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updated: 12/10/2012 10:32 PM

Geneva school board unanimously approves 1.5% tax hike

District could have asked for as much as 3.1% increase for 2013-14

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The Geneva school board on Monday stuck to its plan to ask for 1.5 percent more in property taxes for its operating expenses -- and it did so unanimously.

The board had said at its Nov. 26 meeting that it would not request as high an increase as it could have. Under the state's property tax cap law, the district could have increased its operating property taxes by 3.1 percent. Even with a 1.5 percent increase, to $63.214 million, the district expects to receive $1.9 million more for operating expenses than it collected this year. The total levy, including debt service, is $80.51 million. The debt levy is not subject to the tax cap.

The district estimates that raising those levies by 1.5 percent rather than 3.1 percent would result in the district receiving $76 less than it could from a taxpayer whose home has a market value of $315,000.

The Geneva TaxFACTS government-watching group had urged the board to not ask for any more money than it received this year.

Monday night, three of four public speakers at the beginning of the meeting reiterated that plea.

Bob Mann, chairman of the Geneva Economic Development Commission, urged the board "to seriously reconsider the 0 percent levy issue.

"The school taxes in Geneva right now, in my opinion, are suppressing and holding down" property values and development, he said.

Robert Danek, noting that the Geneva Education Association recently fought for pay increases saying a freeze would compound the loss of potential income for teachers, said a tax increase today would compound taxpayers' burden in years to come.

The one speaker in favor of requesting the full 3.1 percent allowed was Jason Flaks, a Geneva resident who also teaches at the district's two middle schools.

"I feel that levying anything less than the full amount is a mistake we will be regretting for years to come," he said. Flaks said his teaching budget has already been cut 66 percent and that if the board is talking about cutting $900,000 from the operating budget, it probably would have to cut programs.

"There will come a time that the dollars won't stretch any more," he said, adding that he doubts $76 more per year would help residents facing foreclosure. "What those residents need is something you can't give -- thousands of dollars."

School officials and board members have said that to maintain a level debt-service levy, one of its goals, operating spending will likely have to be cut starting with the 2013-14 fiscal year, possibly by about $900,000. The board has a policy of applying anything in excess of $15 million in its education fund to its debt, abating that amount in the property-tax levy.

Bob McQuillan, co-founder of Geneva TaxFACTS, pointed out that there is no $900,000 budget cut, because the board has neither discussed nor approved a 2013-14 budget.

"It is in no way a cut from your budget. It is a cut from the maximum money that would be available to the board," he said of the $900. "To say that it is a cut is misleading the public."

Board member Kelly Nowak agreed with McQuillan's description of the $900,000.

"It is our intention to cut that lost amount so we can levy a lower amount today and continue abatements," she said. She said the abatement to be made in 2013 could be $4 million.

Property tax bills will be calculated in the spring by Kane County, once the value of property within district boundaries has been finalized.

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