BY CAROL ROEHM
District 118 school board members Wednesday decided to hold the line on taxes that could result in homeowners paying less to the district next year, but at a cost of more than $700,000 in lost revenue to the district.
The district’s equalized assessed valuation is expected to decrease 5.42 percent for 2012, rather than 9 percent as previously projected. The change is due to a 4.11 percent multiplier the state added to temporarily decrease the value of the area’s properties. That temporary multiplier has expired.
Even without the 4.11 percent multiplier, the district still anticipates a total loss in tax revenue of $712,577 with the tax rate for the 2012 levy that the school board set Wednesday night.
“We’ve tried very hard to keep taxes less,” Superintendent Mark Denman told the board.
Business director Heather McKiernan concurred, saying, “To be quite honest, we can’t sustain any more losses. I don’t have any more money to take from anywhere.”
Still, board members voted down 4-3 an initial recommendation to set the tax rate at $5.19 per $100 equalized assessed valuation, which would have amounted to a loss of $325,314 in property tax revenue to the district.
Board members Frank Young, Gina McGuire, Dan Brown and Steve Bragorgos cast the dissenting votes.
“Why do you think the EAV is going down?” Young asked McKiernan. “Foreclosures. People are hurting. People can’t pay their taxes.”
Board members approved in a 4-3 vote a second recommendation to set the 2012 tax rate at $5.07 per $100 equalized assessed valuation, which is payable in 2013 and is a slight increase from the current tax rate of $5.03. Casting the dissenting votes were Dr. Randal Ashton, Greg Hilleary and Bill Dobbles.
Although the tax rate is virtually the same as last year’s, homeowners could see a decrease in the amount of tax they will pay to the district due to the lower equalized assessed valuation.
With the district’s equalized assessed valuation projected to decrease by 5.42 percent, a $60,000 home could possibly decrease in value to $56,748, so even with a slight increase in the tax rate from $5.03 per $100 equalized assessed valuation to $5.07 per $100 EAV, the homeowner could see a decrease of about $47 on his or her tax bill next year.
If the area’s equalized assessed valuation decreases more than the projected 5.42 percent, or the state adds a new multiplier on area property values, the district will collect only tax money based on the actual equalized assessed valuation determined in the spring.
Ashton said Wednesday night’s debate about the tax levy “underscores the need for tax reform in this state.”
Two years ago, the area experienced a 4.14 percent decrease in equalized assessed valuation, which amounted to a loss of $650,759 in property tax revenue collected by the school district in 2011.
Last year, the area’s equalized assessed valuation declined 5.87 percent, which amounted to a loss of $917,678 in property tax revenue collected by the school district this year.
McKiernan said the district has lost $2.3 million in potential property tax revenue since 2008 due the equalized assessed valuation declining 12 percent during the same time period. In addition, the state still owes the district $1.8 million in state-aid reimbursement payments.
Also on Wednesday, the school board:
The district purchased these properties from the county at a surplus auction. The four Jackson Street properties cost $600 each, while the property on Sidell Street sold for $2,600.
Three of the properties have abandoned homes on them and two lots are vacant.