Maine Township High School District 207 approved a tentative 2011 tax levy of $106 million, which includes about $1.4 million to pay off bonds and $104.7 million to pay operating costs, which would represent a 3.4 percent increase.
But the 5-2 vote at the Nov. 7 meeting was not without dissension. School board member Edward Mueller asked the board to consider not increasing its tax levy at all – a motion that also won support from school board member Eric Leys.
“I’d like to freeze the levy for 10 years, but that would be a meaningless gesture” because the law requires the board to approve a levy every year, he said.
Mary Kalou, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, said doing that would make it impossible for the district to ever recoup the roughly $2.7 million in new property taxes it hopes to collect next year.
That’s because the Illinois property tax cap bases the amount of taxes collected each year for local units of government such as school districts on the amount collected the year before, increased by the rate of inflation any new growth in the property tax base. If districts do not ask for enough money to collect everything they can, Kalou said, their collections will be reduced every year thereafter.
Mueller disputed that, noting that school districts can increase the amount of taxes they collect by going to the voters in a referendum.
“If you need the money for legitimate expenses, they will come through,” he said.
He made the move because, he said, the district tries to get the maximum amount allowed under the tax cap each year, and each year manages to spend all the money.
“As long as I have been on the board, we have implemented the maximum tax levy that we can,” he said. “The tax cap is supposed to be a cap, not a minimum.”
This year, the tax cap set the rate of inflation at 1.5 percent, Kalou said, and the district will see a bump in its new growth from the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. Kalou estimated that new growth would come in at $65 million for the year, including a $40 million bump from the casino. However, the estimated levy includes $110 million in new growth, just in case there is more than she expects.
“Levying an amount of new growth which does not materialize does not cost the taxpayer more, as the district can only receive the revenue if sufficient new growth exists,” Kalou wrote in a memo to the board. “Not levying for new growth that materializes means that the district loses property tax on the amount not levied each and every year. The district can only capture new growth in the year that it is initially included in the tax base.”
She estimated that the levy would increase taxes on a home that has a total $6,000 tax bill about $22.50.
The board will vote on the final levy after a public hearing at its Dec. 5 meeting.