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District U-46 approves latest of tax levy hikes

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 unanimously approved of a nearly $10 million increase in the property tax levy, the maximum allowed under the law, without any discussion or debate on Monday, Nov. 4.
  Including corporate and special purpose along with debt services, the total levy is $330.8 million which is 3.1 percent higher from the $320.9 million extension from 2018.
  Approved at the meeting were the determination of tax levy and a resolution regarding the levy. A certificate of tax levy along with an additional resolution will be presented on Nov. 18 with a vote set for the Dec. 16 meeting.
  The resolution approved on Nov. 4 was amended at the meeting. The resolution stated an expected $42.3 million levy on debt services from $42.2 million extended in 2018 but incorrectly called that “a decrease of 0.39 [percent] over the previous year.”
  Dale Burnidge, director of financial operations, called it “a typo in the resolution” and it “should read that it’s an increase.”
  The levy includes a 3.5 percent increase in the corporate and special purpose levy from a $278.8 million extension in 2018 to $288.5 million, but that is a defensive levy with a 2.4 percent increase ($285.6 million) expected. The district is levying with an assumption of $5.6 billion in Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) on properties within the district, but it expects a $5.4 billion EAV.
  The defensive levy is done to ensure the district extracts the maximum amount of taxpayer dollars it can from homeowners according to the determination which claims it is “entitled” to whatever it can take.
  “EAV is not known until approximately April for Kane and DuPage Counties and July for Cook,” the determination states. “Since levies are filed by the last Tuesday in December of the previous year, it is still necessary to defensive levy to insure receipt of all property tax dollars to which the District is entitled.”
  The proposal adds: “Calculating both the maximum allowable levy (MAL) and the final effective tax rate is not done until late summer.”
  In Kane County, where U-46 is based, average home values have declined 29 percent but property tax bills have risen 4 percent since 2007 according to Federal Housing Finance Agency data while the same trends have been seen in Cook and DuPage counties which also include U-46 properties. Home values have declined 24 percent but property tax bills have risen 7 percent in DuPage, and home values have decreased by 31 percent with a 22 percent rise in property taxes in Cook according to the data.
  The Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which was also unanimously approved earlier this year with no board debate, increased spending by $36.2 million despite the continued long-term trend of declining enrollment. The budget estimated a $3.1 million increase in property tax revenue and the district could have theoretically increased spending by $33.1 million and kept this year’s levy flat.
  From FY2012 to FY2019, enrollment has dropped 5.6 percent (2,293 fewer students) but spending has increased 29.8 percent ($128.1 million higher) which is over $80 million faster than the rate of inflation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.
  Forecasted in the FY2020 budget, the district expects a 9 percent decline in student population (3,449 fewer students) and a 14 percent increase in total spending to $636.2 million from 2018-2019 to 2022-2023. If the forecast comes true, there will have been a 14.1 percent decrease in enrollment but a 48 percent increase in spending since 2012.





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