District 211 board asks for about $800,000 in potential cuts

 
 
Updated 11/1/2018 5:28 PM
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  • Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 Controller and Treasurer Barbara Peterson, left, and Chief Operating Officer Lauren Hummel present the administration's recommended property-tax levy to the school board Oct. 18.

    Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 Controller and Treasurer Barbara Peterson, left, and Chief Operating Officer Lauren Hummel present the administration's recommended property-tax levy to the school board Oct. 18. Courtesy of District 211

Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board members have asked administrators for a list of about $800,000 in potential cost cuts alongside -- but not incorporated into -- a recommendation for a 2.4 percent increase to the property tax levy.

The request was made after the board's early look at the recommended $228.7 million levy presented in October.

While board members commended administrators on the financial health of the district, including its becoming debt-free, some said they often hear community members ask whether District 211 could do its job as well with lower reserves and annual surpluses.

"It's hard for our community to sometimes stomach, what they see here that happens, although it makes complete sense to us and we understand things at a different level," board President Mucia Burke said. "Most companies have to find more efficiencies at times."

Administrators are recommending a 2.1 percent increase to the levy on existing properties -- equal to the rate of inflation -- plus 0.3 percent to accommodate new construction in the district.

Other than for debt, which District 211 no longer has, Illinois taxing bodies are limited by the rate of inflation in their ability to increase their levies each year.

But if a levy increase is below the rate of inflation, the difference can never be made up in a later year, District 211 Controller and Treasurer Barbara Peterson said.

If District 211 kept its levy at the current amount for the foreseeable future, it would have $5.3 million less than it could have had after one year and $27.7 million less than it could have had after five years, she added.

"It is irrecoverable outside of having a referendum," Peterson said.

Board member Robert LeFevre Jr. said the district's plan to pay for programs and capital improvements upfront without debt keeps costs at the lowest possible level. But several other board members said they still would like to see some suggestions for potential reductions when they meet Nov. 8.

Superintendent Dan Cates said the administration bases its planning on the direction of the board.

"Whatever is the will of the board, we will do that," he said. "What we're asking is, just tell us what you want to do."

He made it clear, however, that the recommended levy presented in October would remain the administration's recommendation on Nov. 8, even if the board ultimately approves a different amount.

District 211 has aimed to be conservative in determining its financial needs. even though recent circumstances sometimes have fallen in the district's favor, Cates said. One example is the $6 million the district received from the state last year from prior due payments that hadn't been made.

"You would be nuts if you said that you were going to build that into your budget," he said of the state funding.

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