Maine Township High School District 207’s board of education approved a tentative 2011 tax levy of $106 million, which would represent a 3.4 percent increase. The levy includes about $1.4 million to pay off bonds and $104.7 million to pay operating costs.
Board members voted 5-2 vote in favor of the levy at the meeting Nov. 7. Edward Mueller, one of the board members opposed, asked members to consider not increasing its tax levy at all, a motion seconded by board member Eric Leys.
“I’d like to freeze the levy for 10 years, but that would be a meaningless gesture [because the law requires the board to approve a levy every year],” Mueller said.
Mary Kalou, assistant superintendent for business, said doing so would make it impossible for the district to recoup the roughly $2.7 million in new property taxes it hopes to collect next year.
Under the tax cap law, local governments such as school districts can raise the amount of property taxes they collect for operating costs only by the previous year’s increase in the consumer price index or 5 percent, whichever is lower, plus whatever taxes are generated by new growth in the tax base.
Kalou said if districts do not ask for enough money to collect everything they qualify for, their collections would be reduced every year thereafter.
Mueller disputed that and said school districts can increase the amount of taxes they collect by going to the voters in a referendum.
“If you need the money for legitimate expenses, they will come through,” Mueller said.
Mueller said he voted against the levy increase because the district tries to get the maximum amount allowed under the tax cap each year, and each year manages to spend all the money.
“As long as I have been on the board, we have implemented the maximum tax levy that we can,” Mueller said. “The tax cap is supposed to be a cap, not a minimum.”
The tax cap set the rate of inflation at 1.5 percent this year, Kalou said. The district will see a bump in its new growth from the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, she said.
Kalou said she estimated that new growth would come in at $65 million for the year, including a $40 million bump from the casino. The estimated levy includes $110 million in new growth, in case there’s more than she expects.
Kalou wrote in a memo to the board:
“Levying an amount of new growth, which does not materialize does not cost the taxpayer more, as the district can only receive the revenue if sufficient new growth exists,” Kalou wrote. “Not levying for new growth that materializes means that the district loses property tax on the amount not levied each and every year. The district can only capture new growth in the year that it is initially included in the tax base.”
She estimated that the levy would increase taxes on a home that has a total $6,000 tax bill about $22.50.
The board will vote on the final levy after a public hearing at its meeting on Dec. 5.
Click here to view a video of the meeting on Nov. 7.
Maine Township High School District 207 includes Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Maine East Maine South high schools in Park Ridge.