Add McHenry Elementary School District 15 to that list of tax districts planning to take as much money out of local taxpayers’ pockets as state law allows.
The legal publication for the public hearing about the proposed levy said the school district would be asking for 8.74% more than this year.
That spooked one resident, Pam Gough, whose family has lived near Millstream since 1958 big time.
“When I saws that 8.7% increase I didn’t know if I should cry or vomit.”
“The For Sale sign almost went up.”
She told of having to live on $1,300 a month, pointing out she was envisioning having to chose between food, medicine and “turning out the lights for a day.”
“I don’t know what the elderly [on fixed incomes are going to do].
“If I don’t pay my taxes, the government takes my house and says, ‘Go live in a box.'”
School Board Finance Committee Chairman Patrick Miller apologized.
“I am sorry that the levy process requires us to post [figures like 8.74%].”
“I was near tears,” Gough continued.
Miller pointed out that the Property Tax Cap would only allow an inflationary increase of 1.5%.
“I read it on Mr. Skinner’s blog.”
The only other person to offer public comment was Eric Dowd.
He pointed out that McHenry County is the 29th highest taxed county in the United States.
“Everybody’s piece makes that a really fat pie.
“All we’re asking you to do is live within your means.”
Starting out the hearing was an slide show explanation by Chief Finance Officer Mark Bertolozzi.
He pointed out that the grade school district had levying more than it could obtain last year, but had only received a 1.87% increase. That figure included new construction.
Adding in what the district levied to pay down borrowed money resulted in an overall 3.11% aggregate tax hike last year.
This year, when new construction is taken into account, the district expects Tax Capped funds to bring in an additional 1.6% or $737,101. One-tenth of one percent of the 1.6 percentage points represents new construction.
While the percentage calculation was not included on a slide, the amount allocated for paying down debt seems to be increasing over 27%. [If this is incorrect, I trust a district official will email me with the correct figure.]
Last year’s tax take was $48,371,265.
The increase in Tax Capped funds will add $737,101 to the aggregate tax bill.
Paying down debt will require an additional $634,617.
The total extra money to be taken from taxpayers’ check books will be $1,471,718.
That appears to me to be an aggregate tax hike of over 3%. [Again, if my math is faulty, please correct me, D15 officials.]
One whole slide was devoted to the question, “Why not freeze the levy?”
Bertolozzi pointed to
- increasing costs
- the threat of the lose of State Aid to Education (SB 16 would have taken $4.5 million away.)
- a possible shift of teacher pension costs from the state to the local taxpayer
- unforeseen expenditures
In addition, he repeated the every popular line of tax district officials about not taking the allowed tax hike in any year means that the money is lost forever.
Echoing his arguments was Finance Chairman Miller.
He explained that, while paying down the debt would increase the total tax bill by more than the cost of living, in the year 2020 the average homeowner would save $330.
Commenting on the 8.74% figure in the legal ad, he said,
“It would be criminal if we actually we would get it.”
He continued to explain the logic of asking for so much more than the rate of inflation allowed by the Real Estate Tax Cap.
“[Because] we won’t get 1.5% from each fund, we’re forced to balloon levy.”
He then used the cost of a cup of coffee analogy to minimize the tax increase being proposed, which he said would amount to $41.27 per year of a cup of non-Starbucks Coffee every two weeks.
John O’Neill, one of two who voted, “No,” while sitting behind a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, pointed out,
“We’re making the assumption that we’re entitled to this amount of money.
“If we flat levy for one year we lose that money forever,” he said, repeating the typical tax district official line about the need to get as much money as possible every year.
“Isn’t it true that in the future we could go for a referendum?
“I think that might be a little more fair.”
“The question we have every year is whether we need the increase.
“Why do we have to take it, if we don’t need it.?
“I wish school finance were was easier, but it’s cumbersome,” said Paul Santopadre.
Another “No” vote, Erik Sivertsen, asked about the 5% going into a saving account.
Miller replied that it was for building projects so the district did not have to go for a referendum. He also pointed out that the 2005 referendum passed about 2-1.
Then Miller asserted that the Illinois Constitution requires State government to pay 50% of the cost of education.
[That part of the Constitution has been litigated and found by the Illinois Supreme Court to be hortatory, that is, non-enforceable.]
He also added that good schools help keep the value of local homes up.
After the testimony and commentary, the levies were taken off the consent agenda and voted upon separately.
Each passed 5-2 with Miller, Santopadre, Amanda Geyer, Mike Hettermann and Kimberly Quails voting in favor, O’Neill and Sivertsen voting against.