New-school tax is just the beginning

For a year now, the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board has considered building a new school in the 5th Ward as a way to accommodate a growing influx of students to the district.

Monday night they learned that the school, along with related projects at existing schools, would require a bond referendum in the amount of $48.2 million. That amounts to an estimated $95 to $137 a year added to the tax bill of the typical owner of a home with a fair market value of $400,000.

But that’s not all.

The district’s chief financial officer, Dr. Mary Brown, reminded the Board that the district is projecting operating fund deficits in future years that range from an estimated $3.3 million in FY 2013 to $8.7 million in FY16.

But not to worry.

The district can ask the voters to approve a “Limiting Rate Increase Ballot Question” that would provide the district with an additional $8 million a year, beginning with the 2011 tax levy.

That would increase the annual tax levy to that typical $400,000 homeowner  by another $303. Put ‘em all together, and the total additional levy per year would be $398-$440.

A suggestion by board member Richard Rykhus that the additions at the middle schools be eliminated from the capital referendum was immediately shot down by other members as “not a complete solution.”

“If we try to whittle it back, who knows what will happen?” warned Andrew Pigozzi.

Suggestions by other members that the administration come up with a new model that would significantly lower the projected deficit for next year met resistance from Superintendent Hardy Murphy, who said that the changes required to reduce the deficit by more than about $400,000 “would not be considered acceptable to this group.”

With the clock ticking past midnight, the meeting was adjourned, and the members agreed to continue the discussion at the next Finance Committee meeting, originally scheduled for Monday but that was postponed a day to Tuesday, Dec. 13.

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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