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School District 300’s property tax levy request aiming high but expecting less

Updated: December 14, 2013 6:20AM

ALGONQUIN — According to district officials, the tax levy for next year tentatively adopted Monday night by the Community Unit School District 300 board is likely to cost the typical property owner only about $26.42 more than was paid last summer.

But the board still intends to set the levy high enough — 17.74 percent more than last year’s request — to get the maximum amount of tax income allowed by the state’s tax cap law.

With one member (Joe Stevens) absent, the board voted unanimously tentatively to accept the levy as proposed by chief financial officer Susan Harkin. Residents and land owners will get their chance to comment on it during a public hearing when the board meets again, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Westfield Community School in Algonquin. The board is expected to take a final vote on it that same night.

The proposed levy asks for $200.4 million, or 17.74 percent more than the $170.3 million actually collected last summer. However, Harkin said the amount actually passed on, or “extended,” to the taxpayers is almost certain to be much less.

That’s because the Illinois tax cap law limits the increases in the total amount extended for general purposes to the increase in the cost of living plus what could be collected at the same rate from newly built or improved properties.

Harkin estimated the actual increase in income to the district will be just $2.9 million, or 1.7 percent above last summer’s. Because the federal government finds little inflation in the cost of living, Harkin estimated just $1.3 million will come from property owners whose property has not been built on or improved.

She estimated that another $1.6 million will come from owners whose property has been improved, such as by having a new house built on it.

Bills up slightly

If those predictions come true, she said, the typical property owner who paid $3,387 in District 300 taxes last summer will pay $3,414 next summer, for an increase of 0.78 percent.

That is based on the owner of a house with a true market value set by the assessors at $200,000 last year. The estimate assumes that home’s value goes down to $180,000 this year but the district-wide tax rate goes up, from 5.65 percent to 6.32 percent.

David Alessio of the school board’s finance committee said that “some taxpayers’ bills will go down and some will go up more than that average,” depending on whether their specific property’s assessed valuation changes more than the average valuation changes.

“But on average, the homeowner’s bill will go up less than the inflation rate” for overall prices, Alessio said.

“We over-estimate our levy request to ensure we access all of the available dollars to the district” in case the inflation rate or the value of new construction goes up more than expected, Harkin said.

Board Member Chris Stanton said one reason the levy should be “over-estimated” is that once a school district taxes less than it could have, the way the tax cap law looks at a percentage of the previous year’s income means that “once you give up something, you can’t readily get it back” in a future year.

Stanton said there are several unknowns that could affect the district finances negatively in the coming year.

Harkin said the tax rate applied in District 300 in 2012 was the fourth-lowest of all 23 high school district territories in Kane and McHenry counties, if areas that have separate high school and elementary school districts have those districts’ rates added together. The only districts with a lower tax rate that year were Huntley District 158, Johnsburg District 12 and Alden-Hebron District 19.

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