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Batavians Planning to Come Out in Force to Protest Schools' 'Bloated Budget'

One tax protester says "the small board room will be filled to overflowing with Lower the Levy supporters" at Tuesday's Batavia School Board meeting.

A Batavia tax-watchdog group is asking "fellow Batavians" to rally at Tuesday's School Board meeting and ask School District 101 to "lower the levy."

"An important decision is going to be made soon regarding your taxes," Christian Virelli said in an email blast. "Next year, the Batavia School District will finally realize the roughly $6 million in taxes that we negotiated to receive from the outlet mall when it was first built. ...  They basically want to use it to increase their already bloated budget."

Virelli is asking as many people as possible to attend the meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the Rosalie Jones Administration Center, 335 W. Wilson St.

The windfall from the expiration of the Aurora No. 2 tax-increment financing district will allow the district to up the 2013 tax levy to $62.6 million — an increase of more than $7 million over the previous year.

District officials argue that the result will still be less in property-tax payments for the average homeowner.

But Virelli and others believe the district should keep the levy flat and use the additional tax revenue from the outlet mall property to lower residents' tax bills. 

"If we use it to lower our taxes, we will all see our property taxes drop between $400 and $900 per year!" Virelli says in his email. "Don't let them steal money from our hard-working citizens!"

By the district's own chart, property taxes for the average Batavia home spiked $400 between 2011 and 2012.

According to Virelli, School District 101 Superintendent Dr. Lisa Hichens called Sylvia Keppel, the homeschooling mom of six who is the spearhead of the Lower the Levy campaign, and said the district will not change the venue for the meeting.

"So the small boardroom will be filled to overflowing with Lower the Levy supporters spilling over inconveniently into the hallways of the administrative building," Virelli wrote. "I imagine there will be dozens of people, myself included, who will request a three-minute slot to speak during the public comments portion of the meeting."

If the district does not take advantage of the windfall from the TIF District expiration, it won't be able to recoup that money, since each year's levy is based on the previous year's levy.

Tax-cap legislation allows districts to increase their levies by 5 percent or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. This year's CPI was 1.7 percent. The proposed 2013 levy would represent a 13 percent increase over 2012.

School officials appreciate the windfall because they have a chance to lower the tax payments of most citizens while using the additional revenue for operations and abatement of debt.

Tax watchdogs are going to have an uphill climb, however, because some of the expected windfall is already earmarked, according to a School District 101 press release.

"The expected revenue from this TIF led the Board to adopt the FY13-14 Capital and Staffing plan in March 2013, which added 7.5 teachers and 3.5 instructional coaches dedicated to enhancing instruction and improving student achievement. These improvements were adopted as part of the 2013-14 budget in September 2013," the district's website says.

"Will they listen and do the right thing?" Virelli asks in his email. "I don't know, but finally, Batavia taxpayers — myself included — are waking up to the way government entities will grab and spend every possible tax dollar they can get their hands on."

Bob McQuillan December 13, 2013 at 12:29 AM
"If the district does not take advantage of the windfall from the TIF District expiration, it won't be able to recoup that money, since each year's levy is based on the previous year's levy." Every administrator uses this as their battle cry and it is misleading. The Tax Cap was passed so that district's could get the funds needed to run a district. It was not passed so the district's could grab as much money as possible. If you don't need the funds to operate the district then you should not request the funds. We all know if you get the money, you'll find some way to spend it. Listed below is the oath that Illinois school board members take: "I, (name of member or successful candidate ) , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of member of the Board of Education (or Board of School Directors) of ( name of school district ), in accordance with the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and the laws of the State of Illinois, to the best of my ability. "I further swear (or affirm) that: "I shall respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district's assets; "I shall encourage and respect the free expression of opinion by my fellow board members and others who seek a hearing before the board, while respecting the privacy of students and employees; "I shall recognize that a board member has no legal authority as an individual and that decisions can be made only by a majority vote at a public board meeting; and "I shall abide by majority decisions of the board, while retaining the right to seek changes in such decisions through ethical and constructive channels." No where does it say that they have to vote for the maximum levy available. The fact that the superintendent refuses to change the venue shows her disrespect of the residents who pay her salary. They have known for 4 weeks that this meeting would be well attended.
Bob McQuillan December 13, 2013 at 12:07 PM
Interesting that you will be able to view the meeting at the high school. That is a good decision.

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