Dist. 128 to seek $4 million less in tax money

 
 
Updated 11/17/2015 12:10 AM

Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 is lowering the amount of tax money it will collect from property owners in 2016 by about $4 million.

"We're reducing the burden for the taxpayer," said Yasmine Dada, the district's assistant superintendent for business. "It's a good feeling."

 

The move was approved by the school board Monday night during its session at Vernon Hills High School.

It's the latest tax abatement for the district, which includes high schools in Vernon Hills and Libertyville but also serves residents in several neighboring communities.

A year ago, officials opted to reduce their 2015 tax haul by nearly $9 million. The district also voted to abate about $4 million in 2012 and $2 million in 2011.

"These are taxes that the board could collect ... and the board has voluntarily made the decision not to collect those taxes," District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea told the board Monday night.

Lea said he's unaware of another government agency in Illinois that has abated as much money through the years as District 128.

Like most government agencies, the school district gets most of its revenue from property taxes. But District 128 has an estimated $141.8 million surplus, including $33 million in recently collected taxes, Dada said.

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As a result, the schools don't need as much new tax revenue as originally planned, Dada said.

The $4 million being abated initially had been budgeted to help pay off the 1997 loan for the construction of Vernon Hills High School and renovations at Libertyville High. Instead, officials will use savings to cover the sum.

The district borrowed $48.5 million for those projects. Officials will collect an estimated $2.2 million from taxpayers in 2016 that specifically will be used to pay down that loan, Dada said.

Add in the $4 million from savings, and the projects will be fully paid off in January 2017, Dada said.

The board voted 6-1 to approve the abatement. Alex Delli Paoli Jr. cast the lone "no" vote.

The abatement doesn't necessarily mean District 128 will have lower overall tax bills in 2016. Other taxing districts could raise their collections. Increased property values could boost bills, too.

As for the district's surplus, Lea said he'd like to use some of that cash on future capital projects, such as construction and keep some of it as savings.

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