2012 School Levy: Average Geneva Home Could See $340 Tax Hike
Geneva School Board chooses the least expensive of five options presented—a 1.5 percent increase over last year's tax extension. The estimated result will be a $340 property tax increase for the owner of a $315,000 home.
If you own a home valued at $315,000, the School District part of your property tax bill is projected to go up by $340 next year—and that's the good news.
The Geneva School Board voted unanimously Monday night to approve a resolution accepting at 1.5 percent increase in the tax levy, the lowest of five scenarios presented Monday by School District 304 Assistant Superintendent for Finance Donna Oberg.
The School Board's Finance Committee had recommended a 2 percent increase, but board members rejected that option Monday night. Tax-cap legistlation would have allowed a 3 percent increase, based on the consumer price index.
School Board member Matt Henry said his family had taken a $50,000 salary hit and is "just now starting to make it out a little bit," so he understands Geneva residents' concerns about rising tax rates.
"I can’t imagine that we would not ask, or continue to ask, for as much belt-tighting as possible," he said. "(And) I can’t imagine that we’d expect anything more from our tax base than 1.5 percent."
Board member Mike McCormick agreed.
"I think we have to go with the minimum at 1.5 percent," he said. "It’s going to stink having to come up with (additional budget cuts), but everybody’s suffering right now, and I think that sends a pretty strong message to the community that we hear them."
Tim Moran said the state mechanism for the levy "is rather bizarre" because it's based on estimates of property tax values that haven't been calculated yet, forcing School Board members and administrators to "look into this crystal ball based on hopeful expectations."
One Catch 22 for decision-makers is that next year's tax extension is based on the previous year's, so if the district doesn't seek the full amount allowed by law, it can't recoup the value of new growth that takes place in the next couple months.
True too is that Geneva School District 304 has had success lowering tax rates by paying down debt through abatement and refinancing. If the levy is too low, the surplus funds needed for abatement simply won't be there.
"It’s hard to the community to understand that you’ll never get that money back," School Board member Mary Stith said.
Stith and Moran said they, too, would support the resolution seeking the 1.5 percent increase. Bill Wilson, a member of the Finance Committee, said he had been in favor of the 2 percent increase because the district might have to make deeper budget cuts and it might be able to use surpluses to spread the cuts over two years.
"To go from $600,000 (cuts) to $900,000 doesn’t seem like much, but it means going into some areas we’ve tried to stay out of," he said. "Would it be better for us to go for $700,000 in two years? We would have to make cuts in the budget and start taking a look at that now to see what those impacts are."
The five options included scenarios for increases of 3 percent, 2.5 percent, 2.25 percent, 2 percent, and 1.5 percent. The tax impact on a $315,000 home—after abatement was factored—ranged from $415 to $340.
Oberg emphasized that those are the best estimates she could make based on the information available at this time.
"They’re projected amounts, and they could change," she said.
Geneva TaxFACTS co-founder Bob McQuillan said the School Board didn't go far enough and should have considered nothing higher than a zero percent increase.
"We are telling you, there is no more money," he said. "On every scenario tonight, you are asking for an increase over this year’s operating revenue ... Please vote for a zero tax levy in December. It’s time for taxpayers to win one for a change."
School Board President Mark Grosso agreed with other board members that the 1.5 percentage increase was the right choice, given the state of the economy.
"These are tough decisions," he said. "We just had some real tough negotiations with our teachers union. I think it was very trying on all of us. And now we’re having to look at the levy.
"For me personally, I would lean toward the 1.5, even though it's going to mean we'll need to do some belt tightening. I think that would be consistent with the same message we're telling our employees, and the same message our community would expect from us."