JSD 117 Ballooning Tax Levy to 15% to Capture New Construction

By Benjamin Cox on November 18, 2023 at 9:05am

Jacksonville School District 117 is going to ask for a balloon increase of 15% for its tax levy in the coming year.

The ask from the county will be just north of $27 million.

During the levy presentation to the District 117 Board of Education, District Treasurer Richard Cunningham says the ask is to cover several specific costs: “Long-term needs and the tax levy is kind of the reason why we do what we do to balloon the levy. [We want to] increase salaries in consideration here to retain highly-qualified staff across all levels. Health insurance costs, as you might know, have been going up. Increasing property and casualty insurance premiums which are just kind of going up all over the place. We have ongoing maintenance needs on existing buildings with increased labor costs and material costs. The increased costs for transportation, and the big reason why we have to increase the levy is that we don’t have a debt service extension base, so the district does not have the ability to take out bonds to cover expenses if there ever is a shortfall in any funds. We want to capture as many dollars [with the levy] as we can legally.”

Superintendent Steve Ptacek says the reason for the balloon levy is to ensure that district captures the maximum amount of tax revenue on the new construction taking place within District 117’s boundaries: “The dollars that we capture every year is limited to either CPI (Consumer Price Index) or 5%, whichever is lower. So, the dollars that we are going to collect [with the tax extension] from the existing property will be limited to a 5% overall. The reason we ballooned it so high is that we do know there are wind turbines in the area and solar farms in the area, and we honestly have no idea or understanding of the value of those and what impact that is going to have on property taxes. Therefore, we ask for this extra 10% to cover the value of those. The only reason we are asking for so much is because of the unknown in the new construction at this point in time. That new construction portion is not going to have any impact on the property tax payer who owns existing property here in town.”

Ptacek says that because District 117 is a Property Tax Extension Limited district, they have to ask for the maximum amount in order to not shortchange the district’s finances in the future, because they won’t be able to go back and capture that tax revenue in the future calculations.

Ptacek provided the board of education a spreadsheet of numbers that provided tax extension number from the past district during the levy presentation. The extension is the actual amount the district receives from property tax each year. The spreadsheet showed that if the district had under asked or abated a half million dollars from their extension in 2012, the district would have missed out on $6.2 million in their current year’s tax revenues. To put that into perspective, he said the district wouldn’t have had the money, even with the bond sale on the sales tax revenue to complete the Washington Elementary renovation.

The District will now post a truth-in-taxation hearing notice on November 30th because the levy has increased above 5% from the previous year. The hearing will allow the public to directly question the board on finances and where the extra tax revenue will be used.

The truth-in-taxation hearing will be held on Wednesday, December 13th where the public is allowed to request more information on why the ask was so high as well as question figures from the district’s finances. The hearing will be followed by the board adopting the balloon levy to be submitted to the county. Last year, the district received just under 22% of its total revenue from local property tax revenues.