U of C Lab School Oct 2016

With this year’s opening of the Meijer superstore, Flossmoor School District 161 is getting a needed boost in property tax revenue.

According to the estimated 2016 tax levy, approved Monday by the board of education, District 161 will take in an additional $909,090 in property taxes, mostly as a result of Meijer, which opened last June in Flossmoor.

Frances LaBella, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, said Meijer’s property value is estimated at $12 million, with an additional $1 million coming from other new property in the district.

LaBella called the addition of Meijer’s tax revenues “a huge increase.”

This year’s capped tax levy for District 161 is $23,461,685.

The tax levy, an estimate of expenditures in the district for the coming year, must be approved by the end of the year and forwarded to the Cook County Clerk’s office.

Approving the levy is the school district’s final fiscal responsibility each year and is a key step in the establishment of property tax rates. The county clerk is expected to release new tax rates in the middle of 2017.

There are a number of factors on the state, county and local levels that go into setting tax rates and, combined, they make the process extremely complicated.

On its most basic level, the two key elements in tax rates are the levy and the equalized assessed valuation (EAV), the total taxable value of all property in the district. But other factors are also part of the levy and tax rates.

Illinois law requires EAVs to be set at 33.33 percent of fair market value. However, Cook County assesses property at an estimated 12.49 percent. So the state adds a multiplier to bring EAV up to 33.33 percent.

Since the early 1990s, the state’s Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) has mandated a tax cap that limits increases in a taxing body’s total tax extension to 5 percent or the federal Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower. The CPI has been below 2 percent since 2013. For 2016, it is estimated at 0.7 percent.

Even with the addition of Meijer, District 161’s overall EAV is estimated to be 5 percent lower than last year’s figure. The district’s EAV has been falling sharply since 2010, when it came to $581.7 million. The 2016 EAV is estimated at $322.5 million. A lower EAV, coupled with constant costs in the school district, has resulted in higher tax rates in recent years.

Monday’s levy approval specified revenues for a number of different funds in the district. The four biggest amounts of revenue will go to the Education Fund, at $13 million; the Special Education Fund, at $1,485,344; the Operations and Maintenance Fund, at $2,045,000; and the Transportation Fund, at $4.6 million. In recent years, it has been common practice to set a higher amount for the Transportation Fund so that money from that account can be transferred to other funds later in the year if necessary.

District 161 conducted a hearing on the levy before it was approved by the board. There were no comments from the audience on the levy. After that, the board approved the levy unanimously, and without comment.

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