Education, Local News

District 153 loses nearly $2 million expected from 2022 referendum

Homewood District 153 expects to see only half of the $4 million in additional revenue it anticipated receiving from the 2022 school funding referendum. 

The culprit is the reassessment of property done every three years. Taxes are collected based on the Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV). For District 153, EAV dropped 9%.

Shock and dismay have set in among the school board and administrators who were counting on that $4 million to achieve three things — eliminate the budget deficit, help replenish the district’s savings, and cover the costs of improvements to Willow, Churchill and Hart School buildings.

At the school board’s Oct. 10 meeting, President Shelly Marks said the reduction is happening “through a perfect storm” of state and county laws. She pledged that the district will continue to meet the needs of the students.

District 153 Superintendent Scott McAlister tried to look for a positive to the news noting the district is expecting to see $2.1 million in new tax money, but “through very unfortunate circumstances, we did not receive the ($4 million) revenue we expected. To put it mildly, this is incredibly disappointing and frustrating, and incredibly disheartening,” he said.

Property owners agreed to raise the limiting rate by $1.20 per $100 assessed value. The referendum committee used 2020 tax information to calculate what the district would receive. State law complicates the issue, McAlister said, because the district could list the rate of increase to the fund, but couldn’t spell out that the district wanted to collect $4 million.

This year the Cook County assessor reassessed property in the South Suburbs and property values in District 153 dropped 9%, according to McAlister. The 2020 Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) of property in District 153 was $348 million.  Under the county’s new 2022 figures, it is now $317 million.

“We didn’t expect it to increase but we certainly didn’t expect a decline of this magnitude,” he said. 

McAlister consulted with Bloom Township School Treasurer Rob Grossi, who handles investments for the district. Grossi reported the South Suburbs’ EAV decline the past few years is unprecedented.

Complicating it is the drop from 3 to 2.7 of the multiplier the state applies to equal out property values across Illinois. That also impacted the EAV, McAlister said.

“We’re going to try to see if there’s anything we can do about this, but at this point this is the answer we’ve been given,” McAlister said. “But we’re not about to throw up our arms and say it’s what it is. We’ll make attempts” at trying to get the state or county to make adjustments.

Chief School Business Official Eric Trimberger said he doesn’t believe the district will need to amend its recently adopted $31.8 million budget.  The district will receive a portion of the referendum money on the second installment taxes, and an additional $745,000 in “recapture” revenue that was lost due to appeals and/or errors. The new referendum money “balanced our structural deficit, but it doesn’t achieve the other goals of the referendum,” he said. 

Cook County is late in sending out tax bills, but Trimberger believes the district will start receiving tax revenue in November and will be able to cover its bills and payroll.

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