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Property tax abatement approve by Dist. U-46

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 unanimously approved of a property tax abatement as well as amendments to the administrators’ employment contract and board agreements at its meeting on Monday, Feb. 24.
  The property tax abatement is in the amount of $9.6 million of a portion of the 2019 property tax levy to pay debt service on a $66 million bond issue.
  This is the fifth straight year U-46 has used the abatement, and the “total abatement over that five-year period is over $29 million,” according to Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations.
  The stated effect of the abatement is to keep property tax rates flat despite increasing the levy, but the district has admitted it ultimately just kicks the can down the road for taxpayers to pay for the increases in the future.
  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.
  The administrators’ employment contract included several changes according to U-46 CEO Tony Sanders including a change to a provision concerning “discharge for just cause.”
  “Essentially… we are adding a line to the contracts that says failure to complete or meet the requirements of a performance improvement plan are grounds for termination,” Sanders said.
  A change to benefits was included to clarify the “language regarding vacation days that are available to 12-month administrators,” Sanders said. He said administrators will be able to carry over five days of vacation days between July 1 and Dec. 31 through the 2020-2021 school year, but after that all vacation days will need to be used before July 31.
  “This eliminates a situation we’ve been having where the contract allowed for a person’s supervisor to determine how long a person could carry up to five vacation days,” Sanders said.
  Sanders said the district’s match in administrators’ 403b retirement plans will increase from $4,000 to $5,000 while the new contract will decrease the cellphone allowance to “$30 a month for administrators who choose to use their personal phones. This now reflects the costs of what the district pays for our cellphones.”
  The board agreements, effectively how the board governs itself, were created in closed session during a board self-evaluation. The agreements were not posted publicly.



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