Concerning the proposed property tax levy for High School District 211, the district put together a news release suggesting they're doing a remarkable job keeping taxes low, and projecting dire consequences should it not continue to collect the maximum permissible levy amount under the tax cap. That prompted me to have a look at the numbers myself using levy data from Cook County and financial data from the district's website.
For the last seven years ending in 2012, the operational funds' combined annual levy increase averaged about $5.2 million. Over the same period, on average the total revenue exceeded expenditures by about $10.6 million each year, adding these excesses to an ever-growing fund balance. While it's the district's policy to maintain an ending fund balance of about one third budgeted expenditures, the balance rose from a reasonable level of $66 million in 2005 to over $148 million in 2012, about $75 million over their policy's target level.
The district's strategy is to keep its operational funds' levy at this excessively high level and take every penny it can under the tax cap, then shift money around to make token reductions to its bond levy giving the appearance of being taxpayer-friendly. Rather, it needs to suspend any operational fund levy increase for a number of years to work down this excessive fund balance and reach an appropriate levy level before resuming increases.
Now, should we be so lucky that the district does decide to keep its publicly stated levy flat it is then vital that it also instructs Cook County to not later add to its levy the additional 3 percent for "loss and cost", which would otherwise be negated under the tax cap when the districts requests their maximum levy. I'll bet most of you were unaware that occurred.