Local Editorials

Our view: Voters picked higher property taxes for Community High School District 155

People angry that the Community High School District 155 Board wants to increase property taxes might want to remember this at the next board election.

Voters chose higher property taxes for everyone living within the boundaries of District 155 at the ballot box in April.

Two slates of candidates along with two incumbents ran for four open spots on the board this spring. One slate promised to lower property taxes. The other slate, backed by the employees union, didn’t. Voters picked Ron Ludwig, Nicole Pavoris and Jason Blake – along with incumbent David Secrest – to fill the four openings on the district’s seven-member board. Ludwig, Pavoris and Blake ran together on a slate supported by the political arm of the District 155 Education Association, the union that represents district employees, including teachers.

A slate of four candidates who vowed to cut property taxes – Donna Kurtz, John Pletz, Raphael Kamner and Scott Vetter – failed to win a single seat.

Countywide, 15 percent of registered voters cast ballots in April’s consolidated election.

We weren’t surprised earlier this month when the board voted 5-2 in favor of tentative tax levy likely to raise property tax bills. Although enrollment has declined to the point where the district is looking to consolidate operations to fewer buildings, the board decided taxpayers should pay more money to the district to educate fewer students.

The proposed levy includes a requested 4.45 percent increase over the previous year – a $3.2 million hike. While the district is asking for $75.8 million, it expects to receive a $74.3 million, which is about a 2.4 percent increase, according to district documents.

The levy request would require the owner of a $250,000 home to pay about $50 more in property taxes to District 155.

Board members Adam Guss and Amy Blazier were joined by Ludwig, Pavoris and Secrest and voted in favor of the tentative levy. Blake and Rosemary Kurtz opposed it.

Homeowners, real estate agents and state Rep. Allen Skillicorn attended that meeting to ask board members not to raise property taxes. Those voices didn’t carry the day. Those voices didn’t elect the majority of the district’s board members.

The district’s single largest source of funding – 74.7 percent – is property taxes. After holding the property tax levy flat for two years, the board doesn’t appear willing to do that again, even with fewer students.

District 155 had 7,009 students in 2012. By the 2016-17 school year, enrollment was at 6,257 students, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

While the district has moved to cut costs, in part through layoffs earlier this year, more needs to be done to control expenses. Property taxes are too high.

A staff presentation noted that holding the tax levy flat further limits all future potential tax extensions. This is administrator-speak for “you’re leaving money on the table.”

For taxpayers, an increased levy means your property tax bills are guaranteed to increase every year you own a home in the district.

This is what the majority of voters who turned out to vote this April wanted.

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