The vote St. Charles Unit District 303 taxpayers have been waiting for finally arrived Monday night. Grins accompanied a sense of mission accomplished as school officials voted in a levy that will bring significant savings in local tax bills.
The 2018-19 tax levy year will mark the full repayment of about 75 percent of all the district's outstanding debt. That means the district needs less money from local taxpayers.
In real numbers, the average tax bill for the owner of a $300,000 home will drop by about $670 next year. And, because the district doesn't have plans to issue any major new debt, that savings should continue on future tax bills.
"Taxes never go down," said school board President Kathy Hewell. "I'm very happy to be sitting here at this table as we present this tax decrease. It's a considerable one. It's a great thing for our community. Our schools are still going to be well-funded. And it's a grateful community that will get their tax bills come May."
The unanimous vote was the culmination of about five years of financial planning. It also piggybacks on a $50 million plan the school board put in place in 2016.
The plan called for the closure of Haines Middle School, major renovations to the district's remaining two middle schools, a new synthetic athletic field at St. Charles North High School, and substantial upgrades to the Norris Recreation Center. All those improvements came without the need for a tax increase referendum.
Seth Chapman, the district's chief financial officer, said school officials budgeted and abated taxes to keep tax increases as low as possible leading up to this major tax decrease.
In 2016, the school board approved a tax levy increase of 1.45 percent. In 2017, the tax levy increased by 0.71 percent. Monday's vote represented about a net tax levy decrease of about 7 percent on average.
"This is a momentous occasion," Chapman said. "The board has done a remarkable job the last five years."
Other noteworthy points in Monday's vote include information that while the consumer price index rose to 2.10 percent, the equalized assessed value of property in the District 303 attendance area is expected to grow by 4 percent. When that EAV rises at a faster rate than the CPI, the district's tax rate falls.
That reverses a trend seen during the recession where assessed values fueled a rising tax rate.