On Religion, The Media and Life as a 20-something in Chicago

ELGIN — With protests and proposals, Community Unit School District 300 has vocally opposed an amendment to Senate Bill 540 that would divert about $14 million in property taxes from the district to the economic development area surrounding Sears’ corporate headquarters in Hoffman Estates. On Thursday, Elgin School District U46 put out its own call to action on its website about another proposed law — House Bill 3793 — that would affect property taxes collected by all Illinois school districts. That bill also could come to a vote when the Illinois Legislature’s veto session resumes Tuesday through Thursday next week. “Local property taxes, if you look at the budget, is the most stable income we get,” U46 spokesman Tony Sanders said. And House Bill 3793 would cost the state’s second-largest school district $3.7 million in property tax revenues it already has budgeted for the current school year, according to Sanders. That’s 59 teachers, he said. “Any reductions we make now, we can’t preserve it,” he said. “It has to come from the classroom.” That’s because tax-capped counties, including Chicago’s collar counties, now limit school districts’ increases in property tax extensions to the rate of inflation, up to 5 percent. Those tax caps were put in place to slow the rate of increase as property values were rising, according to state Rep. Keith Farnham, D-Elgin. Layoffs predicted Under House Bill 3793, school districts would not be able to increase their property tax rates at all if property values decrease. Taxes make up about 60 percent of the total revenues in U46’s 2011-12 budget. The U46 Board of Education approved its 2012 tax levy at its regular meeting Tuesday — a “defensive” 13 percent increase that likely will be scaled back to 3.5 percent under the tax cap, Chief Operating Officer Jeff King said. Sanders said the ability to raise property tax rates as property values go down is what has kept that income steady for school districts in tax-capped counties through the housing market crash and recession. “We’ve already done our budgets. We’ve already agreed what our spending plan is,” Sanders said. “Unfortunately, this legislation would result in many layoffs in districts across the state.” According to Jessica Handy, policy director of Stand for Children, an education advocacy group, “It’s reasonable to assume education costs would go up with the rate of inflation.” House Bill 3793 wouldn’t just affect school districts in tax-capped counties, Handy said. It will affect the way general state aid is appropriated in all Illinois school districts, she said. General state aid money is divvied up among school districts so districts with lower property taxes and less wealth get more aid. If the bill freezes what tax-capped districts can collect in property taxes, the policy director said, it will send more state aid to those districts from other districts around the state. The bill would take more than $2.6 million from this year’s budget in St. Charles Community Unit School District 303, according to Stand for Children. That would add up to $36 million over next 10 years, or 52 teaching positions, the group says. Stand for Children did not have an estimate for District 300, and the Carpentersville-area district did not return calls from The Courier-News. The Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association, Chicago Teachers Union, Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance, Large Unit District Association and other education and municipal groups also have voiced their opposition to the bill, Stand for Children said. Call for restraint But Farnham, co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation wouldn’t take any money away from school districts. If the measure is passed, those districts still could collect the same amount of property tax dollars this year as they did last year, he noted. Farnham has heard from area school districts that would like to use the tax caps to raise their rates, he said. But, he added, he’s also “heard so much (going) door-to-door, and most everybody has heard from homeowners, ‘Why are my property taxes going up when my property value is going down?’ ” The bill was referred to the House Rules Committee in October, and Farnham said he has heard it is being amended, although he isn’t sure what that amendment might be. “It sounded like it would (be called for a vote in the veto session) last week, but one never knows in Springfield. Even to know what kind of support there is for it, I can’t say because I don’t know,” he said. “At least it sends a message of restraint out there.” To comment on this story, visit The Courier-News.

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2011 at 9:59 am

U46 issues call to action vs. property tax legislation (Sun-Times Media)


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