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U-46 Board primed to vote on levy proposals

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 will be asked to vote on two more items on a proposed 3 percent hike in the 2018 property tax levy at its upcoming meeting on Monday, Dec. 3.
  Included is the certificate of tax levy and a tax levy resolution which were presented on Nov. 19. This comes after the board voted 5-2, Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward voting no, on the levy determination and a separate resolution on Nov. 5.
  The proposal sets the total levy at $279.8 million, an $8.2 million increase from the 2017 actual levy of $271.6 million. That is a defensive levy as U-46 expects a $6.8 million increase, or 2.5 percent, for a $278.4 million total.
  Additionally, a $42.2 million levy for debt service and public building commission leases brings the 2018 total proposal to $322 million, a 2.2 percent increase from 2017’s total extension of $315 million.
  Costello and Ward have both opposed the tax levy increase citing concerning trends as their major point of contention, Costello previously saying: “I think that it’s just a matter of just systemically we’re spending more and we have a lower census.”
  Enrollment has consistently been on the decline in recent years while spending has consistently risen along with the district adding 54 new positions in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. That budget’s projections shows the possibility that from 2012 to the 2021-22 school year enrollment could drop by 13.1 percent but spending could rise by 36.3 percent.
  Upcoming the board will also see a resolution concerning a planned abatement as well as a resolution allowing the district to apply for a property tax relief grant from the state according to Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations.
  Dale Burnidge, director of financial operations, said the district plans on an abatement of about $9.6 million which officials say effectively will keep property tax bills flat, but Ward has noted that it “preserves the ability to keep the (tax) increases into the future.”
  Regarding the property tax relief grant, King said: “The amount of money that we would receive we won’t know until probably later in January because it’s contingent on how many school districts apply for it.”
  King said U-46 could apply for up to $43 million from the grant, but the state has only allocated $50 million for the grant which is open to all school districts. U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said U-46 could get “a couple million maybe.”
  Costello asked what line the grant would fall under in the budget and King said it wouldn’t be a budget line item.
  “We would include it in our abatement in January, February,” King said. “The way we’ve structured it right now, the abatement would just make it so the tax on a typical homeowner would be flat, all other things being equal. This additional amount would actually lower it versus last year.”
  The grant was part of the new so-called “evidence-based” school funding formula. To pay for that formula the state increased the personal income tax rate by 32 percent and the corporate tax rate by 33.3 percent which Sanders lobbied for.
  A member of the public, Daniel Hancock, addressed the board during public comments opposing the tax levy hike.
  “There’s got to be some consideration of the taxpayers,” Hancock said. “Taxpayers keep on getting hit with more and more taxes with it seems like you have no end in sight as far as your willingness to worry about the taxpayer.”
  Hancock noted the trends of the enrollment declines while the district is hiring new staff, and he noted the recent Illinois State Board of Education’s report card data that shows continued declines in U-46’s academic results.
  “It just does not make sense,” Hancock said. “If this were a business, you’d be starting down a dismal path of closing your business.”
  Editor’s note: Public speaker Daniel Hancock is the father of Examiner reporter Seth Hancock.





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