VIDEO UPDATE: Despite Pleas, School Board Sticks With 1.5% Levy Hike
The School District 304 Board of Education votes unanimously for a 1.5 percent levy hike—in spite of strong arguments, some for zero percent and one for the maximum 3 percent.
Two strong, contrasting arguments Monday night didn't affect Geneva School Board's decision to seek a 1.5 percent tax levy increase.
That 1.5 percent levy increase would translate to a $340 property tax increase for the owner of a $315,000 home, according to previous estimates by School District 304 Assistant Superintendent for Finance Donna Oberg.
Speaking during the public comments period prior to the board vote, Geneva Economic Development Commission member Bob Mann told the board he felt a higher tax levy could create a downward spiral for the local economy.
"I think we can prevent that and send a signal to the market by holding the levy to where it was last year," he said.
On the other side of the issue, Geneva Middle School music teacher Jason Flaks suggeted that a better fiscal strategy would be for the board to levy the full 3 percent allowed under tax-cap legislation, based on the Consumer Price Index.
"The difference between levying 1.5 percent and 3 percent, on a $315,000 home is $76," he said. "The budget shortfall created for the district will be $900,000. As you know, this $900,000 will be lost forever and can only be reclaimed in the future through referendum.
"As a teacher in Geneva, I have worked hard to deal with the reductions we've already made in order to continue to offer the same quality programs for my students. I've lost 66 percent of my budget in the last five years.
"There will come a time when the dollars simply won't stretch anymore."
Flaks also pointed out that one of the most effective ways for the board to hold down rising property taxes is to collect the full levy, then use surpluses to pay down debt services.
"Addressing (property tax) through abatement does not have a compounding effect on the future funds available to the district; addressing it through a reduction in the levy does," he said.
"What I struggle with is whether a reduction in the levy solves the problems with which some residents of Geneva are struggling. Will that $76 keep them from foreclosure? Will it help find the job they need, or will it provide them a consistent increase in income that allows them to meet their expenses? The answer to these questions is, sadly, no. What these residents need is not possible for you to give ... A reduced levy, on the other hand, will weaken the School District."
Robert Danek said "there's always something to spend money on," and said the board shouldn't spend more next year than it did this year.
"Find a way to manage the $61 million you have," he said. "You may lose the compounding effect the levy would give you, but you'd gain the respect of most of the people here tonight."
At its Nov. 13 meeting, the board had passed a resolution to seek the 1.5 percent levy increase, the lowest of five options presented.