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Archive → November 8th, 2014

Balich speaking against raising property tax

Tax bump, new superintendent in store for Homer Dist. 33
School board approves tax levy, receives list of superintendent finalists

Will County Board member Steve Balich wields an oversized tax bill on a placard as he addresses the school board in Homer Community School District 33C on Dec. 17. Balich was one of a handful of residents to oppose an increase in the district’s property tax levy. (Patrick Guinane, Special to the Tribune / December 20, 2013)
By Patrick Guinane, Special to the Tribune
12:52 p.m. CST, December 20, 2013
Slightly higher taxes and a new superintendent are in store for Homer Community School District 33C.
The school board got an earful from several residents Dec. 17 before backing a higher property tax levy that is expected to cost the average homeowner about $50 more next year.
Board members later held a closed session to receive a confidential list of six candidates to replace longtime Superintendent J. Michael Morrow, who is retiring in July. School Exec Connect, which received a $16,500 contract to lead the hunt, chose the finalists.
“We were really happy,” board President Angela Adolf said. “They told us we had 45 applicants. They personally interviewed 21 and narrowed that field down to the six that they presented.”
The list is being kept under wraps to protect the finalists’ current jobs, Adolf said. All of the candidates are relatively local, she said, but declined to say whether any District 33C employee made the list.
The board now will schedule private interviews with the finalists with the goal of finalizing a contract and announcing the next superintendent on Jan. 28. Morrow, who has said he wants to spend more time with his grandchildren, is being paid about $182,000 in the final year of his second three-year contract.
The next superintendent can expect some fiscal certainty as the board voted 6-0, with member Cindy Polke absent, to raise the property tax levy by 4.9 percent. The tax hike sounds like a bigger bite than it really is, stressed John Lavelle, the assistant superintendent for business.
A state tax cap will limit the district’s increase to inflation – 1.7 percent this year – plus new property growth, Lavelle said. The estimated revenue boost is 2.5 percent, or $1 million.
Assuming property values fall 5 percent, the owner of a $295,000 home would pay $3,585 to the district next year, an increase of $53. For a few audience members, including retirees who urged spending cuts, any increase was too much.
Steve Balich, a Will County board member, brought a placard emblazoned with an oversized tax bill to drive home his point.
“This is a tax bill. It’s big, and it’s getting bigger because every (taxing) district, every local board in our township except the library is raising your taxes,” he said. “The school district, this one, is raising it the most.”
The district relies on property taxes for 80 percent of its funding, Lavelle noted, and homeowners bear the brunt because area real estate is 90 percent residential and just 8 percent commercial. Meanwhile, 84 percent of the district’s operating budget is negotiated employee salaries and benefits. That, board members say, makes cutting the budget difficult.
“Nobody wants to raise taxes,” board member Patrick Dwyer said. “We want to make sure we have the funding for the kids.”
Lavelle said the district has done it best to curb costs through efforts such as installing more efficient heating, plumbing and lighting; pursuing state grants and keeping buses for seven years instead of five. Some parents, meanwhile, would like to see the district shell out for more.
“The voice that we have here tonight is the taxpayers who don’t want it increased. I understand that, I’m a taxpayer, too,” said board member Ed Campins. “But I’m also receiving a lot of emails saying: Why don’t our schools have full day kindergarten? Find new money for that. Why don’t our schools have world-class art programs?'”