District 12 approves levy increase

JOHNSBURG – Property owners will see the amount of money they pay to District 12 schools go up next year.

The District 12 school board unanimously approved an 18 percent balloon levy Tuesday evening though the district only expects to capture about 1.7 percent.

A state tax cap limits how much local governments – non-home rule communities, school districts and park districts – can increase the amount they collect in property taxes to inflation plus new growth and improvements.

The district continues to abate the amount it pays annually – this year it's about $323,000 – to pay off the loan it took out to purchase a 119-acre parcel north of the Johnsburg Junior High School campus on Church Street.

The loan was originally supposed to be paid using impact fees, but when those dried up, the district continued to abate the payments, meaning it starts each year with a $300,000 hole, Superintendent Dan Johnson said. 

The district will also also be asking voters to keep the bond portion on property owners' tax bills the same instead of letting it drop as currently expected when bonds issued in 1998 for building additions are retired in two years.

The school board approved the language of the March referendum queston at their Tuesday meeting.

If voters OK it, the district will be allowed to issue up to $41 million in new bonds – the exact number will be based on a cap that limits how much the district can borrow through a formula tied to equalized assessed property values – and use the money to fix and improve its buildings.

The district put together a tentative but pretty comprehensive list of site, exterior and interior improvements – updated wiring, paving parking lots and replacing heating and air conditioning units – as well as possible enhancements for each of the district's four schools.

Architects have estimated that its list of improvements carries a price tag of $42.3 million, Johnson said.

The board plans on holding another forum after the winter break to gather community, parent and staff feedback on what should be done with the district's facilities, including whether to continue using James C. Bush Elementary as a school. 

The district is not allowed to advocate for the referendum, but Johnson expects an independent group will be formed in the near future to push for it.

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