District 67 to try for tax hike again in February
Updated: February 11, 2013 1:57AM
MORTON GROVE — After voters in November turned down a proposed property-tax hike in Golf Elementary District 67, School Board President Meryl Gale promised the district would be back with another request.
That will happen in February when voters will be asked again to increase the amount of property taxes the district can levy.
The School Board on Dec. 6 voted unanimously to place a levy increase on the ballot in February. If the referendum is approved, District 67, which serves portions of Morton Grove and Niles, will be able to increase the 2013 levy by 16.3 percent, a move that would generate about $1.1 million in new property-tax revenue.
The request is the same as the one rejected by voters in November. Prior to that, the district in March sought an increase in the maximum tax rate in the education fund, a measure that also was defeated.
Though voters rejected the tax increase in March, they did narrowly approve a bond sale to finance improvements at Golf Middle School and Hynes Elementary School and construction of a new gym at Hynes.
District 67 officials have warned that without additional tax revenue they will have to make more spending cuts, including combining more than one grade level in a single classroom. Any further spending reductions will come after several years of program and staff cuts.
Gale said that without the additional money the district at some point will have to make additional cuts. She also noted that discussions in the Illinois General Assembly over pension reform include proposals to shift the cost of the teachers’ pension system onto individual districts.
“I don’t know that we have much of a choice,” she said at the Dec. 6 meeting.
As an alternative the board had considered waiting to ask voters for a tax hike until the April 2013 general election. But Superintendent Jamie Reilly said that because of a state law, an April referendum would have had to ask for an increase in the rate, rather than the actual levy.
As a result, she said, the district could end up with less money than it needs because of declines in the equalized assessed valuation of property in District 67.
“There’s the potential for the EAV to take another nosedive and we leave a lot of money on the table,” Reilly told the board. “It comes down to February or April.”
If approved, the measure would allow the district to increase the levy by 16.3 percent, likely about 13.3 percent more than is permitted under the tax cap. The cap limits the levy increase to the Consumer Price Index or 5 percent, whichever is less.
Elizabeth Hennessy of William Blair, the district’s financial advisor, noted that even if voters approve the measure in February, the district will not be able to levy the additional money until it sets the 2013 levy next December. That money is collected in 2014.
District officials say the increase will allow them to restore some programs that have been cut over the past several years, such as all-day kindergarten. In addition it would eliminate the need for additional program or staff reductions.
District 67 has not had an increase in its maximum tax rate since 1969.
In March a measure asking voters to increase the maximum tax rate by 0.342 percent to $2.401 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation was defeated by 112 votes.
After the March defeat of the tax hike, the School Board adopted new and higher fees for extracurricular and athletic programs. The district also froze salaries for administrators and certified employees and eliminated early and late bus runs.