Edwardsville, O'Fallon ranked top Illinois cities for families

News-DemocratJune 11, 2013 

A pair of metro-east communities top the list of the best places for young families to live in the state of Illinois, according to a website that focuses on financial issues for young people.

Nerdwallet.com ranks Edwardsville at the top of the list while O'Fallon ranks second. Seven of the other eight communities on the list are in the Chicago area while third-ranked Charleston is in the eastern part of Central Illinois.

"We're very honored to be included in a group of very outstanding Illinois communities," Edwardsville City Administrator Ben Dickmann said. "That, alone, makes us proud."

Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton called it "great news."

"I couldn't agree with them more," he said. "We get great involvement from parents and residents. We have a great school district we love to boast about ... The award is greatly appreciated."

Edwardsville Superintendent Ed Hightower sent a letter to parents informing them of the ranking.

"District 7 students, faculty and staff should be proud of the school district's record of providing quality education for all its schools," Hightower wrote. "Families can move to District 7 and know that their children will receive the same quality of education regardless of which school they attend."

The rankings were based on cost of living, median income and financial bang for the buck factors as well as the quality of local school districts and growth.

Edwardsville scored a total of 74.35 points in the website's rating system. O'Fallon scored 67.7 and Charleston scored 63.78 points.

"Edwardsville is consistently cited among the best places for families in both statewide and national studies -- and for good reason," nerdwallet.com reported. "The town's public schools at every level, from elementary to high school, have a near-perfect rating from Great Schools. Given Edwardsville's proximity to St. Louis, quality jobs are plentiful, providing a high median household income while the town's suburban location keeps home costs low."

The report on O'Fallon was equally as positive.

"O'Fallon is among the largest and fastest growing suburbs of St. Louis," nerdwallet.com reported. "With Scott Air Force Base nearby, the town is also home to many military families and retirees. After the expansion of I-64 in the mid-nineties, the city's growth accelerated and now 50 percent of the homes available in O'Fallon are less than 15 years old and relatively inexpensive compared to home costs closer to St. Louis. The city perennially prides itself on great parks, libraries and schools."

O'Fallon City Administrator Walter Denton said it's a good thing that the word is getting out about the city.

"The article highlights what we have long promoted as the best aspects of O'Fallon: Great schools, safety, and quality of life," Denton said "I don't know if any prospective home buyers will see the article, but what it does show is that the positive qualities of O'Fallon are well known, even among outside websites with no connection to our community."

Edwardsville and O'Fallon were by far the fastest-growing communities on the list, which only considered municipalities of more than 20,000 people.

Edwardsville has grown 45.35 percent since 1999, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, while O'Fallon has grown 38.3 percent. The only other town with a growth rate greater than 30 percent for that period was fifth-place New Lenox, which grew at a 33.56 percent clip.

Edwardsville was honored as one of the best places in the United States for young families to live in 2010 by Family Circle magazine.

"It's an indication that we have an excellent school district and that we are a full service community in many ways," Dickmann said of the reason Edwardsville scores so highly. "We have a very low crime rate. There were no reports of any kind of looting or theft when the entire community was in the dark after the storms two weekends ago. None. And that's remarkable."

Some information was provided by reporter Elizabeth Donald.

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