Huntley District 158 approves tentative budget

HUNTLEY – After years of levying flat property taxes, District 158 will look to tie its new property tax levy with cost-of-living increases under a tentative budget presented Thursday to board members.

Members unanimously approved the $83.5 million spending plan that covers the district's day-to-day expenses and contains a $178,505 surplus because of district administrators' reassurance in the state's ability to make certain payments on time.

The Huntley-based school district projects a 1.7 percent increase in its property tax levy that mirrors the Consumer Price Index. It represents the maximum amount the district could levy under the state's property tax limitation law without having to resort to a voter referendum.

"We have held property taxes flat for the last several years," Chief Financial Officer Mark Altmayer said. "Moving forward, this budget reflects a Consumer Price Index increase with the operating budget."

Board members could decide to change the property tax levy when they formally have to set it in fall. The levy partially would cover local revenue in both the district's tentative budget approved Thursday and the 2014-15 budget.

For 2013-14, district administrators budgeted all four categorical payments from the state for the first time in several years. The state payments cover transportation and special education costs.

In the past, the district had conservatively budgeted only two categorical payments because of the state's propensity to lag behind on payments. The district felt confident with including all four payments into the budget for 2013-14 after the state made all payments on time last year, Altmayer said.

The added revenue gives the district a tentative $178,505 surplus for the year.

The district's operating expenses will increase by $2.07 million from last year, primarily because of a new teacher contract with the Huntley Education Association. The 3.5 percent in teacher raises will cost the district $1.7 million in 2013-14.

Board members can modify the proposal until late September, when they meet to approve the final budget.

In other business, members decided to hold off until their Sept. 5 meeting to restructure the district's debt because bond interest rates recently have escalated.

Members agreed they would call a special meeting to decide how to restructure district debt if interest rates started to lower before the board's next regularly scheduled meeting.

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