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updated: 11/13/2012 12:37 AM

Geneva school board favors lower tax levy hike

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The Geneva school board decided Monday to calculate its 2012 operating property tax levy with an increase of 1.5 percent over what it collected in property taxes this spring.

It could have figured on trying to get more, as the limit this year on increases is set at 3 percent. The difference between the two is about $901,500.

"I feel that we need to be considerate of our community members. They have really taken a hit over the last four years," said Donna Oberg, the district's assistant superintendent for business services, who recommended raising the levy 2 percent.

But board member Matt Henry suggested the lower figure. "When I look at this, I can't imagine that we would not continue to ask our schools for as much belt-tightening as possible," he said.

Under the 1.5 percent scenario, the district would ask for $63.42 million for operations. It also expects to collect $17.3 million to pay debt. The debt-service levy is not subject to the state's property tax-cap law. The owner of a house valued at $315,000 would still pay about $340 more in taxes, according to Oberg.

Board President Mark Grosso referred to the recent teacher contract negotiations. "One of the things I took away were the hundreds of emails we got from families and a lot of stories of sacrifices they have had to make, things they have had to do without, homes that were lost -- just everything you can imagine.

"I think (a lower increase) would be consistent with the same thing we have been telling our employees, and with what the community expects of us," Grosso said.

Bob McQuillan, co-founder of the Geneva TaxFACTS government watchdog group, said even 1.5 percent was too high. "You are coming to us (taxpayers) asking for more money, and we are telling you we have no more money," McQuillan said during a public-comment portion after the vote.

He disputed a bond adviser's projection that the value of property in the district will start rising by 2015 and noted that the district has 2 percent fewer students than it did in 2009.

"There is absolutely no reason to ask for more money than $61.3 million, the same as this year. Please vote for a 0 percent tax levy in December. It is time for the taxpayers to win one for a change," McQuillan said.

The board has to file its levy request with the Kane County Clerk by the last Tuesday of December. When the official equalized assessed valuation of property is determined in the spring, the clerk then calculates a tax rate and determines exactly how much the district will get.

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