Concerns about escalating real estate taxes prompted a coalition of Grayslake business owners to ask officials at a local school district to work to end the trend.
Grayslake Elementary District 46 board members allotted a half-hour for the business owners to speak about their property tax frustrations at a meeting Wednesday evening.
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"Raising taxes on your residents and businesses is no longer an option," said Larry Dyer, president of Platford Commercial Realty in Grayslake. "I realize that taking this position is not the easy road. You as a board will need to have the courage and determination."
Dyer said District 46 must strive to reduce operating costs while maintaining a high level of education for all students.
School board President Ray Millington said a significant budget problem for the district is a projected reduction in state aid of nearly $1.5 million for the 2012-13 academic year. He said officials are trying to deal with a new budget that includes a $1.2 million deficit.
"We know we have a lot more work to do to keep the deficit from growing," Millington said, "but we're going to need everybody's help in order to do that."
In his presentation summarizing the business owners' worries, Dyer said school budgets are of prime concern. He noted District 46 and Grayslake High School District 127 accounted for 73 percent of the most recent property tax bills.
Dyer said a majority of his two complexes in Grayslake are occupied by small-business owners grappling with the higher taxes. He said the Gymnastics Factory, which owns two units in his business campus at 888 Belvidere Road, has seen its property tax bill go from $20,049 in 2005 to more than $29,300.
Gymnastics Factory owner Joanne Alam told the District 46 board she's forced to pass along the higher cost of her taxes to clients.
"That's an unseen expense," Alam said. "People don't get that."
Dyer alluded to District 46's board agreeing last month to adopt the 2012-13 school year budget with a $1.2 million deficit. Chief School Business Official Anna Kasprzyk said before the budget was approved that a tax increase is expected for property owners.
The board voted 4-3 in favor of a deficit budget and a plan to seek cuts or more revenue later, a move Dyer called "a bit disturbing." He said 30-plus years of running his own business shows such a financial philosophy does not work.
"As you have heard tonight from us, the business community cannot continue to absorb these kinds of real estate tax increases largely driven by increased educational cost overruns," Dyer said.