District 157 approves property tax abatement

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 9:42 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 11:52 p.m. CDT

RICHMOND – The School District 157 Board approved a property tax abatement for the second year in a row at its meeting Wednesday evening.

The $700,000 abatement was designed to keep the district’s fund balance the same by giving back the expected surplus for the next budgeting year and the increase in the district’s property tax levy, Superintendent Dan Oest said.

The Richmond-Burton Community High School board also approved a 2.1 percent increase to its levy, which translates to about $200,000, Oest said. The percent is based off the rate of inflation plus new growth, the formula used in the state’s property tax cap.

While the levy was approved unanimously, the abatement received a single no vote.

Board Vice President Dave Thomas pointed to the teachers union contract, which is in its third year and expires at the end of June, for his hesitance.

“I’ve voiced this concern before because we have negotiations coming up,” Thomas said. “I do not want to handcuff our negotiators, number one. I don’t want to go back to our teaching body and say, ‘We can’t give you a fair and equitable raise because of this abatement.’ That’s my biggest concern.”

With the district’s current fund balances, Oest said that shouldn’t be an issue.

“I don’t think we’re putting ourselves in a position where we would hinder ourselves in negotiations going forward,” he said.

The district had nearly $9.3 million in the bank at the end of fiscal 2012-13, or about 170 days of cash on hand, according to its annual financial statements.

The board also unanimously OK’d refinancing $950,000 in bonds, which Oest said would save the district $61,000.

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