During our meeting on Tuesday, December 19, the District 97 Board of Education unanimously approved the adoption of our levy for 2017. Our decision was based on the extensive research we did on all of the available options with the assistance of the district’s administration and our Finance Oversight and Review Committee (FORC).
Of the options we explored, we elected to set our operating levy for 2017 at the same level as 2016 in order to capture the inflationary and new growth on our capped property taxes. By doing so, we will be able to use the additional $2.5 million we receive via the overage to reduce the debt that taxpayers would have been asked to pay via the debt service levy. This solution, combined with the July abatement of our 1999 referendum bonds, will lead to a reduction of our overall levy for next year by approximately $3 million. We will also be able to capture a portion of the property taxes that are collected in conjunction with the new development in the village. While the fact that it is a reassessment year makes it difficult to predict the total impact this move will have on people’s individual tax bills, the overarching result of this decision is that the percentage of those bills that is attributed to District 97 is expected to be lower than it was last year.
In addition to our decision about the levy, we have elected to not only postpone the sale of capital bonds until 2018, but also reduce the total amount of the bonds that we plan to sell at that time from $10 million to $7.5 million. This move, coupled with the July abatement mentioned above, will result in the bond payment portion of the taxes for 2017 being reduced by approximately $5 million from what was projected prior to the referenda. It will also generate a savings in interest payments of between $100,000 and $200,000, which will help reduce costs and provide critical resources for our schools and students.
Lastly, we want to assure people that our decision regarding this year’s levy does not represent a permanent increase. Our goal from a financial standpoint has been and will continue to be finding ways to meet the needs of our more than 6,000 students, while also working with the administration, our financial advisers, FORC, our fellow governing bodies and the community as a whole to reduce the tax burden here in Oak Park. We realize this is especially important given the recent passage of the new federal tax bill and the continued instability of the state’s financial future. We will keep community members updated on the status of these efforts and the ways they can contribute to our conversation about this topic.
People can access the information about the levy and the bonds that we reviewed and discussed during our meeting on December 19 by visiting http://bit.ly/2kzgctb. People can also send additional comments or questions about our final tax levy for 2017 to our entire board by emailing [email protected]. In the meantime, on behalf of the district, our schools and our students, we want to thank all of the people who took the time to share their thoughts regarding this issue. Your comments, questions and candor reflect your passion, care and concern about the future of our community.