The average St. Charles resident will again pay more property taxes to District 303 schools next year as school board members approved a tax levy increase this week.
The overall levy will increase about 2.5 percent, providing about $3.3 million in additional revenue for schools. The impact of that increase will be about $295 more for the owner of a $300,000 home.
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It could have been higher.
Large portions of outstanding debt are retiring in the district in 2017. That means larger tax savings are on the way. In the interim, school board members have committed to abating portions of the annual tax levy that is earmarked to pay down debt. That abatement, both this most recent tax year and the coming tax year, keeps tax bills from increasing as much as they would otherwise if school officials continued to levy for as much money as legally allowable.
"We have a fair amount of debt expiring," Superintendent Don Schlomann said at a school board meeting this week. "What the board of education is doing is trying to be cognizant of that so the impact (of the tax increase) isn't anywhere near what it was. It still has an impact, but not nearly as much as what it would have been."
It's still too much of a tax increase for school board member Jim Gaffney. He was the lone "no" vote on the tax increase.
"I just think that right now it's not a good time to raise taxes," Gaffney said. "My honest opinion on the debt service abatement is that I don't really know that it makes much of a difference. We're a pretty solid school district financially. So I think, at this time, it may not be necessary."
A notable change in the levy is the amount of money earmarked for special education. The amount going into that fund will increase by $8 million. But the majority of that increase is an accounting maneuver to more accurately show the special education costs in the district. Up until now, the district's main education fund paid a large amount of the special education costs. The switch will allow taxpayers to get a better feel for the district's special education needs.
Schlomann said about 12 percent of the district's population, roughly 1,600 students, receive some form of special education service. Many of those students receive services tallying upward of $100,000 a year, he said. Those costs represent about 20 percent of the district's education expenses every year.