D161 approves tentative tax levy after making a shift in response to new information

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D161 approves tentative tax levy after making a shift in response to new information

November 30, 2021 - 20:35
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The Flossmoor School District 161 board of education shifted how it is approaching its complicated 2021 tax levy after receiving new information from the Cook County Clerk’s Office.

The school board voted unanimously on Monday, Nov. 22, to apply for a 2021 Property Tax Relief Grant that would see the district get $1.72 million in state funds in exchange for abating $1.89 million in property taxes for two consecutive years. The board also voted unanimously to approve its tentative property tax levy at $24.76 million, which would mark a 1.62% increase over the 2020 aggregate extension.

District 161 faces complex choices in relation to this year’s levy, after taking a similar PTRG in 2019. The abatements for that grant expire this year, which left the district with the option of making that abatement permanent and keeping taxes more in line with what they have been the past two years, or reverting to pre-abatement numbers, which would appear as a greater increase over last year’s tax extension.

To take or not take the 2021 PTRG added a layer to that choice, and State Senate Bill 508 presented another wrinkle. The bill seeks tax refund recapture, which Associate Superintendent Fran LaBella estimated could add to the local 2021 tax rolls.

LaBella in early November recommended the board let the 2019 abatement expire, but take the 2021 PTRG grant and abate bond and interest for 2021. But she shifted gears Nov. 22, instead recommending that the district apply the 1.4% Consumer Price Index increase to the prior year’s extension before the PTRG abatement, abate $1.89 million for the 2021 PTRG and abate the revenue recapture under SB508, leaving bond and interest alone.

“It’s going to have more or less the same impact,” LaBella said.

The new approach came after information LaBella said the district got from the state that the refund recapture can be abated. The latest numbers from the state indicate that refund recapture will be $658,000 for District 161.

With the levy, LaBella is estimating $500,000 of new property in an effort to capture anything that is out there, though she expects it to be valued lower than that.

“I don’t think you’re going to go over that number,” LaBella told the board. “I don’t even think you’re going to get close to hitting it.”

Under the current plan, the school board will face another pivotal decision in 2023 when the abatements from the 2021 PTRG expire, again allowing the district to make that abatement permanent or return to pre-abatement numbers.

A vote on the final levy is expected Dec. 13, following a public hearing. LaBella’s full presentation, including options the board has and five-year forecasting, can be found here.

School board approves vaccine requirement for staff
The school board voted 5-1 to approve a Memorandum of Understanding regarding a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all staff members. The board previously discussed implementing a requirement in September.

Staff members with religious and medical exemptions on file, pending administrative approval, will continue to test regularly, according to Superintendent Dana Smith. Along with the agreement, the district is to provide each Flossmoor Education Association staff member with a $750 recognition stipend, regardless of vaccination status, for going above and beyond. It is to cost the district a total of $258,000.

Board Secretary Christina Vlietstra cast the lone dissenting vote.

"I do not believe any person should be forced, for any reason — especially not for terms of employment — to receive any medical treatments such as a vaccine," Vlietstra said. "It is unethical for us to ask that of our employees."

Other Business

  • Superintendent Dana Smith said the district saw 60 adults and 56 children get COVID-19 vaccination shots on Nov. 22 during Flossmoor School District 161’s first clinic event at Normandy Villa. The event was open to families and staff of both District 161 and Homewood School District 153. First and second doses, as well as boosters, were available during the clinic. Another clinic is slated for Dec. 16.
  • The district is considering extending its agreement with SHIELD to provide COVID-19 testing in its schools. The existing agreement expires on Dec. 31. Jackie Janicke, District 161’s director of special education, presented the board with the possibility of amending the agreement to test until June 30, 2022, to finish the school year. The item was for discussion only on Nov. 22.