- Editor's note: This is the ninth of the 10-part countdown of the top stories on Geneva Patch in 2011. These 10 are my choices. At the end of each story, you'll get a chance to pick your own top story. I strongly encourage you to click on the links to the original story or stories, because that's where you'll find the real fun in this trip down memory lane.
Geneva School Board and School District 304 officials did everything they felt they could to cut back on spending in 2011. They , they let some part-time jobs go unfilled. They to keep the tax levy in check. They are dipping into reserves.
Still, the owner of a house valued at $288,000 is expected to see a for the District 304 portion of his or her property tax bill, according to Assistant Superintendent Donna Oberg.
The hard truth is that property taxes are rising, and they're not likely to ease up any time soon.
We're still paying for—and will continue to pay for—school building construction we voters approved through referenda years ago, as recently as 2007 and beyond. But the new growth and improved property values that were taken as a "given" in the boom days have gone away.
When the real estate bubble popped, home values started falling and new housing and retail construction—which for a time made Kane County one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation—came to a near halt.
And when the Equalized Assessed Value of property in a taxing district goes down—and the tax levy doesn't—tax rates go up.
Put another way, even if government bodies don't ask for a penny more in their tax levies, each of us will have to pay more next year. And because tax assessments tend to lag two or three years behind the market, the trend will likely continue until two or three years after any economic rebound.
A rising tax bill comes at a time when many Geneva homeowners have seen big declines in their own family incomes and savings—through job cuts, pay cuts, furloughs, declining property values and shellshocked 401Ks.
Without a doubt, this disparity was one of the biggest challenges Geneva faced in 2011 and will continue to be at the top of the list of challenges in 2012.
Being a Geneva elected official in 2012 will be more difficult and thankless than any year we have seen in our lifetimes.
Because there are no good choices.
School Board, City Council, Kane County Board, Geneva Township Board and Park Board members will have to say to their friends and neighbors, "Sorry, but you're just going to have to dig deeper," or they will have to make drastic cuts.
Those cuts likely would have to come in staffing, salaries and benefits. They might include delaying infrastructure improvements, dropping extracurricular school activities like music and sports or pulling back on city services—from cemetery maintenance to garbage collection to street repairs to snow removal.
Adding to the angst in 2011 was a side story: an between the anti-tax group FACTS and the Geneva School Board and District 304 administration.
As the new year approaches, we hope elected officials and community activists can work together, civilly and in good faith, to address Geneva's greatest challenge of 2012.