Northwest Suburban High School District 214 approved the tentative 2012 tax levy with overall increase of 3.4 percent at Thursday's board meeting.
The full amount to tentatively be levied is $201.3 million, up from the $194.7 million the district received from property taxes in 2011. Taxes are paid the year after they are levied.
Officials said they need the increase to pay for rising costs of running the district, which educates more than 12,000 students each year.
Even though the district will ask for the full 3.4 percent levy increase, that doesn't mean that is how much money they will actually receive, explained Deb Parenti, associate superintendent for finance and operations.
Parenti said the tentative levy is essentially an educated guess of how much money the district will need, and if the district doesn't levy enough to use all its taxing authority under the tax cap, it will be penalized every year after because of legislation that limits on how much it can increase its levy from the prior year.
"We could do a zero levy and people's taxes would still go up," she said. "But then the district would be penalized every year after that."
When new property becomes available the district must include it in its cap the first year or they will lose the value from those properties, she said. For this tax year that will include any new property and construction in the district boundaries including the Randhurst redevelopment project in Mount Prospect and the expiration of a tax increment finance district in Rolling Meadows.
It is difficult for the district to say how the increase will affect the individual homeowner at this point because it will be up to the Cook County assessor's office to determine how the levy breaks down for the individual homeowner, Parenti said.
"If we don't levy we can't operate. And if you don't capture the property tax, you lose it forever." Parenti said.
Property taxes make up about 80 percent of the district's revenue.
Elementary districts that feed into District 214, including Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 and Mount Prospect Elementary District, may be increasing their levy by a greater percentage than the high school district, but Parenti said that is because they have different boundaries and equalized assessed values to factor into the equation. District 25 recently proposed a levy increase of 4.7 percent.
There will be a public hearing to discuss the proposed levy at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Forest View Educational Center, 2121 S. Goebbert Road in Arlington Heights, and the board will vote to approve the levy that night.