School District 117 hears updates on state budget and local renovations

By Gary Scott on October 20, 2016 at 9:39am

Updates regarding the state budget stalemate highlighted last night’s School District 117 Board Meeting.

Superintendent Steve Ptacek vocalized concerns over the effectiveness of Illinois’ PTELL, or Property Tax Extension Law Limit, legislation. Having looked at data between the early 1990s, when PTELL was established, until now, Ptacek believes the law has had a negative effect on taxpayers.

“If you really look at the PTELL legislation, it has removed the flexibility of districts to try to relieve the burden on the local tax payers. I’m going to be doing a more thorough analysis of CPI (Consumer Price Index) trends over the last twenty-five years, and I’m predicting you’re going to be able to see a trend that those tax rates have been jumped every year CPI has been high. Because PTELL as it’s written forces districts to maximize their taxes based upon CPI, if not they’re penalized tremendously into the future. So this legislation that was designed to tax caps I think has actually had an adverse reaction for the tax payers in the state of Illinois,” says Ptacek.

Ptacek noted that he hopes to talk to as many politicians as he can about these issues in the near future

With the lack of state revenues, Ptacek says remaining conservative with the budget is crucial.

“We have to maintain a conservative budgeting approach to be able to deal with this onslaught of reduced revenues, coupled with some increased expenditures that are coming our way from the state. Many school districts in the area are not in the same situation that we’re in when in comes to budgeting, they don’t have the flexibility that we have. I know that there are a lot of superintendents in the area that, if you lose categorical payments, don’t get full GSA and start talking about a property tax freeze for a couple of years, you’re going to talk about a lot of school districts being in severe economic trouble,” Ptacek explains.

Prior to the regular meeting, the board heard updates on the ongoing renovation project at Turner Junior High. After hitting a snag with the new gym, Ptacek has a much more positive outlook on the soon-to-be middle school.

“The gym’s getting back up and place and they’re doing a great job at trying to get that back on track, they want to have the gym done by next semester. The east side of Turner and the south side, the new sixth grade expansion, are completely on schedule, so we were concerned about the timeline a little bit earlier on and we’re starting to feel much better about the timeline at Turner,” says Ptacek.

As for Lincoln, there were updates regarding a few smaller items, which Ptacek believes will need to be completed over Thanksgiving or Christmas break.