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updated: 11/6/2012 6:12 PM

School district may request lower-than-allowed tax increase

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The Geneva school board's finance committee is recommending the district not ask for all it could possibly get in the 2012 property tax levy.

And it acknowledged that doing so may lead to budget cuts that could affect class sizes.

The committee Monday decided to ask the full board to adopt a levy that factors in a Consumer Price Index inflation rate of 2 percent. The district is limited, under state law, to increasing the non-debt portion of its tax levy by no more than 5 percent or the rate of inflation, as determined in the CPI in December 2011. That CPI is 3 percent.

The cap does not apply to new properties added to the tax roll.

The debt-service levy is not capped. Because of that, even if the operating funds' levies were not increased at all, the overall property tax would still increase, as the amount required to repay debt is increasing.

"If we go with lower levies, it starts to have real impact in 2014 (on the district's ability to abate taxes), but hopefully ... the economy turns around a little bit" and property values increase, Trustee Michael McCormick said.

Donna Oberg, the district's assistant superintendent for business, estimated that using the 2 percent figure would result in the district receiving $617,047 less than it could in the education fund in 2013.

The education fund is the largest of the operating levies; under this scenario, the district would ask for $49.6 million. Salaries account for about 85 percent of the education fund budget.

Oberg said she would look for budget cuts to offset the loss of tax money, possibly cutting money set aside for each school, postponing some technology purchases or perhaps increasing class sizes.

"We were going to have to address class sizes as part of our mini-boundary study anyway," Trustee Kelly Nowak said. The district is contemplating changing school attendance area boundaries, to level out class sizes.

"I know 600 grand is tough, but I think we can do it," McCormick said.

But an audience member was critical that isn't enough to help taxpayers.

"This is a big problem. We can't cut 1 percent out of something like that (the $55 million education fund budget)? ... Then we have a big problem," said Kent Bickford.

The school board has to file its levy request with the Kane County clerk in December. The property taxes will be collected in the spring and fall.

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