Levies on local taxing bodies' agendas

The Community Consolidated District 181 Board is poised to pass a $67.1 million property tax levy on Monday, Dec. 7.

The proposed levy, which totals $75.1 million when the debt service fund is included, was approved by the board Nov. 9. Richard Engstrom, assistant superintendent of business and operations, presented a so-called “balloon” levy request that would ensure the district captures all availalbe revenue under the tax cap.

Board President Margie Kleber favored the balloon levy approach, noting that the board has the ability to abate tax revenue early next year when the district’s financial picture will be clearer.

“We certainly don’t want to take more than we need, but we want make sure that we’re not hurting ourselves by taking less before we really know how much money we’re going to get,” Kleber said.

Board member Meeta Patel agreed, saying envisioned or potential investments in a permanent administration center, full-day kindergarten and world languages warrant the district not cutting itself off from available resources.

The levy represents a 4 percent increase over last year’s extension, including the 2.3 percent consumer price index and $22.2 million in estimated new construction.

Board member Bill Kotter cautioned the district against asking for the maximum without having a clear plan for the funds.

District 86

On Nov. 19, the Hinsdale High School board approved an estimated 2020 levy for capped funds of $87.8 million. Josh Stephenson, the district’s chief financial officer, had told board members at their Oct. 29 meeting that the levy request, roughly 3 percent higher than the 2019 tax extension of $85.3 million, would give the district latitude as it addresses uncertainty surrounding impending new labor contracts.

“As of right now, I wouldn’t say there’s anything significantly concerning in this report,” Stephenson said as he laid out the financial forecast that informs that levy process. “But I would also caution that we have a lot of questions still out there. We have three negotiations that are in process that need to be resolved.”

The estimated total property taxes to be levied for 2020 are just shy of $100, a 3.35 percent increase over last year.

Board President Kevin Camden said he is wary of the state saddling school districts with unfunded mandates spawned by costs associated with the pandemic.

“I think there’s going to be a budget impact as a result of that,” Camden said. “We’re trying to plan for that in some very conservative estimates.”

Stephenson suggested close monitoring of the economic landscape.

“Probably it would be prudent to revisit this financial forecast early next calendar year to see how things have shifted and if we have a little more clarity on how financials may be trending,” he said.

The board plans to adopt the final levy at its Thursday, Dec. 17, meeting.

Village of Hinsdale

The Hinsdale Village Board is expected to approve a total levy of almost $10.9 million at its Tuesday, Dec. 8, meeting.

The levy for capped funds is $7.3 million, a 3.3 percent increase over the 2019 tax extension. The amount is the most the village expects to receive under the tax cap, which allows for a 2.3 increase plus an amount for new growth, estimated at $19 million.

“We normally need as much money under the tax cap (as we can get) and that’s typically what we levy for,” finance director Darrell Langlois said. “With COVID, we don’t have extra money laying around. We want to maintain reserves.”

Village officials also are conscious of unfinished projects in the 15-year master infrastructure plan.

“We want to maximize our current revenue sources, because anything extra goes to infrastructure projects,” he said.

Because the Hinsdale Public Library is not its own taxing district, its $3.3 million levy is part of the village’s total levy. The library’s request is also up 3.3 percent.

“Though we expect lower on-site programming costs for the beginning of next year, we anticipate a growing demand for our digital titles, which can cost as much as three times as a print copy of the same title,” Executive Director Karen Keefe said.

Funds also are being used to renovate the library, she said.

“We continue to move ahead on capital projects and have taken advantage of being closed to the public or having low occupancy to tackle disruptive projects like a skylight replacement and replacing the ramp in our community meeting room.”