Published Dec. 18, 2014
Tax levy decision is latest flash
point for D86 board members
By Ken Knutson
Philosophical differences within the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board emerged again Monday night as the 2014 levy was passed.
By a 4-3 vote, the board approved a 2 percent levy increase over last year while also electing to forgo the so-called loss and cost factor applied by Cook and DuPage counties that effectively raises the levy amount.
Board President Rick Skoda and board members Vic Casini, Ed Corcoran and Claudia Manley supported the 2 percent levy and the elimination of the loss-and-cost factor. Board members Kay Gallo, Mike Kuhn and Jennifer Planson opposed both measures out of concern that the district would fail to capture needed tax revenue.
Skoda said rejecting the loss and cost factor would bring equity within the district, which was not the case last year even though the board passed a zero-increase levy.
“Loss and cost in DuPage is at 1 percent. In Cook County, it’s at 3 percent. So last year, even though the Cook County taxpayers are a great minority (in the district), they basically paid a full levy,” he said. “This board did not know last year ... that zero didn’t mean zero.”
Corcoran echoed that sentiment.
“At our local level we should be doing the right thing, and the right thing is to not have a differential tax rate,” he said.
The 2 percent figure was middle ground between the proposals of 1.86 percent reportedly needed to balance the 2015-16 budget and 2.3 percent that would capture tax revenue from new construction.
Before the vote, Bill Eagan, the district’s chief financial officer was asked his recommendation. He responded that, with the current budget showing a potential deficit of $414,000 by the end of December, 1.86 may not be enough.
“If you levy 1.86 percent to deliver what we’re delivering today and I come up short $414,000, I can’t deliver what we’re delivering today,” he said, recommending a .75 percent loss and cost factor.
Skoda retorted that the 2 percent being considered exceeded the minimum needed and that the deficit would likely be closed by late arriving tax receipts. After the loss and cost vote, Skoda moved to adopt a 2 percent levy but failed to gain a second. Planson then moved to approve a 2.3 percent levy. That motion failed by a 3-4 vote. Skoda then resurrected the 2 percent figure, which subsequently passed.
Kay Gallo raised the issue of the district’s mounting legal bills, already at $335,000 for the current school year.
“We have eight more months of legal bills to pay. Where are we going to get that money?” she posed to Eagan.
“That’s going to start to pressure other budgets within the district — travel, seminars, office supplies,” he replied.
Corcoran suggested that a move to equalize the teacher-student ratio between the schools could save the district money. Hinsdale Central’s 13.1:1 ratio is viewed as more desirable than Hinsdale South’s 10.9:1 ratio.
Kuhn pointed out that the disparity arose several years ago when the district decided that course equity required South to offer Latin and other courses available at Central even though class sizes would be significantly smaller.
The 2 percent levy increase will cost the owner of a $900,000 home an additional $81 a year.