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updated: 4/13/2011 5:58 PM

Glenbard-area schools pooling resources to save money

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Glenbard High School District 87 and some of its elementary feeder districts are working together on transportation and legal projects to share costs and save money, officials said.

Glenbard, along with Glen Ellyn Elementary districts 41 and 89 and Queen Bee Elementary District 16, sought bids for bus transportation services via a single bid specification document. Though each district will sign its own contract with the winning bidder, officials say they were able to share legal expenses by sending only one request.

The lowest bid -- $11.3 million for a three-year contract -- was from Illinois Central School Bus. Its bid was roughly $2 million less than the next lowest bidder, First Student, which is District 87's current bus provider.

Each school district intends to sign a contract for the bus services, officials said. In the case of District 87, switching transportation providers is expected to save $725,000 a year. The combined savings of the feeder districts is expected to be $500,000 a year.

The school boards have the option of renewing the contracts for an additional two years when the agreements expire at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. District 87 board members are expected to vote on the contract April 25.

About 2,800 students at Glenbard's four high schools use buses daily.

Districts 87, 41 and 89 also are forming a cooperative in which they would share legal costs of contesting property tax assessment appeals.

The districts would intervene in cases involving commercial and industrial property appeals filed at the Property Tax Appeal Board where the requested change of assessed value is more than $300,000, or a market value of $900,000.

In such cases, appeals could result in a decrease in property tax proceeds for the districts, said Chris McClain, District 87's assistant superintendent for business services.

The districts would intervene in appeals filed at the DuPage County Board of Review where the requested change of assessed value is more than $500,000, or a market value of $1.5 million. Those appeals wouldn't result in a property tax refund, but would result in a lower aggregate tax base and a somewhat higher tax rate to taxpayers, McClain said.

The districts would not intervene in residential property tax appeals, McClain said.

The amount of money spent on legal fees in District 87 varies year to year, and is based on the number of appeals and dollar amounts of appeals. But McClain said he expects the sharing of legal costs to save the district thousands of dollars every year.

District officials aren't expecting any particular cases involving large assessment appeals, though their legal counsel, Franczek Radelet, will be ready if there is. In one particular case in which District 87 counsel was involved, ComEd sought a 90 percent reduction in the assessed value of its properties in DuPage County in 2008. But there ended up being no retroactive treatment of the appeal, meaning taxing bodies didn't have to reimburse the utility.

"We know for a fact that people are always going to appeal their evaluations," McClain said. "If that's going to happen, (we said), 'Let's have an attorney defending the taxing bodies at the same time and not have a duplication of effort and duplication of cost.'"