Remember August 2018

Members of the Board of Directors for Flossmoor School District 161 began discussion on the 2019 tax levy that will go toward funding the 2020-21 school year.

During a Sept. 23 meeting, District 161 Finance Director Frances LaBella overviewed this year’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), which determines the amount of new tax dollars that can be accessed outside of new property.

LaBella said the CPI is 1.9 percent this year, down from 2.1 percent the past two years, and she recommends the board approves the full CPI levy.
“All in all, the bill is going to be 1.9 percent higher than the prior year,” she said. “That’s it; that’s as much as you can get, except for new property. Any new property that comes on, you can put on the full rate.”

The 1.9 percent rate would bring in about $530,000 additional tax dollars for a total of $24,580,428. The total includes $1,000,000 estimated to come in from new property.

The school board must approve the levy and submit it to Cook County before the end of the year. The county uses the tax levy to calculate local property tax rates. Several factors play into the complicated formula making up the levy, including school district spending, the overall assessed valuation in District 161 and a state multiplier.

Board member Cameron Nelson said taxpayers might be unhappy with a full CPI levy, but county and state finances are the source of most of the frustration.
“CPI is what we’re limited to, and I think it’s the only decision we can make at this point,” Nelson said. 
LaBella said that even freezing or reducing the levy would not guarantee Flossmoor residents’ tax bills would not increase.
“That’s just what it is,” she said. “That’s the system that we’re stuck in.”
LaBella explained how PTELL (Property Tax Extension Limitation Law) changed the way tax rates are determined in Cook County. 
Taxing bodies used to see increases coinciding with rises in property values. Since 1994, PTELL has enforced a “tax cap” so that rates are limited to changes in CPI, and yearly increases can be no more than 5 percent.
The CPI has been around 2 percent since 1999, LaBella said.
She also explained that the state’s property value assessments affect the levy as well.
Cook County is divided into three sections; the north side of the county is currently being assessed, and the south side, including Flossmoor, will be assessed in 2020. Chicago will be up the following year.
“Our turn comes next year, which is why I’m watching the north side very carefully,” LaBella said.
Another figure to pay attention to is the state’s multiplier, which was 2.91 for 2018. 
The multiplier is applied to assessed values to obtain EAV (equalized assessed value). It is intended to bring assessments up to 33.33 percent, or one-third, of fair market value for comparison purposes. Other counties in the state are assessed at one-third of fair market value, while Cook County properties are assessed at 10 percent for residential and 25 percent for commercial. 

The multiplier can cause EAV to decrease, but property tax appeals are another factor, LaBella said. This year, the district was hit with $1.4 million in appeals dating back to 2013, which comes out of current year collections.

The FY 2020 budget, which anticipates $35,480,215 in revenue and $35,971,498 in expenses, was approved Sept. 9.

The board must approve a tentative levy by its Oct. 15 meeting and publish a copy with any changes by Nov. 12. The board will host a public hearing and vote on a final levy on Dec. 9. 

Board President Michelle Hoereth said levy discussions would continue at the finance committee level, and if board members had further questions, it will be placed on the agenda again for discussion during a regular meeting.

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