CALUMET CITY | When the School Board for Thornton Fractional high schools approves a tax levy later this year, there’s a good chance it will be the third time in four years the board asks for no increase in the amount of money it raises through local property taxes.
But District 215 officials admitted Tuesday the lack of a requested increase will be more due to an inability to ask for one rather than any desire not to hit up local property owners for more money.
That's because the Consumer Price Index comes into play regarding how large an increase a school board can ask for when setting its property tax levy.
Illinois law limits increases to either 5 percent or the Consumer Price Index as it exists in December of each year, whichever is lower. Districts can get larger increases only if they get voter approval in referendums.
In recent weeks, District 215 officials learned the Consumer Price Index last month was 1.7 percent, down from 3 percent in December 2011.
“Next year, our levy is probably going to be a zero” percent increase, said district Finance Director Charles DiMartino.
“There’s not much you can ask for when the CPI is that low,” said DiMartino, while also conceding that many taxpayers will be pleased to learn the district won’t be able to ask for much more money.
“Not that taxpayers want to pay any more,” DiMartino said.
In November the district approved a tax levy increase that is 1.114 percent higher than it was in 2011. That was the first time in three years the district had requested any increase in its share of local property tax revenues.
The likely inability of the school district to seek significantly more money from school district residents comes at a time when District 215 Superintendent Creg Williams said he has been told the general state aid public schools receive from state government likely will be cut by about 8 percent.
Williams said that would result in about a $1.3 million loss for the district.
The superintendent also made a point of telling School Board members they should expect to receive more questions from the public in coming months about school district finances.
He cited an effort by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas to print information on the property tax bills that soon will be sent out to better inform people about which governments actually cause their taxes to increase.
“She’s going to try to get people to come directly to us with their questions and complaints,” Williams said.