D-207 Will Take In 2.8 Percent More In Taxes
In its proposed budget, taxpayers will pay more, though it also benefits from casino revenue. It also will spend less, due to two programs being cut. District residents can voice their opinions.
The Maine Township High School District 207 school board this month approved a $137.8 million tentative spending plan budget for the 2012-2013 school year.
That woud be a $2.7 million drop from last year.
The budget includes projected revenues of $140.7 million, meaning that if all goes according to plan, there will be a $2.9 million surplus.
District residents can view the budget and comment on it at a public hearing before a final vote at the district’s Sept. 4 board meeting. Board member Edward Mueller voted against it.
The tentative budget projects a 2.8 percent increase in property taxes, according to Mary Kalou, the assistant superintendent for business. That increase is based on three factors:
- the 2011 tax levy, which was limited to new growth plus a 1.5 bump in the consumer price index for 2010. The second-half tax bills for that 2011 levy, which will be applied to this budget, were sent out in early July.
- the 2012 tax levy, to be collected in 2013, which the district will determine later this year. The maximum CPI increase will be 3 percent, Kalou said, and the first-half tax bills sent out next spring will be applied to this budget. Put together, those account for a 2.2 increase in property taxes.
- the addition of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines to the property tax rolls. “That’s about a $600,000, or a 0.6 percent increase in our property tax revenue,” Kalou said.
In other revenue, the district is expecting a $2 million reimbursement from the state for educating children at Maryville Academy’s Scott Nolan Center and the Park Ridge Youth Campus. That’s to pay for what the district spent last year; both programs have been discontinued so there are no expenses for them in this year’s budget.
Kalou acknowledged that the budget is based on the district asking taxpayers for the maximum amount of money allowable under the state’s property tax cap.
That was what Mueller objected to.
"Everybody (school boards) levies to the max,” Mueller said. “The CPI may be 2.4 or 2.5 percent, so they levy 3.2 percent. That I've been objecting to. I believe if we had less money coming in, the quality of education would be the same. The whole thing is backwards. (They ask) how much can we get? That's our budget."
The district has had to cut expenses to be able to function even on the maximum amount it can get from the tax levy, Kalou said, noting that in spring 2010, it cut $15 million and more than 130 employees. This year, the numbers are helped by a large retirement class of teachers; eight of them are not being replaced.
But taxpayers are feeling the squeeze.
"There's no question we have to support the schools -- the kids are the future of our country,” said George Cardone, a Niles resident who lives in District 207. “But we can't go with these pay raises for teachers the way they're doing them. We didn't get a raise in Social Security for two years."
Under a new contract approved in June, District 207 teachers will receive average raises of .66 percent next year, no raises in 2013-2014, and average raises between .5 percent and 2.4 percent in 2014-2015, depending on the consumer price index. It follows a contract in which raises exceeded the rate of inflation, causing financial trouble for the district.
Mueller voted against the contract as well as the tehtative budget.
“This isn’t the first year I voted against the budget. It's the third. This was the first phase of the budget," he said. "I've felt we can make do with less."
Whether the district can or not, it does need to keep several months’ worth of money in the bank, Kalou said. It doesn’t know when or if the state will make promised payments – in mid-July, it was still waiting on more than $1 million from what the state promised for the 2011-2012 school year – and this was the first year in recent memory that second installment property tax bills came out on time. When the tax bills are late, so are the payments, she said, and the district still must pay its bills in the meantime.