D200 considers 2.1% tax levy

Board could approve increase in December

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

The District 200 school board is expected to adopt a tax levy in December that could total $68 million — a 2.1 percent increase over the prior year's tax levy. That increase is the maximum allowed by law and driven by the consumer price index, stated consultant Robert Grossi during board presentations at meetings on Oct. 25 and Nov. 5. 

The proposed levy would increase the annual taxes on a home with a market value of $400,000 by around $68, Grossi estimated. 

The 2.1 percent increase was one of two options that he proposed to the board. Another option called for a zero percent levy increase. 

During the Oct. 25 meeting, former Oak Park village president David Pope presented the recent findings of the seven-member Oak Park Taxing Bodies Efficiency Task Force — a body created to help come up with solutions to the village's increasing tax burden. 

Pope, who is a member of the task force, recommended that all jurisdictions, including D200, "maintain or limit their level of tax increase to inflation, meaning [the consumer price index], or less and to do that from now until 2030." 

Pope also recommended that taxing bodies keep the rate of their revenue growth in line with the rate of inflation for the next 12 years in order to ease the village's overall tax burden. 

That would mean D200 would have to avoid going to a referendum for another 12 years, a prospect that some board members said was difficult to imagine. 

"Since 2013, our taxes in this district have held steady because of our fund balance," said board member Tom Cofsky during the October meeting. "We've forgone [$32.2 million] of potential tax increases and planned a referendum out into the early 2020s. Now you're saying it's got to be 2030 — that's a different game plan." 

Cofsky and other board members, including Craig Iseli, said that while they lauded the fiscal discipline Pope and the task force were recommending, the district has been practicing a considerable measure of discipline already.

"While I know we can do better at expense growth," Iseli said, the numbers showed that D200's annual expenses have grown by just 3 percent. The rate drops to 1 percent when debt service is taken out of the picture. 

"We've been on this for a while and have really been trying to do a good job at it," Iseli said. "For us to go [without a referendum until 2030] seems a little bit drastic in terms of what we're trying to accomplish." 

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com   

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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Neal Buer  

Posted: November 20th, 2018 12:07 PM

D200 has been taking the maximum allowed by law for years. Last year was an exception.

Dori Bernstein  

Posted: November 20th, 2018 9:59 AM

I'm having a hard time understating why D200 can't keep the future expenses below the property tax caps. Since there is currently zero debt and non-debt expense growth is at 1%, why wouldn't a levy increase of 2.1% be sufficient for the near future beyond next year? Something isn't right here. Could someone explain this math to me?

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 19th, 2018 10:47 AM

Once people realize what it is like to not be able to itemize the property taxes on their income taxes each year, it is going to be really easy for Oak Parkers to imagine what life will be like without school referendums. Discipline on the spending needs to be job #1.

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