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Public hearing set on Batavia school levy

'Lower levy' signs directed BataviSchool District 101 can be seen downtown Batavialong Route 31. | Kalyn Belsha~Sun-Times Media

"Lower the levy" signs directed at Batavia School District 101 can be seen in downtown Batavia along Route 31. | Kalyn Belsha~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 17, 2014 6:17AM

BATAVIA — A website recently set up by Batavia residents features a school bus chugging up a hill of money, depicting a levy hike for Batavia School District 101. Under the graphic it reads: “Warning: The taxes that lie ahead are larger than they appear.”

Batavia resident Sylvia Keppel and a group of seven others created last month to let residents know about a levy increase that’s larger than usual this year. They hope to encourage residents to turn out in droves for a Dec. 17 public hearing on the levy, which will be held at 7 p.m. at 335 W. Wilson St.

The district is requesting $73.0 million, up from $65.9 million last year, a 10.9 percent increase.

The operating levy — which includes money for education, staff salaries and transportation — increased about 12.9 percent from $55.5 million in 2012 to $62.6 million this year. Bond and interest payments stayed steady at about $10.4 million.

In addition to inflation, the increase is due largely to the expiration of an Aurora Tax Increment Financing District that includes the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall, which is adding to the school district’s tax base.

Keppel and others say Batavia School District 101 should not count the $92.1 million the former TIF district added to the school district’s tax rolls because it will increase the amount the district can request from taxpayers for years to come.

“The mall brings in no students, so it places no burden on the district,” said Keppel, who has a daughter in the district. “That money should be given back to the taxpayers to help reduce our burden.”

TIF district history

The area that used to be Aurora TIF District 2 is located in the southeast part of Batavia School District. Created in 1989, it included the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall and other industrial properties along I-88 before it expired in 2012.

TIF districts are generally formed in an effort to improve infrastructure and fund other improvements through future tax gains.

When they expire, the property value that accrued since the TIF district was created gets counted much as new construction, which adds to overall equalized assessed value, or EAV, in a taxing district.

The district says without the TIF district expiration, its operating levy would have increased 1.7 percent — this year’s Consumer Price Index — instead of 12.9 percent.

But even with the large increase, Batavia’s Assistant Superintendent for Finance, Kris Monn, predicted the added EAV would result in a $28 decrease in the 2014 tax bill for the average taxpayer, which assumes a home valued on the market at $231,000.

Batavia 101 says it needs the money from the TIF district because school officials have been planning for the expiration for years.

“In prior year’s (sic), we have eliminated programs and adjusted class sizes, reducing our overall educational programming for students, all in anticipation of the 2013-14 school year when the additional revenues from the TIF District would allow us to begin to rebuild without worsening our financial health,” the district wrote on its website.

The district said it already has hired more teachers, increased its support staff and increased capital spending this school year in anticipation of the extra money.

The school board passed a tentative levy on Nov. 19 and will vote on the final levy at the Dec. 17 meeting.

Keppel says almost 200 people have clicked on the link on her website to contact school board members about the increased levy. The group also set up 100 red signs throughout Batavia to let residents know about the effort.

“Batavia is high in the tax rate,” Keppel said. “We need a break. Many people are leaving Batavia because they can’t afford to retire [here].”

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