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D-200 approves levy for next year, property taxes will likely increase

WHEATON – Area homeowners will likely see their 2013 property tax bill increase after the Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education approved its 2013 tax levy 6-1 at a Nov. 13 meeting.

The 4.81 percent increase was previously assumed in the $153 million 2013-14 budget passed at the end of September. The levy is the largest funding source for the district, totalling 69 percent of revenue in the 2012-13 school year, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Bill Farley.

The percentage represents the comparative dollar increase over last year's collection, Farley said. That means that the district hopes to collect 4.81 percent of additional revenue over last year's roughly $120 million.

However, most of the levy likely will not be felt by the taxpayer, Farley said. The district can legally only raise rates on current residents by either five percent or the amount of the previous year's inflation-measuring Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower.

In 2013, the CPI was set at 1.7 percent by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meaning that the average taxpayer will pay far less than a 4.81 percent increase.

The remainder of the gain will come from possible revenue generated by new property in the district, Farley said.

"We make sure, when we levy, we capture the new growth in the community," he said.

New construction is not held to the same CPI-based cap, so with that growth, the district can bring in additional tax dollars. Farley said that developments such as the new Mariano's in Wheaton would benefit the district.

Still, he did not anticipate that the district would get the full 4.81 percent, as new construction has historically added about one percentage point to the CPI.

"What our proposal is is always higher than what comes in at the end of the day," he said.

In recent years, development revenue has dropped from about $30 million to $20 million annually.

Only one board member, Jim Gambaiani, voted against the increase, saying he struggles with the topic every year.

"I think there's a happy balance in regard to using this as a vehicle to capture as many tax dollars as we can," he said, "but it's also incumbent for us to manage our expenses. So in the spirit of the levy and the ability to capture 'tax to the max' as I call it, those policies I can't support."

Board member Rosemary Swanson said that before the cap system, it was easier for boards not to raise taxes without feeling pressured by possible unforeseen needs. Board member Jim Mathieson said that, while it wasn't a perfect situation, raising taxes by small amounts every year could account for large future demands.

"If we get an enrollment spike, and that enrollment spike continues on for many years and you left dollars on the table, then how do you educate those extra students?" said Board President Barbara Intihar.

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