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Use of tax abatement tool set for annual U-46 vote

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 is set to vote on a property tax abatement resolution at its upcoming meeting on Monday, Feb. 24. The item was presented at the Feb. 10 meeting.
  With approval, the district would abate a portion of the 2019 property tax levy to pay debt service on a $66 million bond.
  “Essentially, this is the resolution that we bring forward annually to the best extent possible try to keep property taxes a little bit lower,” said U-46 CEO Tony Sanders.
  This will be the fifth consecutive year that the district has used the property tax technique.
  “The total abatement over that five-year period is over $29 million that we’ve abated in taxes,” said Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations.
  King added: “This is the second year that the amount will be just over $9 million. From (20)16 through (20)18, we were slowly growing the abatement amount. Last year and the abatement for this upcoming year, the numbers will be identical.”
  Last year, the board approved of a $9.6 million abatement. The stated effect by the district of the abatement is to keep property tax rates flat despite increasing the levy, but any relief created by it now will be paid for by property taxpayers in the future.
  Former board member Jeanette Ward previously described it: “The idea of it is to preserve increases into the future so that we’re not penalized by the state for keeping it flat. So, in effect we’re keeping it flat, but we’re preserving the increase for the future.”
  Dale Burnidge, director of financial operations, called that description “correct.”
  In December, the board unanimously approved a hike in the U-46 property tax levy by the maximum amount allowed under the law. U-46 annually has asked for the largest tax levy increase allowed, generally with little pushback from the board.
  The tax levy increase comes while enrollment continues to drop. Enrollment fell by 5.6 percent (2,293 fewer students) between Fiscal Year 2012 and FY 2019 and spending increased 29.8 percent ($128.1 million higher) over that time which is over $80 million faster than the rate of inflation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.




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