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Dist. 230 set to hike tax levy 2.5%

            The District 230 School Board, at its monthly meeting last Thursday, approved a tentative tax levy for 2017 that represents 2.5 percent more than was extended last year. 

District 230, which includes Andrew, Sandburg and Stagg high schools, has had a balanced budget for the past 14 years. It depends on local taxes for nearly 90 percent of the revenue, and in five of the past six years, the district has not requested any increase in the levy extended in the previous year.

            But this year, the proposed tax levy is $111,857,958, up from $109,129,576 for 2016. Board President Rick Nogal noted that the increase is just slightly over the 2.3 percent in the Consumer Price Index.

            According to the information provided by the district, the proposed budget includes an increase of nearly $4 million for education purposes, about $250,000 more for special education, and a slight increase in transportation costs, up from $4,980,656 to $5 million. But spending has stayed the same or gone down in the other areas. Also, due to expiring bond purchases, the tax rate going toward debt spending will be decreased with this levy.

            Superintendent Dr. James Gay also pointed out at the meeting held at Sandburg High School that a property tax freeze under consideration in Springfield could cost the district as much as $9.5 million in revenue to the district.

“We would never get that back,” he said. The possibility of having a tax freeze for at least two years is one of the main reasons cited for increasing the levy this year.

            “The tax freeze would have such a dramatic effect because there is anticipated inflation (1.8 to 2.2 percent) and we have new property being built in our district.  This has contributed to the ability for the district to keep up with inflation and have a growing source of income from property taxes,” explained John Lavelle, assistant superintendent for business services. 

He said the $9.5 million figure is calculated by comparing a frozen extension to an extension that is allowed to grow based on projected inflation and new property.  Because every dollar lost is lost the following year, along with the newly lost money, the amount compounds.

“If the freeze was put in place and because the formula starts with the prior year’s extension, if and when the property tax freeze were lifted, we would continue to feel the impact of the initial loss.  In other words, the $9.5 million would continue to be lost each year going forward since it would never be a part of our extension and would not be calculated into the formula,” said Lavelle.

The property tax freeze has not been approved by the state Legislature, but it is expected to be revisited in the spring session. Gov. Bruce Rauner has been pushing for the property tax freeze since he was elected.

It has not passed but it is expected to be revisited in the spring session.  “(A property tax freeze) really has no bearing on the state’s finances since all the funds are collected and distributed locally,” said Lavelle. 

Board member Terry Serratore, chairman of the Building and Finance Committee, said that no community members at the last committee meeting had any complaints about the tax levy.

The board is scheduled to vote on and adopt the tax levy at the next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21, at Sandburg High School, 13300 S. LaGrange Road. It must be filed with the county clerk by Dec. 26.

            No action was taken at the meeting regarding the controversial suspension earlier this year of Stagg cheerleading coach Bridget Guzior for allegedly sending a direct text message to a student, which is against District policy. She has alleged that Stagg Athletic Director Terry Treasure sexually harassed her. However, during public comment, one parent asked the board why Guzior was suspended and Treasure has not been. A member of the Stagg staff also spoke in support of Treasure.

            The board did not respond to either comment, but Nogal said a decision in the case is expected to be made on or before the next meeting. 

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