During a regular meeting on Dec. 19, the District 200 school board voted to approve a 2019 tax levy of $73.2 million, a nearly 8-percent increase over the 2018 tax extension of around $68 million. 

The tax levy captures around $800,000 in revenue from the expiring Downtown Oak Park and Madison Street TIF districts, and includes a 1.9 percent increase that reflects the rate of the Consumer Price Index, which Illinois uses to cap tax increases for non-home rule taxing bodies. 

Cyndi Sidor, the district’s chief school business official, said in a Dec. 19 memo that the district projects the total new taxable property to be $3.3 million, which “would generate an additional tax revenue of approximately $350,000.” 

The board also voted to abate $1.7 million in state funds connected to the $3.8 million in additional revenue the district received from a Property Tax Relief Grant awarded in February.

Some board members said that, while abating the $1.7 million was important to help provide some relief to taxpayers, it also forces the district to exert more budget discipline. 

“The recommendation on the table here is to reduce our tax by $1.7 million, which over the next six years will equate to an even $10 million in tax relief,” said board member Tom Cofsky. “This $1.7 million reduction will immediately put the district into a deficit spending mode, which from my perspective is healthy, because it forces them to focus on what really needs to be the focus, which is spending, spending, spending.” 

“We have been managing revenue to try to keep that flat impact on taxpayers,” said board member Craig Iseli. “This abatement will put us into deficit spending, which kind of puts a clock on the expense side. We either get the expenses in control — and we have improved them markedly — but we either get them into control or we will create large deficits, which will force us into a very difficult referendum situation.” 

“The goal here is to be good stewards and to maintain our obligation to our district, as well as to our taxpayers,” said board President Jackie Moore. 

Matt Baron, the only member to vote against the abatement, said that he wanted the district to give back more money to taxpayers. 

“Tonight’s concerns [about deficit spending] are very real and valid,” he said. “I think what we are doing tonight is addressing those well, but not as well as I’d like. Last month, I was advocating for a deeper relief than we’re already giving.” 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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