D200 approves 2 percent preliminary levy increase

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Print

By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The District 200 school board on Nov. 12, approved its preliminary tax levy for next year, a 2 percent increase.

The preliminary levy was approved 5-1 during a special board meeting Tuesday evening. Sharon Patchak-Layman voted against the increase. Absent from the meeting was board member Jackie Moore. The board will adopt a final levy next month. By law it was required to vote on a preliminary levy in advance of the final decision in December.

That final vote will coincide with the school's Finance Advisory Committee's recommendation to the board concerning the district's fund balance. D200 board members Jeff Weissglass and Tom Cofsky, both of whom also sit on the ad hoc finance committee, voted for the estimated levy increase but with reservations.

Part of the committee's work has been looking at how the fund balance has grown over the years, now totaling roughly $118 million. The school's annual increase in its tax levy, the ad hoc committee notes, has been a driver of the large fund balance.

Cofsky said he supports a flat levy this year. Increasing the levy, he argued, seems counter to what the school is trying to accomplish in reigning in its fund balance. Weissglass, who chairs the ad hoc committee, said the levy vote was a tough one for him. He and Cofsky ultimately voted for the measure, noting that it doesn't bind the board from changing the levy amount next month.

Patchak-Layman wanted the board to lower this year's levy -- she also wanted to lower the levy last year. She proposed amending the motion to adopt the increase but that effort failed when her amendment failed to get a second vote.

In supporting the 2 percent hike, board President John Phelan maintained there was no need to lower or maintain the levy because it was only a preliminary amount. The final vote will come next month, Phelan said, when the board can change the amount.

Last year, the board approved a 2.5 percent levy increase, but in February of this year, the board approved a roughly $2.4 million tax abatement. At Tuesday's meeting, the board also approved a preliminary levy increase for its debt service, roughly $2.5 million to cover bond and interest payments.

The preliminary levy and next month's final adoption have direct ties to the FAC's work.

Weissglass noted that the committee, which meets again next Monday, Nov. 18, has not yet decided whether to recommend a specific levy amount the board should adopt. But it was unlikely, he added, that any recommendation would call for an increase.  

Phelan added that he doesn't anticipate next month's levy vote by the board to be an increase. The D200 board is scheduled to vote on the official levy on Dec. 19. By state law, a preliminary levy must be approved and put on display for the public 30 days before a final levy is set.

The FAC, which was established last spring, has been meeting since July. Its remaining meetings are next Monday and Dec. 2, where it is expected to finalize its recommendations, which likely will include a "fund balance" range for the district. Ways to bring down the current fund balance are also among the likely options.

The FAC's recommendations will likely come to the D200 finance committee Tuesday Dec. 10. A special board meeting would follow that session to consider the recommendation.

 

Contact:
Email: tdean@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

48 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 19th, 2013 5:16 PM

OK, actually I think Weisglass was more wishywashy on the tax levy issue. But Cofsky was very clear. I don't have a recording of his well spoken analysis at the candidate forum I attended. But to expand on HisDadness's comment, we should not have to go to every meeting with pitchforks, nor should we have to tape-record their every campaign utterance. Voters' frustration with the reserve was the most visible issue in the campaign. Cofsky was clear that he could bring financial sanity.

Weissglass voter  

Posted: November 19th, 2013 2:31 PM

That's certainly not why this vote went for Jeff. Perhaps you need to rethink the "that's why they won" part of your statement, Mimi. I'm happy with his service so far. Perhaps the mistake is not his or mine, but on those of you who keep pushing a view that may not be as widely-held as you think it is.

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 19th, 2013 2:12 PM

@ Amy and HisDadness. Exactly. Cofsky and Weissglass were consistently critical of the constantly increased levies in the face of the huge reserve. They made that clear during the campaign. That's why we voted for them. That's why they won. If they are no longer critical of continuing to increase the levy, such that they voted yes in this preliminary vote, they should tell us why.

Amy Williams  

Posted: November 19th, 2013 12:07 PM

I agree @His Dadness! When you work full time and have to make dinner and make sure the kids get their homework done, it's not easy to go to a 2+ hour meeting. At a certain point you have to trust your elected officials and that trusted has been almost completely eroded by a pattern of broken promises, lack of common sense, and disconnection from what most Oak Park residents want.

HisDadness  

Posted: November 19th, 2013 8:04 AM

It's an unfortunate state of affairs in Oak Park where the residents have to show up to every meeting of every governing body with torches and pitchforks to keep those governing the Village from doing something else that is stupid. So maybe that's why there are so many forms of government and governing bodies in Oak Park ...

Matt from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 1:59 PM

All governing bodies have to post notices for their meetings where they normally conduct business and communicate with the public, as well as communicate with the local press. This usually means a physical notice in their building(s) and on their website. Most boards post a calendar of all their regular meetings they have scheduled for the year, usually on the same relative day, i.e. 2nd Wednesday night of each month.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 1:16 PM

Well...you kinda have to know what you're looking for in order to find certain meetings like last night's and Tuesday Nov. 26th's meeting. On the OPRF site, it's under the "Latest News" section. Kinda odd not to have it also in places like, oh, say, the district budget page, or the board meetings page, or the current calendar of events, or the Board calendar.

Food for thought  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 12:49 PM

BTW, for those complaining about not knowing the meetings schedule-- For D200 they're posted on Twitter, the OPRFHS website, and even D97 links to the HS info at the bottom of the weekly e-mail newsletter.

Food for thought  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 12:46 PM

@Mimi A lot of voters specifically voted in the current new members because they presented themselves as non-reactionary and willing to examine the D200 financial issues without sounding alarmist like some folks here...but still being cautious realizing there are those who disagree with the fund balance. I wouldn't say that was the "main issue" at all. We picked well-rounded candidates on a variety of topics.

taxpayer  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 12:45 PM

A "tough vote" for a couple of board members means an even tough tax bill for all of Oak Park and River Forest. Its all about group think. Sharon Patchak Layman is the only board member who has the guts to stand up to the crazy notion that the only way to be fiscally sound is to continually increase the amount of money in the bank.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 11:44 AM

Regarding last night's meeting, there is another one coming up on Tues., Nov. 26, 7 pm at the River Forest Public Library, 735 Lathrop The description is: All community members are invited to join District 200 officials for an overview of the high school's current income and expenses, what the school is doing about the total fund balance, and the 2013 tax levy.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 11:22 AM

Downtown OP Resident, It would be nice to have a calendar of all the taxing bodies' meetings in one place, rather than having to go to six different websites, wouldn't it?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 11:21 AM

It's arrogant to imply that everything you need to understand about OP Civic Issues can be found in the WJ.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 11:13 AM

Dan Haley, as you know, by law, each taxing body has to give 30 days notice. And as you know, that's what D200 is doing. And so this is how some of the public is responding. People can still have a "preliminary" opinion about it, can't they? They can still be ticked off that the board, even preliminarily, would even *think* about such a levy when they have $100+ million in their fund.

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 11:09 AM

I agree with Bridgett. The main issue in the election was the continuous tax increases despite the large reserve. I am most disappointed in Colsky, who seems to have lost the courage of his convictions. Every new board member should vote no on every tax levy increase, preliminary or not.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 10:45 AM

I went last night also and would have never found out about it if I hadn't been on WJ yesterday. I'd be curious to know how much notice was given and to whom about this meeting. Anyhow, I am also glad I went. Got the feeling that there actually might be a bit of concern on the part of the D200 board to admit that they have been overtaxing us for the past 10 years. Not that we can expect rebates but perhaps a lower levy. I'm optimistic, but as with any government entity, very skeptical.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 10:33 AM

To Downtown - I generally get my info from the WJ. I admit that I don't read the whole paper but articles that concern or interest me, I do. I found out about the meeting in the WJ. There are so many meetings in town that I count on the WJ for this. Because attendance was poor there was a lot of ?'s and answers. I am glad I went.

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 10:28 AM

Emily Litella says never mind. I found it. Sorry. I dunno guys. Long term residents have all this tacit knowledge about the village that you automatically assume everyone else has. You know?

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 10:02 AM

"Last year, the board approved a 2.5 percent levy increase, but in February of this year, the board approved a roughly $2.4 million tax abatement. At Tuesday's meeting, the board also approved a preliminary levy increase for its debt service, roughly $2.5 million to cover bond and interest payments." Oh, it's all SO CLEAR now. So sorry to disturb :) LOL, sorry, I just felt like doing that. You're fine.

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 9:57 AM

"That's why we write them." Why was this needed? Not everyone reads all the articles or has time, not everyone can understand complicated issues as well as someone that covers them FOR A LIVING and plenty of articles are written around here that don't explain basic issues for newbies. How many times have you written a basic article explaining the details, like they do in the Chicago Reader for TIF's?

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 9:51 AM

Is there a calendar that posts these meetings for the month posted? Not everyone grew up around here or is a long time local.

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 9:49 AM

"It is important to read the articles before you comments." Unbelievable.

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 9:48 AM

Why privilege the meetings over emails sent to officials, forums like this? I try and make meetings but it's hard. Hence, my real estate agent and my feeling of zen about OP issues :)

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: November 15th, 2013 9:47 AM

Folks-- It is good that "Speedway" went to the meeting last night and found out that this vote is preliminary and was required by law to follow this timing, Also that the critical vote is in December and will come after the ad hoc finance committee -- that we have been reporting on every two weeks for months -- makes its recommendations. And that several board members voted for the preliminary hike reluctantly and that the final vote will likely be for less or no increase. All of that is in the article we posted. It is important to read the articles before you comments. That's why we write them.

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 9:46 AM

How do you find out about these meetings? I mean in a timely fashion for someone that works and needs to plan a schedule far in advance, isn't retired or isn't stay at home? How do you all do it?

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 9:44 AM

....And whether this will negatively affect your children's future because the same oligarchy will end up at the higher levers of power is another story too. But I bet plenty are satisfied with the system. If you live on a quiet side street where not much changes and you can absorb the fees, than what happens elsewhere probably isn't a priority. That's fair, people have their own lives.

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 9:42 AM

I once took off early from work, planned my whole week around it, only to find that the scheduled meeting was cancelled at the last minute. It's hard to make meetings for many who work, especially those that work odd hours. But Food for thought makes an important point; the system works for a lot of people. Hence, the growth of "superzip" suburbs that collect large numbers of like-minded and fairly well-to-do people. Whether this benefits society as a whole is another matter....

Food for thought  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 8:11 AM

There isn't enough involvement all across the community from the park district to village hall. Meetings are empty and few people bother to tell elected officials what they want done. HOWEVER, could it be that despite all the angry WJ-commenter types on here, that most Oak Parkers who are involved are happy for the most part? Those of us who voted in the last D200 election are getting exactly the kind of moderate fiscal oversight we wanted and expected.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 7:32 AM

you think about it. But, unfortunately there is not enough citizen involvement to achieve whatever you might be feeling or thinking.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 7:30 AM

that they would like to postpone any future referendums as far into the future as they can. This will result in using the levy to avoid using the surplus to fund the school. One of the issues discussed was paying off a roofing bond debt early, saving over a million in interest. A point was brought up whether paying this early causes taxpayers to pay now for something that was intended to be shared by taxpayers over the 20 year life of the loan as well as the life of the roof. It does make

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 7:23 AM

Apparently this actual amount is only preliminary and needed to be stated in advance by the school. They are waiting for the results of some meeting in early December before actually deciding the amount of the levy. They will then have a public meeting on Dec. 19th with their final decision on what the levy will be and a vote by the board will be taken. There are a lot of issues involved here. The D200 spoke in a lot of generalities but not to so many specifics. I got the feeling that they

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 15th, 2013 7:17 AM

I went to the meeting at the Maze library. I was disappointed again at the poor attendance by my fellow OP'ers. Only 6 adults, including our Village board president and his wife along with about 4 or 5 people on the D200 board, school admin. and OPRF finance people. What I learned was, that there is a lot to know about school finance, how are taxes are used and gathered, how the state's dire financial woes have impacted the schools, and how they derived at the 2% preliminary levy.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 3:02 PM

To all commenters - OPRFHS is having a budget meeting TONIGHT in the Maze branch library at 7pm. This would be a good time to let them know what we think of the levy.

No Child Left Behind from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 1:13 PM

Keep it up, Oak Park. Keep raising taxes higher and higher, and you'll help raise your test scores. Not because you'll be spending more on education, but rather you'll be driving out more and more of the lower income families. We know that they're the "burden" on your precious schools.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 10:51 AM

Downtown - we don't have a choice. We certainly won't be voting for or against the D200 levy. We can only listen to board candidates give their usual "fiscal responsibility" speeches at election time and then watch them do the exact opposite once elected. The only thing we can do is to keep the revolving door moving - vote them in, vote them out. I will be doing exactly that next time around.

A Parent  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 10:44 AM

Perhaps I missed it, but why did District 97 need a referendum to increase funding, but District 200 does not need the voters to weigh in on tax increases? And don't get me started on the $120 million surplus stockpiled. New board member must have drunk the Kool aid. So disappointed in you. Let me just add that OP has state of the art gymnastic facility, year round ice skating (soon), but no year round swimming facility. Have to get out of OP before middle school next year, ..town's a joke

Downtown Op Resident  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:52 AM

Forgot to add context to my previous comment. For the many here who are upset, how many parents feel that they have no choice but to support these sorts of things, even if they are upset because they worry about their children and school competition? Have seen letters saying that around here previously. Again, my sympathies. The thoughtless of bureaucracy. No thought at all as to how this may affect those already struggling to live around here. Heartless.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:52 AM

I know it's customary to ask for a tax levy increase each year, but c'mon D200 Board....12 people ran for 4 spots in March, and some of us voted for you because we actually thought you'd have the courage to stop the insanity. With D200's questionably legal fund balance, D200 should not be asking for a tax levy this year.

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:49 AM

As an outsider to all of this, it seems to me that many institutions (not just in Oak Park) take heavy advantage of parents' fears that their children will not be able to enter the middle class. My previous comments around here alluded to the phenom of "superzips"; area codes where people do anything to buy their children into school systems that promise a straight-line track into certain colleges. The oligarchy in action. Feel sorry for OP taxpayers and parents. They gauge you/play on fears.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:38 AM

"At Tuesday's meeting, the board also approved a preliminary levy increase for its debt service, roughly $2.5 million to cover bond and interest payments." And the board would like to issue more bonds in order to build a pool and other upgrades without using the funds that we have already paid? This is one taxing entity that should never, ever get a "yes" vote come referendum time.

Why are you all surprised. New board, status quo  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:31 AM

While it is quite a shameful thing to do, the more shameful thing is that the money probably will not be spent on the students. ie. replacement of ipads that were stolen, air conditioning for the kids, relief on family school year start up fee. It will all go to the wigs behind the scenes. Despicable.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:28 AM

Sorry - Cofsky and Weisglass voting "yes, with reservations." See - I'm so pissed off about this I can't even type!

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:26 AM

"Absent from the meeting was board member Jackie Moore." And here is our biggest problem. The potential tie-breaker vote didn't show up. How convenient. I'm sure there was plenty of backroom discussion on this trying to decide who wasn't going to be present to make the deciding vote on this. Therefore, Sharon votes a solid "no", Phelan, Lee and Gevinson are solid "yes", and in order to avoid a tie, Cofsky and Wesiglass vote "no, with reservations" instead of one going "no" and one going "yes".

Done from Oak Park   

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:19 AM

"D200 board members Jeff Weissglass and Tom Cofsky, both of whom also sit on the ad hoc finance committee, voted for the estimated levy increase but with reservations." And that makes them look good to voters. Otherwise, the vote would have been 3-3, so in order to increase the levy somebody had to give in, and if two do it, with "reservations", it makes the whole board look like they didn't want to vote the increase but they did anyway.

Amy Williams  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:19 AM

Can someone please explain if we have any recourse in this? Why do they taxpayers not get a vote in this? Or is this not explained clearly? How can they adopt something so controversial without any community involvement?

Incensed from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 8:45 AM

This is so outrageous, so reprehensible, and so larcenous I don't even know where to begin in expressing my frustration. An abject failure in fiscal responsibility.

HisDadness  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 8:27 AM

In a word: greed. There is no reason for this. Either spend down or refund the fund balance. The school shouldn't be stockpiling taxpayer money. Like most bureaucratic organizations, it takes a cataclysmic event like a class-action lawsuit to change behavior because reason never seems to play into decisionmaking.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 5:48 PM

Shame on you. It is obvious that there is no need for this levy yet the board persists in its mission to increase our taxes even more. It is time for taxpayers to tell the board, "NO, to any increase in our taxes".

Find a garage sale near you!

In search of local garage sales? Find out what sales are happening near you on our map and listing page.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.


            
SubscribeClassifieds
Photo storeContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor

Latest Comments