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D161 school board facing complex grant and abatement choices related to 2021 tax levy

Flossmoor School District 161’s board of education and administrators are facing some complicated choices when it comes to its 2021 tax levy.

Associate Superintendent Fran LaBella on Monday, Nov. 8, gave the board of education the first in what she said will be a series of presentations regarding this year’s levy, with more information and a tentative levy vote slated for Nov. 22 before a public hearing and levy adoption on Dec. 13. LaBella said she has been consulting with others to untangle the possibilities of this year’s levy.

“It has my brain scrambled,” she said. “We’re definitely using our experts to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Property Tax Relief Grants, in particular, complicate the choices the board has this year. A 2019 PTRG required an annual tax abatement of $1.93 million for two years, which is expiring this year. That gives the board the option of returning to its pre-abatement figures when calculating this year’s levy, though because those numbers are higher than what residents have actually seen on the tax rolls the past two years it would appear as a significant increase in 2021 over last year’s extension after the abatement.


The board can instead opt to base the 2021 levy on last year’s extension post-abatement, which would keep the numbers closer to those of the past two years but essentially make the abatement permanent.

The board also has the opportunity to get a 2021 PTRG, which would increase its Evidence-Based Funding by $1.72 million. That would require abating $1.89 million a year for two more years, though. If the board takes that grant, they can do so while also making either of the choices regarding the 2019 PTRG abatement expiration.

Adding one more wrinkle to the mix is Senate Bill 508, which seeks a refund recapture. LaBella estimated it could add $750,000 to the 2021 tax rolls.

“We have absolutely no control over that,” LaBella said. “It will go on to your levy.”

LaBella recommended to the board letting the 2019 abatement expire, but taking the 2021 PTRG grant and abating bond and interest for 2021, which falls under a non-capped portion of the tax extension. Then, the district would transfer money from the education fund back into the bond and interest fund to make payments. That option allows the board to maintain what the district has through this year’s levy with as little impact as possible on the taxpayer, LaBella said.

Based on the SB 508 estimate, that option would allow District 161 to have a nearly flat or slightly decreased levy at $24.34 million compared to last year’s extension of $24.37 million, before considering new property. Though the first discussion did not get too deep into new property, LaBella is estimating roughly $500,000 in new property for 2021.

With LaBella’s recommended option, there would be no obligation to abate bond and interest next year, so it keeps tax levels almost the same while giving the board the flexibility of not making the 2019 PTRG abatement permanent.
Board Vice President Cameron Nelson said his concern with this year’s levy is how the risk of inflation on the horizon could impact things. He wondered how the grant, abatements and other factors could impact District 161 “if inflation gets away from us over the next year.”

LaBella said she is planning to present numbers including new property at the Nov. 22 meeting, along with five-year projections for what the choices could mean for District 161’s funds.

The Consumer Price Index is 1.4% for 2021, down from 2.3% the year prior. Under property tax caps, the district is limited to increases of CPI or 5%, whichever is less. So, that 1.4% CPI is how much new money the district can levy, outside of new property.

Other business

  • Eric Melnyczenko, the district’s director of human resources, named the November #AboveandBeyond winners. Tamika Britten from Heather Hill Elementary School and Amy Wagner from Western Avenue Elementary School were recognized for their work.
  • The school board voted unanimously to approve a contract with Desiderio Landscaping Inc. for snow removal on District 161 properties. It is a one-year bid with the option to extend for two years, as discussed Oct. 25. Removal is expected to cost $76,800 the first year and $230,400 total over the three-year period.
  • The school board voted unanimously to approve a contract with Integrity Landscaping for landscaping services. The bid was for one year with an option to extend for two more. It is expected to cost $57,000 the first year and $175,100 total if the district opts for all three possible years of the contract.
  • The school board voted unanimously to approve the hiring of one full-time preschool teacher and one full-time paraprofessional to add a Preschool For All Classroom. Both positions are to be fully grant-funded, according to a report from Jackie Janicke, the district’s director of special education.

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