Crystal Lake-based School District 155 approves tax levy increase

Residents express opposition during more than hour of public comment

CRYSTAL LAKE – Not a single person who spoke Tuesday night at a meeting of the Community High School District 155 Board was in favor of a tax levy increase.

Everyone who stepped to the podium was against it.

Dave Mazurk, a 35-year resident of Crystal Lake, wants to remain here.

“But I’m afraid I may not be able to, the way property taxes are going up,” Mazurk said before the board’s vote.

But the board still passed, with a 4-3 vote, an estimated levy increase of 2.44 percent.

Board members Dave Secrest, Ron Ludwig and Nicole Pavoris voted yes. Board Vice President Jason Blake and members Rosemary Kurtz and Amy Blazier voted no. Board President Adam Guss cast the tie-breaking yes vote.

The board followed that with a unanimous vote to abate $1.2 million in debt service from the levy, which drops the levy request from $75,795,782 to $74,595,782.

The district estimates that with the $1.2 million abatement, the tax levy request that was approved Tuesday night will mean a 0.79 percent increase from the previous year, which is less than the rate of inflation.

The 2.44 percent increase was tentatively approved by the board in October, but Blake, Kurtz and Blazier led an effort during a Nov. 14 committee meeting to compromise and abate the $1.2 million.

Kurtz pushed for a tax levy freeze Tuesday night, but it didn’t go anywhere.

The district now will use $1.2 million of its estimated $50 million in cash reserves to pay some of its bond debt.

Under the levy request approved Tuesday night, according to the district’s projections, the owner of a $200,000 house would pay $7.94 more in property taxes to the district than in the previous year; and the owner of a $300,000 house would pay $11.90 more in property taxes to the district than the previous year.

Individual tax bills may go up or down based on housing assessments. District 155 has no control over the equalized assessed value of homes.

The meeting room at the District 155 Center for Education was standing-room only. During more than an hour of public comment from taxpayers, residents of the district told stories of getting laughed at by family, friends and acquaintances in other states who are paying less in property taxes for much larger houses.

People are ready to move out of the state, Mazurk said, but not because of the weather – because of the property taxes.

“When is enough gonna be enough?” Mazurk asked the board, twice.

The exodus Mazurk is referring to already has started. According to U.S. Census data, the state of Illinois led the country in residents lost to other states for the third straight year in 2016.

Mazurk saw it firsthand.

“My youngest son went to Colorado. He’s never coming back,” Mazurk said. “He laughs at what we’re spending over here.”

A group of McHenry County real estate agents testified to the difficulty homeowners are having selling their homes, and how they’ve seen many clients move out of state, particularly to Wisconsin.

With the district’s continuing enrollment decline and lack of new homes, residents were appalled at the district’s request for more money. Many said they haven’t gotten raises in their jobs and have lost value in their homes because no one wants to move to the area and pay some of the highest property tax rates in the country.

The district pointed out that there are 22 public school districts in McHenry County, and District 155 is one of two school districts that decreased its overall tax extension for the two previous years.

After factoring in the abatement, the 2017 estimated tax extension still should be less than both the 2014 and 2015 tax extensions, the district said in a news release sent out after the meeting.

But several residents said it’s not good enough. Lakewood resident Zach Zenner said the primary argument he saw initially seemed to be that District 155 isn’t as “bad as the other districts in McHenry County.”

“Which is a lot like saying one of my kids stole less from the cookie jar than the others – it’s still stealing,” Zenner said.

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