D-15 Considers Raising Property Tax Levy
The Community Consolidated School District 15 board is debating how much it should raise its property tax levy.
How high should Community Consolidated School District 15 increase its property tax levy?
District 15 is facing a projected budget deficit of about $9 million in fiscal year 2012-13. Board members asked school officials to come up with a plan to reduce the deficit by as much as possible.
However, at the Wednesday night school board meeting, some board members suggested a course of action that might actually add another $500,000 to the deficit.
Most school districts max out their property tax levy to make sure they receive the largest possible increase in revenue. The Illinois tax cap limits how much of a revenue increase school districts can receive to the rate of inflation. However, new development does not count against the inflationary cap, so school districts generally levy an increase over the cap number.
In this way school officials ensure the largest possible property tax levy.
For example, Township High School District 211's levy will increase in 2012 by 1.8 percent, even though inflation was 1.5 percent. A portion of that amount — .3 percent — is from property development.
District 15 is considering a levy that would rise by 1.5 percent — inflation — plus another .5 percent related to development. The .5 percent is an educated guess by school officials, but the levy would be large enough to capture any and all new development.
The district would collect about $109.4 million in property taxes, up from $107.3 million.
Board President Tim Millar said that the district should consider limiting the levy to the inflation number of 1.5 so the new development would lessen the tax burden of existing home and business owners.
"Philosophically I've always had that belief," Millar said. "The taxpayers never get the benefit of this new growth. You just get new traffic, but it doesn't end up lowering your taxes."
Millar's suggestion would lower the property tax levy amount to about $108.9 million, adding about $500,000 to the projected $9 million deficit.
Although District 15 has reserves of about $55 million, it still is considering substantial budget cuts to reduce the deficit.
School board member Scott Herr said he agreed with Millar in principle, but said District 15 had to get its fiscal house in order before considering such action.
"The issue is that the district is facing is that we've got a $9 million deficit next year," Herr said. "And reducing our revenue by half a million dollars makes our issues $9.5 million. So I'm taking a very pragmatic view."
School board member Richard Bokor said $500,000 could be the equivalent of 10 teaching positions.
"I think we need to do that kind of abatement to the public after we fix the [deficit]," Herr said. "Right now we've got an almost insurmountable problem."
The board did not take a vote on the tax levy, but will have to vote on the issue by the end of December.