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Flossmoor school board approves tentative levy

The Flossmoor District 161 school board voted 5-1 on Nov. 13 to approve a tentative 2018 tax levy that increases 2.1 percent with the Consumer Price Index.
Board member Merle Huckabee voted against the tentative levy, and board member John Simmons was absent. Huckabee said during previous meetings that she was opposed to asking for more tax dollars while the district has around $26.9 million in reserves.
The levy represents the amount of tax dollars that will go toward funding District 161’s operating fund for the 2019-20 school year, about $24,498,796.
The percentage increase is the same as last year and would raise about $470,000 in additional tax dollars. Illinois tax cap rules prohibit a rise higher than the 2.1 percent CPI.
Associate Superintendent for Business Frances LaBella presented her recommended funding model to the board before the vote.
This included projections of a 2.1 percent levy increase for 2018 followed by two years of 2 percent increases and three years of 1.5 percent increases ending in 2023. 
“It’s a conservative model,” she said.
LaBella also presented an estimated pension cost shift. She said the state is reporting $130 billion in unfunded pension costs that school districts may end up paying for, while Moody’s Analytics estimates that figure is closer to $250 billion. 
“The pension problem has not gone away,” LaBella said. “In all the conversations with evidence-based funding, they did not fix the pension problem. It’s still looming.”
LaBella estimated no pension cost shift for 2020 because of the upcoming election that year, but said it could rise to 5 percent in 2021, 7 percent in 2022 and 10 percent in 2023 and 2024.
Based on the pension cost shift and $4 million in future construction projects, the district’s end-of-year fund balance is projected to decrease from about $28.7 million in fiscal year 2019 to about $13 million in fiscal year 2024, according to the presentation.

“We always talked about (how) the second we saw a pension cost shift, life doesn’t just continue to exist the way it is,” LaBella said. “The idea is to make sure that we have enough fund balances in here to start closing our operating budget.”

The board is scheduled to vote on the final levy during its Dec. 10 meeting. A public hearing is not required because the increase is less than 5 percent, but officials say one will be held before the meeting to encourage transparency.

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