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updated: 12/16/2013 5:20 PM

Batavia school board bracing for crowd at tax meeting

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  • The owner of a house on West Wilson Street in Batavia calls for the Batavia school district to ask for less property taxes, instead of more. The school board will vote on the matter Tuesday night.

       The owner of a house on West Wilson Street in Batavia calls for the Batavia school district to ask for less property taxes, instead of more. The school board will vote on the matter Tuesday night.
    Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Batavia school board is expecting an overflow crowd Tuesday for its vote on a tax increase of up to 13 percent for operations.

It has moved up the start time of its meeting to 6:45 p.m. at its headquarters at 335 W. Wilson St., and set up a satellite location at Batavia High School where those who want to watch but not speak can see what is happening.

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Helping drive the increased interest is Sylvia Keppel, founder of lowerthelevy.com and a Facebook page that has criticized the proposed increase.

"People are interested in this. They want their taxes lowered," Keppel said last week. Thus far 202 visitors to the site had clicked a button to send an email to the school board. The page had more than 1,500 views and more than 600 visits.

At issue is whether property taxes from the Chicago Premium Outlets Mall should be used to alleviate the tax bills of the rest of the district's taxpayers. Keppel believes so.

The Aurora outlet mall was in a tax-increment financing district through the end of 2012. That meant that any increase in property taxes generated was devoted to the improvements that increased the value of the property, such as roads, sewers and construction of the mall. The property taxes governments received were frozen at the pre-TIF levels and based on the equalized assessed value of the land in 1989, which was $226,777.

The EAV of the mall-area land is now being considered as $92.1 million of "new construction" this year. And new construction is not subject to the state property tax levy cap.

The school district expects the mall will generate about $6 million more than last year in taxes on the bill to be paid in 2014.

The disagreement

Keppel believes the levies for operating funds should be kept the same as last year, at $55.43 million, instead of the $62.6 million the district has proposed. She calculates that a home with a market value of $240,000 would pay about $400 less in that scenario.

The district, however, thinks it is wise to take advantage of the one-year exemption from the tax cap on the new construction. How much it can raise property taxes on the 2015 bills will be determined by whatever levy it sets this year. It can't increase the operating-funds levies by more than the annual inflation rate or 5 percent, whichever is less, on existing property. This year's rate is 1.7 percent.

So if it doesn't take the additional money now, it may not ever be able to do so.

The district estimates that the owner of a $230,686 house would, under its plan, pay $28 less next year. The decrease would come on the debt-repayment portion of the tax levy, which is not subject to the tax cap and is not controlled by the school district. The county clerk determines how much must be collected to pay the debt. The district estimates that the debt portion of the levy will increase about .03 percent.

The lineup

The meeting will open by congratulating the Batavia High School football team, which won the Class 6A state championship last month.

The levy hearing is at 7 and the vote happens later.

People who wish to speak must sign up with the board's secretary before 7 p.m. Tuesday. People can also sign up by writing to Superintendent Lisa Hichens at lisa.hichens@bps101.net.

The meeting will be streamed live online on BATV, cable television Channel 10 and mybatv.com/channel-10/.

The meeting will be shown in Room A-101 at Batavia High School, 1201 W. Main St.

The levy will also be discussed at a finance committee meeting at noon Tuesday, at the headquarters.

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