District 211 finances take hit from tax appeals

Though Palatine-Schaumburg High School District is still on track to be debt-free by the end of 2017, this year's finances have taken a hit due to a lag in state payments and an unprecedented number of property tax refunds.

Chief Operating Officer Lauren Hummel reported to the school board Thursday that the district has lost $6.9 million to successful property tax appeals already this year.

A total year typically sees an average of $5.4 million lost this way, and more losses are expected this year.

The reasons include both a greater number of new appeals as well as many settlements of old cases - some dating back to the 1990s - Hummel said.

Combined with having received only one state payment this year when four were scheduled, the district's finances are currently about $1.6 million below budget.

Hummel and Controller Barb Peterson's report to the board included both this midyear update on the 2016-17 budget as well as a financial forecast of the next five years.

Still scheduled for this summer are renovations of Schaumburg High School's bathrooms, locker rooms and cafeteria as well as reconstruction of Fremd High School's athletic fields and completion of its media center.

These projects represent the greatest amount of capital improvement the district will have completed in a 10-week period, with a large amount to be paid from existing reserves, Peterson said.

Looking ahead to the next five years, the district is making some conservative assumptions for its finances, but a statewide property tax freeze is not among them.

Administrators are aware of two pending bills for such a freeze - one lasting two years and the other indefinite - but are not assuming their approval, Peterson said.

Even a two-year freeze would create a compound loss of $31.8 million by the end of five years, which would be unsustainable for the district's student-centered programs, she added.

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