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posted: 11/10/2011 5:00 AM

Dist. 200 requests 4.74 percent tax increase, will likely get less than that

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Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 officials will seek a 4.74-percent property tax levy increase, although the actual number will likely be much less.

By law, tax levy requests are limited each year to the sum of the consumer price index and the percentage of new construction growth within the district. School districts routinely request increases larger than the CPI to make sure they are allowed to capture any potential growth.

The CPI officials must use this year is 1.5 percent.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Bill Farley said the levy increase is needed to help the district avoid using short-term loans at the end of the fiscal year to make ends meet.

He said the fact that the district has had two straight balanced budgets does not necessarily mean the district should extend property tax relief to residents. Uncertainty on state funding and reduced opportunities for state grants make asking for the maximum rate essential.

"We still have to take into account that we have to get our fund balances back up," he said. "And we never know what will happen at the state level."

The tax rate is expected to generate about $114 million in revenue. Last year, district officials considered using short term loans to help make payroll, which takes up the majority of the district's budget.

Farley said the yearly property tax increase takes on added importance when property values decrease from year to year, which has been the case in the district.

He said even with the increase, the district will likely see very similar revenue as in past years.

Traditionally, new construction contributes about 1 percent to the district's coffers each year. Last year, however, an expired tax increment financed district in Warrenville caused an uncharacteristic leap in new construction to about $8.6 million. That was far above the roughly $29.4 million average of the previous seven years.

Board member Jim Gambaiani was the lone dissenter on the board, saying he did not want to increase taxes on residents during such a stagnant economy. He said one unknown that kept him from supporting the levy was where the money was going to be placed, despite Farley's insistence that fund balances be replenished.

"Will they be put to fund balances or other places because of unanticipated expenses?" he said. Additionally, he said,"it's not the responsibility of the taxpayer to take on an additional burden."

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