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District 161 board approves 2.1 percent tax levy increase

Months of detailed discussions about the 2017 tax levy came to an end when Flossmoor District 161 school board members conducted a public hearing on the levy and voted to approve it.
Action was taken at the Nov.27 board of education meeting.
The levy includes a 2.1 increase based on the cost of living as determined by the Consumer Price Index.  The average homeowner’s increase will be $60 per year.
There was additional discussion during the public hearing before the board voted to approve the levy.  The measure was passed by a 6-1 vote with Merle Huckabee voting against the levy.
Resident Steven Canty of Hazel Crest asked several questions about the benefits and cost to individual homeowners.His inquiry prompted various responses from board members.
John Simmons said there are “a lot if moving pieces” in figuring out exactly what each homeowner would pay. 
Huckabee said, “I am a strong opponent of the tax levy. We have to be careful about giving figures out. I am real cautious about saying it’s a $60 increase. I am also cautious that we have a $30 million surplus.”
Misha Blackman, who said she is a relatively recent newcomer to the district, acknowledged that District 161 generates a large portion of each homeowner’s tax bill.
She added, “I moved here for the schools and we’re going in the right direction.”
Looking ahead, Cameron Nelson stated, “I think this board has considered other things to reduce the tax levy.”  He said there are still many items “this board has on the table” as the new administration implements its plans.
“What is driving higher taxes is home values have gone down since 2008 but other costs have gone up,” Nelson said.
In other business, Superintendent Dana Smith updated the board about results from recent state-mandated testing for lead in drinking water.
All buildings in District 161 were tested. It was found that all water faucets used for food preparation tested below five parts per billion as required by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
However, 27 sink faucets in elementary schools were “slightly above that level” according to Smith.
“All of those faucets were in washrooms,” Smith explained.
It was determined that the issue involved the faucets, not pipes.
“We have turned off the water to all of the sinks and we are in the process of replacing all the fixtures,” Smith said. “Once they have been replaced, the water will be retested” and the board will be updated on the results.
The Flossmoor District 161 Board of Education also recognized students and their instructors from Parker Junior High School who were recently invited to participate in the Illinois Music Association Festival ensembles. The seven students were Liam Nelson, band;  Thomas Cademcian, orchestra;  Avery Calhoon, orchestra; Faye Wettstein, orchestra; Janet Amuh, chorus; Kaylee Rutherford, chorus; and Audrey Simmons, chorus.  They were selected to participate based on an audition.
Parker staff working with the students included Elana Reid, band director; Chuck Torbett, orchestra; and Brett Benge, Falcon Choir.

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