Geneva residents and members of a tax watchdog group asked the Geneva School Board on Monday night to consider a zero percent tax levy increase.
The suggestion came from four speakers during the public comments portion of the meeting.
At its Nov. 12 meeting, the School Board passed a resolution seeking a 1.5 percent increase over the 2011 tax extension.
"Why can’t we freeze the tax levy?" asked TaxFACTS member Sandra Ellis. "Why can’t we live within our budget? ... Please seriously consider looking at the tax levy differently. Live within a budget, as everyone else is trying to do."
John Rice thanked board members for the resolution of the recent teachers union contract negotiations and said he would support the board in its decision to seek a 1.5 percent levy increase, even if it meant "a little soul searching" about where to cut back.
"Our community is in a little bit of a pickle," he said. "We have a limited base of taxpayers here. I myself don’t want to be taxed out of our community. I support your 1.5 percent. But it would be great if you could make zero percent work."
Jay Moffat, who is also a member of the Geneva Plan Commission, echoed Ellis' remarks and suggested using cash reserves, if necessary.
"I personally believe we can easily survive with a flat dollar amount for the levy," he said. "We’re sitting on a $57 million fund balance."
Bob McQuillan, co-founder of the Geneva TaxFACTS citizens group, suggested District 304 reduce reserves to 33 percent of its operatiing budget rather than the more than 60 percent it carries now.
McQuillan also pointed out the semantics of the budget discussion, which he said can be misleading.
"I’m glad John Rice brought up the $900,000 budget cut. That’s not a cut. That’s a cut from what you would potentially get," he said. "This is completely opposite of how a budget should develop. The (past) process resulted in overtaxing residents and creating a reserve fund that is way too high."
For the owner of a $315,000 home, a 1.5 percent tax levy increase would result in about $340 property tax increase, according to a chart provided by School District 304 Assistant Superintendent for Finance Donna Oberg.
A zero percent tax levy would result in a tax increase of $264 for the same home.
The School District's tax rate is at the highest mark it has been in the past decade, according to the District 304 website.
* Suggested with 1.5 percent increase in tax levy.
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