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District 118 to borrow $6.5 mil cushion against state cuts

     Palos School District 118 plans to borrow $6.5 million by selling working cash fund bonds early next year unless voters successfully petition to place the bond issue as a referendum question on the same ballot as the 2016 March primary, or November presidential election.

    The board of education voted unanimously last week to adopt a resolution declaring its intention to issue $6.5 million in bonds for the district’s working cash fund, but that new bonding authority is first subject to a “back-door” referendum, brought to the ballot by voter initiative.

     The bonding authority will be needed because of anticipated state cuts in education, district Business Manager/Chief School Business Official Justin Veihmman told the school board at its meeting on Nov. 17.

     Voters of the district may file a petition with the school board’s to force the bond issue on the November 2016 ballot for voter approval under state law.

Proceeds for principal and interest payments for the working cash bonds issued by the school district would be automatically levied on the property tax rolls as an obligation assumed by district property-tax payers.

Voters have 30 days from today’s date (Nov. 26), the date of publication of the legal notice of intent to issue the bonds, to file the petition for the proposition to be put to voters. The petition must be signed by a minimum of 10 percent of the registered voters who reside in the school district to force it onto the ballot.

If such a petition containing a sufficient number of legally valid signatures is filed with the school board Secretary on or before the Dec. 14, the referendum would be held on March 15 Illinois primary election date. If the petition is filed after that date within the 30-day period, the referendum would be placed on the Nov. 8, 2016 election ballot.

     If voters make no effort to circulate a petition to gather the legally required minimum valid petition signatures and file it by the deadline, the district will have the legal authority to issue the bonds.

     The plan would be to issue the full $6.5 million full amount of the bonds early in 2016, Business Manager Veihman said.

     “We continue to be concerned with the uncertainty in state funding, pension pick-ups and property tax freezes,” Veihman stated the reasons the working cash fund borrowing.  “Therefore, we find it prudent to seek alternate funding sources other than operating revenues to fund capital improvements.”

     The district will be debt free by the time the new bonds are issued, Veihman indicated. There is no plan by the district to abate any proceeds off the tax rolls: “All current outstanding debt will be retired in December 2016,” he said.

     Veihman will have more details on the expected uses of the borrowed working cash funds after a public hearing of the bond issue at the school board meeting scheduled for Dec. 15, he said.

     The school board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. at its Dec. 15 meeting to approve the district’s proposed property 2015 tax levy of $21.793 million, a 6 ½ percent increase over the previous year. The meeting will be held at the Central Administration Building, 8800 W. 119th St., Palos Park.

     Despite the large apparent increase in the levy meant to capture any new real growth in the district’s property tax base since last year’s levy, the amount the district expects to be actually extended is about $20 million, or a 0.9 percent increase,” Veihman told the school board on Nov. 17.

     Any person desiring to appear at the public hearing and present testimony to the taxing district may contact Veihman at 448-4800.

     The corporate and special purpose property taxes extended or abated for 2014 were $20,461,808.

     The proposed corporate and special purpose property taxes to be levied for 2015 are $21,793,796. This represents at 6.5% increase over the previous year.

     The property taxes extended for debt service and public building commission leases for 2014 were $2,258,970.

     The estimated property taxes to be levied for debt service and public building commission leases for 2015 are $1,779,900. This represents a 21% decrease from the previous year.

     The total property taxes extended or abated for 2014 were $22,720,778.

     The estimated total property taxes to be levied for 2015 are $23,563,697. This represents a 3.7% increase from the previous year.

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