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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

New tax levy proposal aired at U-46 meeting


By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 plans to hike the property tax levy by the maximum allowed by law, which it consistently has done each year, as the 2017 levy was presented to the Board of Education on Monday, Oct. 16. A vote on the determination of the levy as well as a resolution is expected to take place on Monday, Oct. 30.
  The actual 2016 extension was $264.8 million and the district expects $271.5 million from the proposed levy. The proposal is for $272.8 million, a defensive levy according to the administration.
  Dale Burnidge, director of financial operations, described the process in making the determination.
  “Basically we’re starting with our 2016 extension.… We take that extension and multiply it with the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, which is 2.1 percent. Then we also have to add in for the new growth. We’ve estimated about $20 million in (Equalized Assessed Value),” Burnidge said.
  While CPI is 2.1 percent, the final extension is 2.53 percent with the inclusion of new construction value. The new construction numbers are estimates which is why the defensive levy is being asked for Burnidge said.
  Including property taxes derived from debt services, the total property tax extension in 2016 was $307 million and the estimation for 2017 is $315 million.
  The administration also plans to use an abatement for the third straight year, which is supposed to have the effect of keeping the levy flat, and board member Sue Kerr said the debt service levy does not include the abatement and is “applied in February” which Burnidge said was correct.
  The abatement process does still increase property taxes, but those increases are realized by future property owners and board member Jeanette Ward has called it a “sleight of hand.”
  During the Fiscal Year 2018 budget discussions, Ward said: “We are in fact increasing the levy extension in a permanent manner, while we abate back money on a temporary basis. This is disingenuous to the taxpayers.”
  Ward suggested during the budget process “reducing the property tax burden correspondingly” with the increases in revenue that are expected to come from a new state funding model approved by the General Assembly.
  The new education funding model was made possible by the state increasing the personal income tax by 32 percent and the state’s corporate tax by 33.3 percent. U-46 CEO Tony Sanders lobbied for those tax hikes.
  The board will also vote on a $566,297 five-year proposal with Hobsons, which will come out of the education fund if approved, to purchase the Hobsons Naviance program. If approved before the end of November, the cost would be reduced to $516,297 Sanders said.
  The program would replace Career Cruising and “it’s a web- and app-based program” that helps students with college and career planning said Bruce Phelps, interim director of business services. He said Hobsons Naviance is “more comprehensive” by including college planning tools where Career Cruising was focused solely on career planning.
  Board member Phil Costello asked how the program helps the district in tracking data? In responding, Terri Lozier, assistant superintendent, said it includes building level data accessible by school administrators as well as scholarships available to students. She said “we’ll know where our students will be going” to college with the program.
  The program will allow for electronic submission of transcripts to colleges and allow for four-year high school plans and parental access district officials said.
  Board member Sue Kerr asked if it would help students narrow their college choices as well as narrow scholarships available and Phelps said it would. Phelps also said it would help the district “target” scholarships to “particular groups.”
  Board members Melissa Owens asked about student access and Lozier said “they’ll have access to it all the time” and the hope is to start it at the middle school level to help with high school planning. Lozier said the district plans on using the program starting in the 2018-19 school year.
  Costello said “it lines up with our strategic objectives very well” and “it sounds like a great mapping tool.”
  Also presented was a three-year contract with Automatic Building Controls (ABC) costing $898,203 and coming out of the operations and maintenance fund if approved.
  From the proposal, the services are “to maintain, service, and repair the District’s vast array of Applied Equipment (Absorbers, Chillers, Centrifugal Chillers, Direct Expansion Units, and Air & Water Cooled Chiller Units) and additionally to maintain and upgrade the District’s Building Automations Systems (Applied Equipment Electronic Control Systems).”
  In response to questions from Costello, the district said it has been using ABC for “more than 15 years” and “as part of the new contract, they have agreed to provide training” so that “tasks currently performed by the vendor” can be performed in house which could lead to future savings. The proposed contract is an increase from previous contract which the district said “much of the added costs were for emergency services and upgrades to obsolete equipment.”

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