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updated: 10/25/2012 9:03 PM

St. Charles Dist. 303 budget calls for 3.74% tax levy increase

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St. Charles Unit District 303's new budget plan calls for a 3.74 percent overall increase in the district's tax levy.

That means most taxpayers will see the amount of taxes they owe to the school district increase by about 3 percent. The rest of the increase is designed to capture new property in the district.

The pending increase may fly under the radar for many taxpayers. The law requires the school district only to host a public hearing on the tax levy and publish the pending increase if the amount requested is 5 percent or more than the district asked for last year. That's not the case this year. That said, the 3.74 percent is the maximum the district could raise the levy without a referendum.

"That's the ceiling, if you will, that the board can go up to," said Brad Cauffman, the district's assistant superintendent for business services. "We can always do something less."

Doing something less isn't a real option, said school board member Jim Gaffney in an interview. Gaffney is the chairman of the board's business services committee, which had its first look at the tax increase Thursday night. The district's property tax levy brings in 76 percent of all the income the district receives in any given year.

"You have to look at where your money is, and you have to say, 'What can we afford to do?'" Gaffney said. "There's certain items that we have to pay for. There are utilities and pay increases in there. The teachers' contract has already been negotiated. We try to keep the levies as low as possible. But the bottom line is we still have to adjust a little."

Gaffney said holding the district's tax levy flat would cause a compounding loss of tax dollars in future years. That's a situation the district can't afford, Gaffney said.

"You've got to do what you've got to do," he said.

In contrast, both the city of St. Charles and Kane County officials have budget plans for next year that call for flat tax levies. Those flat tax levies will result in no tax increase for most property owners who live in those taxing districts.

The good news for taxpayers is district officials learned Thursday night that they will have most of its outstanding bond debt paid off by 2019. The district has about $133.2 million in direct debt right now. Part of the district's pending budget calls for paying that down to $118.3 million next year.

The full school board must still vote to approve the tax increase. That vote is slated for Dec. 10.

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