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D65 plans public hearing on proposed tax levy

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They may not need to do this, but the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school district is laying the groundwork for requesting a levy for tax year 2014 that represents a 5.8 percent increase over the 2013 levy.

At a meeting of the board’s Finance Committee Monday night, a proposal was presented to hold a public hearing next month that would meet the requirements of the Truth in Taxation Law.

The district’s chief financial officer, Mary Brown, explained the difficulty of estimating the district’s tax collections, as it involves trying to figure out the value of new properties added to the tax roles as well as how successful taxpayers may be in challenging their tax assessments.

“I always estimate on the high side,” she explained, “because the clerk will automatically reduce the levy if it exceeds the tax caps, but they will not increase the levy if we have asked for too little.”

So she’s assuming the addition of new property with an Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) of $100 million, when the actual amount may be closer to $12.8 million, including new property from the Southwest TIF.

The problem is that the $88,853,154 she is recommending represents a 5.8 percent increase, while anything in excess of 5 percent requires a public hearing.

The newest member of the board, Omar Brown, who is up for election next year for a full four-year term, expressed concern about the public’s perception of such a high increase.

The CFO’s response: “The clerk will reduce the actual levy once the new property EAV for tax levy year 2014 is known, which may not be until the fall of 2015. However, the clerk will never adjust the levy upward if the district underestimates the new property EAV.”

The committee approved her recommendation, which now goes to the full board for approval at its Nov. 17 meeting. After that, the district plans to publish a notice of the public hearing, which could be held on Dec. 15 at another meeting of the full board.

Assuming the board approves the levy at that meeting, the deadline for filing the 2014 tax levy with the Cook County clerk is Dec. 30.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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