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U-46 Board approves tax levy determination

By Seth Hancock
  The School District U-46 administration’s plan to increase its tax levy by 1.89 percent (a 1.39 percent increase is expected) cleared its first hurdle and the Board of Education approved a myriad of other proposals on Monday, Nov. 16.
  Including taxes levied for debt services and public building commission leases, which is expected at $42.2 million, the total tax levy increase total would be $305.7 million up from $300.8 million last year, a 1.63 percent hike. The district also plans an abatement process that officials say would essentially leave rates flat, all things being the same (i.e. property values).
  Although the official vote for the tax levy certificate will not be taken until Dec. 14, a vote on the levy determination as well as a resolution on a plan to levy were voted upon. The determination was passed 5-2, Cody Holt and Jeanette Ward voting no, and the second resolution 6-1, Ward voting no.
  The process seems convoluted and confusing, and Ward asked for clarification on what was being voted on that evening.
  “This shows how we came up with the amounts by fund so later on in the work session we’ll have the actual levy certificate which will basically have the totals from the last column here on the determination,” said Dale Burnidge, director of Financial Operations.
  Ward said: “My previous understanding was we’re voting on whether or not we agree with this tax levy, not whether we agree that the process was carried out in a manner with integrity.”
  Jeff King, chief Operations officer, said: “The certificate is what actually goes into the county. The determination is a requirement that we have to do and bring forward to the board. But it’s basically a work in progress saying this is what we’re proposing to do.”
  King added a no vote would mean “you didn’t agree with the determination.”
  Ward does not want to see property taxes increase and has concerns with the abatement process, specifically the time between the levy and actual abatement. Although an intent to abate would be voted on at the Dec. 14 meeting, the actual vote wouldn’t occur until February.
  “I expressed last time that I’m uncomfortable with the levy and abate because there’s time that passes from when we levy and when we abate,” Ward said. “And then we’re preserving the increases for the future while abating back on a temporary basis. So, I’m uncomfortable with that and I’m going to vote no for that reason.”
  On the second resolution that evening, Holt asked: “Is this just the resolution to bring forward a tax levy essentially?”
  Burnidge replied: “Yes, this is a resolution to prepare a certificate.”
  Board member Phil Costello, who ran on the same ticket as Holt and Ward, voted yes and said after the meeting he thinks “at this point” he will likely vote yes on the levy increase. He said “it’s too far along in the process to know what would happen” if it wasn’t increased, and he is more concerned with tax rates increasing rather than a total levy amount increase. He feels reigning in spending is more important at this point.
   The board unanimously approved a proposal to renew contracts with police departments to provide School Resource Officers at U-46 middle and high schools. The cost is $963,729, up from $936,213.
  Ward later asked during board member updates if there is anything being done to provide security at the district’s elementary schools. She asked: “I’m just wondering if anything innovative could be done that wouldn’t cost (extra) money?”
  John Heiderscheidt, director of School Safety and Culture, said Hanover Park’s Police Department has earned awards for innovation in school safety where “beat officers come at least once a day and they walk around the building.”
  Heiderscheidt added some other departments within U-46 do similar things.
  The board also approved unanimously $4.8 million in itemized bills.
  Although a vote was not taken Donna Smith, the board’s president, sought consensus from the board regarding resolutions she will be voting on at the upcoming Illinois Association of School Board’s (IASB) delegate assembly where she will be representing the board.
  One of those resolutions, which did not pertain to education but rather healthcare, ultimately did not receive the board’s support despite the IASB and U-46 administration recommending approval. That resolution, submitted by School District 219 in Niles, would require “hospitals to meet constitutional standards” in order to receive tax-exempt status.
  Ward and board member Sue Kerr raised concerns with the resolution when it was discussed at a previous meeting, and Smith did not have further detail than what was provided at that time.
  Kerr said: “I’m concerned because it seems to be a disagreement between Niles Township High School and the current law, and I’m not getting enough details on what that disagreement is… I can’t support this at this point.”
  Ward said she “can’t support that either,” and Smith said she didn’t have a strong opinion either way and added “I’m not sure why school boards are” getting involved in the hospital business.
  No other board members discussed that resolution, and Smith felt the consensus was to vote against it.



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