D.36 OKs 3 percent levy hike
Updated: December 10, 2012 6:34PM
WINNETKA — The Winnetka Public Schools District 36 board approved a 3 percent levy increase Tuesday, but not before hearing from residents concerned about their rising property tax bills.
According to a memo from district Chief Financial Officer Susan Pingitore, the district’s anticipated levy increase will be $1.02 million without new growth.
The same memo states the district is estimating $16.5 million in new growth during the levy, compared to last year’s new property value of $14,472,250.
Resident Jim Wyant joined others during the public hearing in voicing their concerns over the district, with very healthy reserves, continuing to ask for the maximum levy amount possible.
“Since 1997 (the consumer price index) is up 38 percent,” Wyant said. “Taxes for District 36 are up 122 percent (in that time). Enrollment is declining yet staff rates are rising. Everyone outside of academia is being asked to tighten their belts. When we go to work we hear about downsizing. As a taxpayer it’s hard for me to understand how you can ask for the maximum amount of increase in light of these facts.”
Pingitore said the school relies heavily on local property tax dollars for funding. She said the 2013 fiscal year budget estimates 95.9 percent of the education fund will come from local property tax dollars while receiving very little state and federal aid.
Board member Matt Hulsizer admitted previous boards overtaxed residents, but said the current board could look at options such as an abatement or paying down existing district debt.
Board member Tom Shannon was out of town, but joined the discussion by phone. He left before the final vote was taken.
“Given the size of the reserves that we have, forgoing a levy increase for one year feels like a no-regret move and in the future we can proceed to a full array of options,” Shannon said. “I’m not sure I agree with the argument if we forgo a levy for one year that we’ve given up on tax revenues in years after.”
Pingitore said the district could ask the board’s bond consultant, Elizabeth Hennessy of Blair & Company, to present future financial options to the board at a later date, with many board members appearing in favor of hearing such information.
Resident Dan Streiff felt the tax levy presentation lacked key information such as staffing levels and worried about upcoming negotiations with the teacher’s union.
“From my perspective, (the teacher’s union) has run roughshod over this board in recent years,” Streiff said. “They’re looking at the huge cash balance. I’m very concerned about that.”
The levy was passed 5-0 with Hulsizer, Jon Kaplan, Beth Moritz Filip, Susan Crowe Whitcomb and William Meuer voting yes. Board president Dana Crumley was absent.