Dist. 211 officials back a 'flat' property tax levy
Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 administrators next week will recommend the school board set a 2015 property tax levy of $216.2 million -- the same amount as last year.
The ability to recommend the lowest levy increase the district has seen in a decade coincides with a year containing an almost unprecedented number of unknowns.
These include everything from the absence of a state budget to the approximately $6 million in federal Title IX funding the district may be risking by challenging the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' finding that the district's locker room policy for transgender students is discriminatory.
At a District 211 finance committee meeting Wednesday, Chief Operating Officer Lauren Hummel and Controller Barbara Peterson explained their recommendation that the district raise its operating fund levy by the 1 percent maximum allowed by the equivalent increase in the rate of inflation.
To not to do so would cause the levy's base not to grow appropriately, and would lead to a $10.9 million shortfall in only five years, they said.
Rising costs and contracts ensure that the district will need to keep up through the levy, Peterson said.
But the overall levy can be kept "flat" by using $2 million of existing reserves to pay for a part of the year's $3.3 million in debt payments, she added.
Board member Peter Dombrowski said he continues to favor a scenario presented earlier in which reserves would be used for the entire debt payment.
But Hummel and Peterson recommended that a little more be kept in reserves due to the number of financial unknowns the district faces.
Board members Mike Scharringhausen and Robert LeFevre backed their recommendation.
Scharringhausen said the district is a large ship to steer through such unknowns, and that he didn't recognize the value of such a small shift as Dombrowski favored.
LeFevre said the district has to stay prepared for a less-than-rosy future, and that a decision that may feel good today may prove costly tomorrow.
"Stability and sustainability for this school district is critical," LeFevre said.
The school board will vote to set the levy at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 and to adopt it on Dec. 10.