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D122 officials OK tentative $43.4 million balloon tax levy

The New Lenox School District 122 Board of Education met Nov. 15 to discuss its 2017 tentative tax levy of $43.4 million, a 3.7 percent increase over last year’s extension.

Business Manager Bob Groos said the amount is a balloon levy, which is a common practice by which the district requests higher revenue and a calculation will later determine how much funding is extended before it is capped.

With a 3.7 percent increase, the owner of a house valued at $250,000 could see an approximate $106 increase in the amount of taxes due to District 122.

“The property values of homes in New Lenox are expected to go up by about two-and-half percent this year, so if you make that assumption with the different tax rates and everything, that’s how we come up with that dollar amount,” Groos said.

An estimated $879,000 of the anticipated increase in revenue is attributed to a change in the consumer price index, or rate of inflation, of 2.1 percent, which remained consistent from last year.

Another increase in revenue is predicated on District 122 having experienced $656,000 in new property growth, which is not threatened by current legislation.

If Senate Bill No. 857 introduced in Springfield earlier this year were to pass in January 2018, the district would not be permitted an increase in funds thereby losing $879,000 in revenue for each school year the proposed property tax freeze is instituted. Current laws in Illinois stipulate that District 122’s extension can rise by 2.1 percent.

Superintendent Peggy Manville stressed how important it is to encourage lawmakers to vote against this piece of legislation and said the district has been fortunate enough to create a surplus over the years to pay for improvements without acquiring more debt.

“I totally get why [legislators] would want to do a property tax freeze, but ultimately, if you do, that money—as you’re saying how it compounds—you’re losing as a school district,” she said. “Eventually, to do those renovation or do your HVACs or all that, you’re going to have to sell bonds and add more debt. That’s why we’re trying to impress upon them that just leave them alone, so that we can manage it without having to acquire more debt for the taxpayers.”

To date, there are 16 different bonds to pay off.

Groos said in addition to the regular operating levy, the district had a 2016 debt service extension of $8.7 million, which goes toward bond payments.

That amount is anticipated to rise to $9.6 million in 2017, which makes for a $900,000 increase.

In a unanimous decision, the board advanced the tentative adoption of its tax levy and the publication of a notice.

A public hearing and another vote on this matter will be held 6:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at 102 S. Cedar Rd. in New Lenox. The following day the district’s tax levy will be submitted to the Will County clerk.

Board of Education approves boundary changes

Also at the meeting, the Board of Education weighed in on the controversial boundary changes that could impact some of the district’s families in the coming years.

The board’s decision to approve the plan focuses on residents south of Francis Road, north of Route 30 and east of Schoolhouse Road and nearest to Tyler School. Board Member Michele DeGroot Rosenfeld cast the lone dissenting vote.

Several D122 parents approached school officials with comments prior to the Board of Education taking action, describing the proposal as a “Band-Aid” only meant to cover up the issue.

“The concept of the Band-Aid, if you want to say it’s a Band-Aid, [it’s] in terms of more things are going to happen but not a Band-Aid in terms of [what happens to residents of the] Hibernia [subdivision,]” Manville said.

None of the current District 122 board members reside in the areas impacted.

Several residents questioned why these subdivisions were selected to be part of the proposed boundaries changes.

“The part is it was a better-fit, in terms of we could move less kids with Hibernia,” Manville said. “There was still going to be good enough growth to keep Tyler/Bentley [schools] going, and the reality is in 10 years—I would assume as Haines/Oakview [schools] starts to age out—you’re going to move Boulder Ridge and Fox Borough and all those [subdivisions.] They’re going to be on the other side of Route 30 eventually. It doesn’t make much sense to move all of that subdivision now. … That, I’m sure, will eventually go into the Haines/Oakview area.”

Manville stressed that she understands the matter from a parents’ perspective and said one of her goals is to limit any resulting impact.

“The goal of choosing these subdivisions is that they are right next to Tyler/Bentley [schools,] so the hope would be that in five years, if more moves have to be made, that that area won’t move because they’ll be staying clustered in that middle area,” she said.

The district’s boundary changes are meant to prevent further movement for a period of at least 3-5 years if not longer, according to Manville.

“We could sit and wait, and we could say, ‘Let Bentley/Tyler [schools] continue to lower in enrollment, let it get more full at Spencer [campus,]’” Manville said. “We could wait, and we could wait, and we could wait. However, the reality is two-part. Of the issue is not so much even the boundary, it’s about making sure the campuses are as even as possible.”

Manville negated the idea that District 122 has not executed any long-range planning and referenced the board’s decision in May to purchase a 40-acre site of farmland on Cedar Road, right across from the Spencer campus.

“Part of that was just to make sure that 10, 20 years from now, if [the board] needed to build a building, they would,” Manville said.

DeGroot Rosenfeld acknowledged that this was a difficult vote to cast.

“We’ll move forward from there now that the boundary changes are going to happen, and I just want to say that I feel very confident that these children will be taken well care of at Bentley and Tyler [schools,]” she said. “[I] know that they will be successful in whatever school they’re at in the district.”

Board President Bill Pender said he is glad the board had more time to review the district’s situation.

“It was the right decision,” he said.

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