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Letter: Current Board Members Not to Blame for High District 308 Taxes

Send your letter to the editor to steven.jack@patch.com

Regarding our tax bills, some may think that the maximum tax rate allowed by the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, (PTELL) is 5 percent or the consumer price index, whichever is less.  I originally thought that too but our government has a different way of applying that law. Go to:  www.revenue.state.il.us.  In Search type PTELL, Select PTAX-1080 Technical Manual and spend a couple of hours  to understand our governments’  thinking.

The PTELL limits individual taxing bodies but does not limit the overall combined tax rate and there are exceptions.  New property value is excluded in the formula used to determine how the CPI will limit the tax rate.    The formula is one that only lawmakers could devise and allows a school  tax rate of 4.848 percent even though last year’s CPI was 1.5 percent. 

Bonds and interest costs are excluded  from the PTELL limit, which is why the District 308 school rate was 6.65728 percent on my tax bill, (others may vary).  The PTELL worksheet for Kendall County revealed that 1.80927 percent of the school tax rate was for bonds and interest because the Levy amount for bonds and interest was 27.2 percent of the School Levy.

The state code has a limit on debt to EAV of 13.8 percent or 15 percent for fast growing districts, but Superintendent Behlow in 2006 managed to convince the Illinois Legislature that District 308 needed a higher limit because 308 would have approximately 25,000 students in 2012. Consequently the legislature took off the limit because a referendum had been passed.  

Note that the 27 percent debt is 12 percent above what is allowed for a fast growing district! The total school enrollment in November 2011 was 17,175, 7,800, (31 percent) less than estimated by Behlow.

The cause for our high tax rate was the building of many schools by the 2006 Referendum, a decline in new construction and decreasing home values.  The Behlow administration using PMA  Financial Advisors projected revenues based on  large EAV increases which would produce revenue, using  the 2006 EAV as a base,  projecting a 15 percent EAV increase in 2007 and then decreasing at 1 percent a year until leveling at a 10 percent increase per year, in 5 years. 

Those projections were overly optimistic and now because of the decreasing EAV, which is now approximately at the 2006 level and still decreasing, thus a higher tax rate is required  for the requested Levy amount.

Taxpayers should understand that the high tax rate now is mainly because of the bonds and interest payments required as a result of the 2006 Referendum.   Current board members, except for Mr. Behrens, were not on the board in 2006, are not responsible for those costs and should not be blamed for the high tax rate.  

Fortunately the new board members stopped the building of a third high school or the tax rate would have been even higher.  The only way now to reduce the tax rate is to reduce expenses by cutting programs that are not absolutely necessary because the bonds and interest still has to be paid. 

If you voted for the 2006 referendum, you gave your OK for these high taxes.

Leland H. Hoffer, Oswego

Rachael B. June 01, 2012 at 05:28 AM
Jane, it seems that you're saying that many of our students have limited potential. Do parents in this district not set a high priority on achievement and success? Yes, Naperville and Winnetka are at higher socio-economic levels than Oswego. In terms of diversity, Naperville high schools have a 69% white student population compared with Oswego's 63%. Pretty close. It does not require special circumstances or a lot of money to educate a child. It takes parents and teachers to provide basic resources and challenging learning environments.
Leland H. Hoffer June 02, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Richard R. I have criticized the BOE in public session for the salary they gave to the Asst. Sup. for Finance and have criticizised them for the salary offered for Superintendent. I advised against using search firms before they started the process so I too blame the BOE for unnecessary salary spending. My letter though delt with the major reason for the tax increase and that was the building costs as a result lof the 2006 referendum which was before this boards tenure.
Rachael B. June 03, 2012 at 08:45 PM
@InterestedParent308 -- Many students worked hard this year. Congratulations to those who earned scholarships! Extremely few of our students are going to top schools. Not to take anything away from their accomplishments, but the OEHS valedictorian and salutatorian are going to U of Kentucky and U of Iowa, with college rankings of 124 and 71 respectively.
Rachael B. June 03, 2012 at 08:55 PM
@ayar -- Walk through any of the elementary buildings (I can't speak for the high schools.). Even substitute teachers have jumped on the jeans band wagon. There's some sort of a donate-a-dollar-to-charity-and-you-get-to-wear-jeans program. $1??? Make it $25 for it to matter. Better yet, drop the program all together and expect teachers to dress as adults and professionals. As for test scores, teachers are to cover the curriculum topics laid out for their grade levels. They have a great deal of freedom and flexibility and should be augmenting the textbook material. Their jobs are to educate, whatever it takes. Teachers have a great deal of
Steven January 08, 2013 at 07:41 PM
If the product of this brilliantly engineered education system results in educated kids, hopefully they'll be smart enough not to settle down in this cespool of oppressively high property taxes! I believe in Karma, and feel the folks responsible will be getting a hefty dose of humble pie sooner than they think. I hope I can be there to enjoy watching them writhe in their self-inflicted misery. They have certainly earned it!

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