The Community High School District 155 Board took action Tuesday night to lower the cumulative property taxes paid by district taxpayers.
Board members approved an abatement that decreases the tax levy by $2 million, and should limit any District 155 tax increase for residents, according to District 155 spokesman Jeffrey Puma.
This is the third consecutive year the board has approved an abatement. In all, District 155 has abated a total of $6.5 million back to the community during this time, Puma said.
“District 155 may be one of the only school districts in the state to do this for three consecutive years,” Board President Ted Wagner said. “Because of solid financial management over the course of the past several decades, we have positioned ourselves to offer taxpayers relief.”
The abatements have helped lower tax bills for District 155 residents by a total of $6.5 million, and residents’ District 155 tax liability has increased at a considerably lower rate than originally levied, Puma said.
District 155 is just one of multiple local taxing bodies that contribute to property owners' tax bills (such as municipal, park district, township, library, fire districts, etc). To abate this year’s taxes, the District 155 board will use reserves in the Working Cash Fund.
“When we first abated three years ago, it wasn’t the norm for taxing bodies to limit taxes in this way,” Wagner said. “District 155 has been a fiscal leader, looking for creative ways to ease the tax burden for our community.”
Superintendent Dr. Johnnie Thomas said the board's action demonstrates the district's commitment to providing quality education for its students without negatively impacting taxpayers.
“The board has a clear understanding that we must balance the educational opportunities we provide to students with the economic realities of our community,” Thomas said.
“We must continue to produce quality students in the classrooms, but in a measured way that does not have a negative financial impact on the taxpayers who support these efforts.”
Budget Cuts, Enhanced Efficiency
Since the first abatement in 2011, District 155 has instituted budget cuts and enhanced efficiencies, allowing the district to minimize tax increases while still creating new education programs for students and seeing improvements in the diversity of courses offered, Advance Placement participation, and standardized test scores, Puma said.
At the Feb. 12 Board of Education Finance Committee meeting, board members and district administrators discussed the abatement and forecasts for the district's long-term financial stability.
While unknowns remain - such as a shift of the pension burden to local taxpayers - District 155’s fiscally conservative operations over past decades has put the district in a position to limit tax increases through abatement.
District 155 also has not asked voters for a referendum during the past three decades, and has received the State of Illinois’ highest financial recognition for each of the past 10 years, Puma said.
The district serves 7,000 students from several cities throughout McHenry and Lake Counties. More than 90% of students from the Class of 2012 continued their education beyond high school, Puma said.