pay their property tax bill, and the village board and I cannot consciously agree to that. The village is always willing to work with its businesses and partners in the community, but we also have a greater responsibility to protect the interests of all taxpayers in River Forest.”

Keystone is seeking $1.1 million in “illegally extracted real estate taxes” in addition to the reimbursement of power of attorney fees, according to the story.

Keystone Montessori School has been a part of River Forest since 1994. The institution follows the Montessori Method of education, a child-focused approach that observes and encourages students to pursue their interests.

This article was sourced from Steve Schering of the Pioneer Press, including the quotes from interviews given by Keystone Montessori and River Forest administrators. Read the article at ChicagoTribune.com

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