NLSD122 Approves Estimated Tax Levy Resolution; Not All Board Members Agree

Taxpayer burdens are cause concern when it comes to approving a tax levy at NLSD122.

The New Lenox School District 122 Board of Education approved the 2012 tax levy estimate resolution Nov. 28, but not without discussion about the burden taxpayers in New Lenox face.

Approval of the estimated resolution—a total levy of $45,431,208—was achieved by a vote of 5-2. The two naysayers, Board of Education Vice President Sue Smith and Board Member Maureen Broderick, asked for more information about the financial consequences of holding the line on taxes. Last year both Smith and Broderick opposed the 2011 tax levy.  

The current proposal is 4.03 percent or just over $1.75 million over last year's rate, according to business manager. This translates to a $45 increase for the average owner of a $230,000 home. The average homeowner in New Lenox is currently paying roughly $2,500 a year in taxes to keep the district's 12 schools operating.

Broderick asked administrators to prepare alternative proposals; ones that reflect a reduced tax burden on the community. She requested some financial scenarios be prepared in time for the board's workshop session on the district's financial operations on Dec. 6.

Smith said she was concerned about the burden on the taxpayer as well. She told administrators, "show me the pros and cons" of reducing the levy. Smith directed Supt. Michael Sass and Huang to try to find budgetary cuts.

At the meeting, she said, "I just basically think it unsustainable. I don't think increasing the tax levy every year is sustainable." Pointing to the economic strains that families have endured over the past four years, she said, "I don't think it's sustainable….my responsibility is to the taxpayer too."

Broderick later said she is hoping that fresh "brainstorming" might stir some creative ways to cut the budget and reduce the levy before the actual vote, which is scheduled for Dec. 19. On the heels of an Illinois Board of Education Convention, Broderick said she had attended a tax levy workshop in which some alternatives to raising the levy to the maximum were introduced. "I asked for the Power Point," she said, "and I gave it Harold (Huang).

Smith echoed the same sentiment, adding that "I'd just like to see if we froze the levy, what would it look like."

She later said she didn't want to disrupt the classroom or the programs, she was attempting to see if administrators could sharpen their pencils and find other ways to trim the overall costs of operations. She took the moment to add that she felt the existing pension system is too generous.  

The problems that come from failure to levy to the fullest is complicated, said Sass. Noting that the school district is already carrying a $2.6 million deficit, if the district opts not to increase the levy, it loses out on additional revenues due to commercial growth as well. Without an increase, the district's deficit would rise to "$4.1 million."

The deficit increase along with the ongoing cuts in state funding makes an increase in the tax levy even more imperative, he said. If the levy were not increased, the district stands to lose $794,000 for 2012-2013 and another $1.588 million in 2013-2014, according to Sass. "We have the leanest district office than anyone you'll find."

In a later interview with Patch, Board President Nick DiSandro, who voted "yes" to the estimated levy, said, "No one up there is in favor of upping the taxes. But we've already got this large deficit, and we're left with very little choice.

These kinds of public discussion, said DiSandro, are ultimately healthy.

Huang noted that NLSD211 is not alone in this financially difficult situation. While each district has its own unique circumstances, the slicing the state makes in pay out to school districts is wreaking havoc on school district budgets statewide.

On Dec. 6, the NLSD Board of Education is scheduled for an intense financial workshop, the actual tax levy is expected to e adopted at the regular board meeting on Dec. 19.

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What a joke December 07, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Tonight I watched the District 122 meeting on TV. I wanted to watch it because this article was a bit unclear. What I witnessed was a full blown joke. I Have never seen a school board so afraid to communicate their feelings openly. To be made a fool, shot down and ridiculed by the Superintendent was a joke. I really wish they had a link for people to sit down and watch the meeting. Your mind will be made up for the upcoming election real quick.
Mrs. Featherbottom December 07, 2012 at 04:55 AM
When was the last time you were in Central during class change? I graduated in '04 and let me tell you, we needed another school. We had no room in the hallways for all the kids and no room to expand onto the school.
Nikki Sanders December 07, 2012 at 02:47 PM
A public apology is is order from Mike Sass to the members of the School Board he publicly attacked for asking questions and not conforming to his opinion. He needs to remember they are the elected representatives of his employers, the taxpayers. Also, lets ask Harold to recalculate that estimated $45/household increase in the proposed levy. There is a significant overall reduction in the TOTAL EAV of the district, and this will significantly increase this number. Be honest with us, folks.
al martineck sr December 07, 2012 at 04:08 PM
You are 100% right i have grand children in this district so i have to protect them but im at retirment age and i cannot afford this school districts taxs. i have homes in other states and believe me this ill is out of site compared to the others.... its time changes need to be made at the offical levels. no one pays for my retirment we should not have to pay for theirs. school reform is a must
Marie December 08, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Absolutely right, Nikki. But I wouldn't rely on the government body which is imposing the tax levy to be completely forthcoming about how their requested tax levy will impact the taxpayers. I think some answers are needed before the Dec 19 meeting. And on the temperament of the administration: probably one of the reasons why the public does not get as involved as it should with their school district, but the school board members should speak up for us and not cower.


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