District 211 sets 2.4 percent increase in proposed tax levy
Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board members voted 6-1 Thursday to set the proposed property tax levy for the year 2.4 percent higher than last year after also being informed of their ability to apply for a new property tax relief grant from the state.
The administration's recommended $228.7 million levy represents a 2.1 percent increase based on the rate of inflation, plus another 0.3 percent from new construction within the district.
Board members learned of a new opportunity to apply for a portion of the $50 million the state is making available this year through property tax relief grants.
School districts' eligibility for the grants is ranked by their calculated Unit Equivalent Tax Rate, and District 211 is ranked 28th among 851.
District officials calculated that the grant they could apply for had a potential maximum of $15.4 million that might be received in the spring of 2019, but there's no guarantee the district will receive anything. Any grant would replace with state funding the equivalent amount of property tax levied.
District 211 Controller and Treasurer Barbara Peterson said all taxpayers of the district would see a proportional benefit from any grant amount the district might receive.
Board Member Pete Dombrowski cast the dissenting vote against the proposed levy, but the vote to apply for the property tax relief grant was unanimous.
At last month's meeting, some board members asked the administration to prepare a list of approximately $800,000 in potential budget cuts to consider.
But Board Member Robert LeFevre Jr. argued that to not increase the levy by the rate of inflation hurt the district's current plan to remain debt-free and avoid interest costs by being able to pay for programs and capital improvements upfront.
Peterson and Chief Operating Officer Lauren Hummel explained that under the tax cap law, the tax levy can increase by only the rate of inflation each year. To not match that increase would, within a few years, put the district so far behind inflation that the difference could only be made up by a referendum, they said.
Board President Mucia Burke said she understands that concept, but also strongly believes the district should be levying only for what it needs.
Though she was among those asking for suggestions for cuts last month, she said the possibility of the grant changed her mind on her vote for this year's levy. She added that found the possibility of receiving the same amount from the state each year an appealing way to meet the needs of both taxpayers and students.
The school board will vote on final approval of the levy amount at its Dec. 13 meeting.