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West schools levy could lead to property tax hike

Updated: January 7, 2013 7:07AM

AURORA — The West Aurora School Board’s 2012 levy could mean a $57 tax hike for the owner of a $150,000 home.

The levy approved this week would also include an increase for commercial and industrial businesses, both of which saw an increased equalized assessed value in Kane County this year.

The district’s increase was approved by a 6-1 vote of the West Aurora School Board after an intensive discussion about what the increase would mean for taxpayers.

Board member Mark Bradford cast the no vote, saying that the taxpayers he has spoken with have had enough. “We’re essentially put in a situation where we’re forced to pit our community against our students, and that’s not a situation we should ever be in,” he said.

West Aurora implemented a property tax freeze from 2007 to 2011 by referendum. In 2007 and 2008, the district saw increased revenue because the equalized assessed valuation of residential properties went up.

In 2009 and 2010, however, the EAV dropped, and so did the district’s revenue. Last year marked the first year that the district voted to increase the levy coming out of the freeze. Board members did the same this year.

The increase puts the district in position to collect $69.3 million in revenue next year. In 2011 the district collected $67.3 million. The extra $2 million amounts to 3 percent tax increase, which is the rate of the consumer price index.

While district officials were weary of increasing local taxes, they have to respond to preliminary predictions that General State Aid funding from Illinois could come in between 80 and 89 percent of $33 million — which actually is considered a good year of state aid. That means that the district could lose between $3.8 and $6.6 million in funding.

That kind of reduction would mean that even with the tax increase that nets $2 million in additional revenue, the district would still have less money to spend in 2013 than in 2012. If it’s significantly less, the district may need to go into a financial reduction mode, Tyler said.

This means the district could have some difficult decisions to prepare for the 2013-14 school year. It’s too early to tell if that process would include any type of layoffs, Tyler said.

“We don’t know what’s on the table yet,” Tyler said. “We have to look at revenue parameters. There’s a very real potential we’ll be in financial reduction mode because of general state aid.”

There are other funding uncertainties looming for the 2013 school year that could drive further budget issues for the district. The state could shift pension costs back to the school districts, and the district could face further reductions in federal funding due to the impending fiscal cliff.

In the meantime, continuing with the status quo is no longer acceptable to the community, Bradford argued. While he did not suggest any specifics in spending cuts, Bradford said that the board should come up with a formal financial reduction plan, which it has done in the past. “On one hand there’s the obvious need from the district,” Bradford said. “On the other hand, there’s the community saying stop squeezing me.”

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