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posted: 11/14/2013 6:11 PM

Arlington Heights District 25 soon to be debt free

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With the last of its debt to be paid off next month, property owners in Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 will receive a smaller tax bill from the school district next year, officials said.

On Dec. 1 the district will make its last debt payment -- about $5.3 million -- on millions of dollars in loans going back decades. The borrowed money funded improvements such as the addition of air conditioning at all nine district schools in 2010, said Stacey Mallek, assistant superintendent for business.

Although the district will levy for 4.9 percent more money this year than last, for a total of about $58 million, the debt payoff will lead to a 4.3 percent decrease in the amount actually collected, saving taxpayers money, she said.

For the owner of a $300,000 home, that could mean about $125 less on their tax bill from District 25, she said. Property taxes make up about 82 percent of all revenues in District 25, according to district documents.

The debt payoff is part of a deal the school board made with the community when it went to referendum in 2005 seeking the ability to levy taxpayer money specifically to help pay off debt.

"When the district went to referendum in 2005 they established the debt service extension base that allowed us to issue bonds and sell debt, but levy to pay that debt off," Mallek said. "At that time the district made a commitment to the community that they would not continue to use (the funding) for additional projects, but pay off the debt in total."

It will be the first time in 20 years that the district is debt-free, said school board President David Page.

Mallek said there are no plans to issue bonds that would put the district back in debt in the near future.

"The board made a promise to the community and they feel very good about the fact that they're keeping their promise," she added.

Mallek said the district has prioritized fiscal responsibility and limited its expenditures over the past several years to get to this point. The district also has looked for grant funding or rebid projects to find lower contracts to try and save money.

"We are always looking for ways to save money or reduce revenues," Mallek said.

The school board will hold a public hearing Nov. 21 on its tax levy and vote on it that same night.

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