Residents' complaints lead to lower tax levy in District 36

Following complaints from residents, Grass Lake Elementary District 36 officials this week voted to reduce the total taxes they'll collect from property owners in 2016.

"After long-term financial forecasting, it was determined the district could remain financially stable while providing tax relief to the community," Superintendent Terry O'Brien told the Daily Herald.

The Antioch-based board approved a roughly $3.9 million levy Tuesday. That's a 5-percent drop from the 2015 tax total, which was nearly $4.1 million.

When officials publicly discussed the proposed tax levy last month, they proposed collecting the same as they did this year. That sum was lower than other options on the table.

But some residents weren't happy with a tax freeze and wanted the levy to shrink. Among them was Denise Mandigo, who said the district didn't need so much new tax revenue because it already has a surplus of more than $12 million.

"It's crazy to keep adding to (the surplus)," Mandigo said in November.

Mandigo called the levy decrease "a significant reduction from where we started."

"We must get the most value from our elementary school for the smallest possible property-tax dollars," she said in an email.

O'Brien said the levy amount was reached after more research. Officials listened to the community, he said.

No services will be affected by the levy decrease, O'Brien said.

Mandigo praised District 36 officials for responding to the community's concerns. Taxpayers everywhere can learn from what activists accomplished in District 36, she said.

"Many of us, who did not have children attending the school, became complacent," she said. "Before we knew it, our tax rates skyrocketed. Stay involved and voice your concerns. Make sure your tax dollars are fair, are being used wisely and (that) the benefit matches the cost."

Reducing the levy doesn't necessarily mean District 36 residents' overall tax bills will decrease in 2016. Other taxing bodies' levies could increase, for example, or property values could increase.

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