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When Is a Budget Cut Really a Budget Increase?

When will tax increases stop? Let's FREEZE the levy!

The answer is quite simple … when the Geneva School Board says they will need to cut $901,500* but will really receive $2,146,254 more than they received from last year’s levy. 

Over the last several weeks, the board has given the impression that if they approve a 1.5% tax levy, they will need to make $901,500* in budgets cuts. The reality is that if they approve a 1.5% tax levy, they will receive $2,146,254 more than last year.  If you are scratching you head saying that can’t be true, you need to go to www.genevataxfacts.org and review the district’s own numbers.  

Using the district’s own numbers and projections, it is clear that the $901,500 has nothing to do with next year’s budget and it certainly isn’t a cut. Then, what is it? It is the difference from what would be received at a 3% levy vs. a 1.5% levy.  So, if the board approves a 1.5% levy, then it will get $901,500* less revenue than if they had requested a 3% tax levy increase?  It’s a meaningless number. It does not represent any cuts in spending. And, the board hasn’t even started creating a budget for the 2013-14 school year? That doesn’t get done until next summer. 

According to the district’s projections, a 1.5% tax levy would generate $63,425,131 in revenue.  In the current school year (2012-13) the revenue is expected to be $61,278,877.  So a 1.5% levy generates $2,146,254 more revenue.  Even a 0% tax levy increase generates $1,208,754 more than this year.  Not only that, look at the following:

  • This year the education fund has a $3 million reserve.
  • The transportation fund has a $4,178,318 overspend due to a two-year bus lease expense, which will not happen next year.
  • The operations and maintenance fund has a $2,359,798 overspend because of installing the football field and technology purchases.  The football field expense is a one-time expense that won’t happen again for 10-12 years.  Any technology spending for next year can be delayed.

Based on the above facts, the district should not need as much revenue as they received this year.  Yet they are requesting an increase of $2,146,254. Why? They haven’t discussed how this additional revenue will be spent. Will it just be added to the already out of control reserve fund?

The tentative budget for 2012-2013 shows that we should have $53 million in reserves as of June 30, 2013. That equates to 68% of the district’s operating expenses.  The district’s policy states that reserves should be 31% of operating expenses. It is time the board starts spending the reserves instead of increasing them. Why can’t the same exact dollar amount received this year be levied for next year?  The reserve fund would cover any possible shortfall. This would mean that the board taxes to the minimum instead of taxing in excess and requires a change of mindset for the board.  It’s up to the community to communicate to the board that they’d like to see a halt to tax levy increases and see some real reductions in expenses.

The tax levy will be voted on at the Dec. 10 Board of Education meeting.  If you agree that the board should not receive more revenue than last year, you have two options:

  1. Email the board at board@geneva304.org and tell them to levy the same exact dollar amount as received for the 2012-13 school year. FREEZE to this year's dollar amount.
  2. Attend and speak at the Dec. 10 meeting at the Coultrap facility, which starts at 7 pm.

Waiting till May 1, 2013 when you will receive your property tax bill is too late.  Action must be taken before December 10th

We deserve a break today! Start spending the $53 million in reserves before increasing the tax levy. FREEZE the levy!

 *This figure is taken from the Tax Levy Presentation by Donna Oberg to the school board on 11/12/2012.  Last evening (November 26, 2012), the board supplied a different handout that indicated the number is $929,433. My comments above are based on earlier data supplied by the board.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jen Marsh November 28, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Thank you.
Rich Hayhurst November 28, 2012 at 06:07 AM
Ms. Ellis. Thank you for this article. The Geneva 304 Administration is allowed and in fact, reinforced, by the Geneva School board when they proffer their point of view using such Orwellian Double Speak. The only ones served by this sort of verbal nonsense are those who desire to manipulate information in such a manner as to confuse the observer (taxpayer), and thereby reinforce, their never ending quest to transfer more dollars from your pocket to theirs. I hope the board will put their foot down on usage of this sort of verbal obfuscation and require that our administrators, and other board members, in public discussions, use language that is designed to truly educate on whatever topic may be at hand, and will call out these tactics as they appear.
John R November 29, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Sandra, Thank you for further addressing this topic and the $900,000 question. School financing is very complex and the reason I raised the question, at the recent board meeting, was because I was sensing a bit of confusion. Not only my misunderstanding but that of others as well. My discussion with Mr. McQuillan after the meeting and your explanation here are helping to clarify my question. John Rice
Sandra Ellis November 29, 2012 at 07:19 PM
John, you are not the only one confused and it really needs to be clarified! I went back and reviewed the Nov. 12 video where the proposal to increase taxes by 1.5% was explained and tentatively voted upon and several board members were confused and still believe the $900K reflects cuts in expenses? Donna Oberg's slideshow was well done but the ensuing questions were not well explained and need to be clarified before the final vote on December 10. The board has more than sufficient reserves, enrollment has gone down over the past several years and there is relatively little economic inflation that would affect our district. Take five minutes to look at the video on this link, use the SHORTCUT to see each board member's questions about the levy. It was not even explained well to you on Monday night! http://genevataxfacts.org/School-Board-and-Geneva-Tax-Facts-Meetings/011-12-2012.html

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