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Education

Berwyn property taxes unexpectedly jump because of D-100 referendum miscalculation

Cook County reassessment leads to higher EAV than expected

Residents listen as Berwyn South School District 100 Superintendent Mary Havis talks March 15, 2017, at Irving Elementary School about the referendum that was passed by voters on April 4, 2017.
Residents listen as Berwyn South School District 100 Superintendent Mary Havis talks March 15, 2017, at Irving Elementary School about the referendum that was passed by voters on April 4, 2017.

BERWYN – The Berwyn South School District 100 Board of Education held an emergency meeting July 11 to address residents’ concerns about a significantly higher property tax increase this installment after the district’s referendum passed in 2017.

The school board intended to raise just more than $2 million in operating funds from the referendum for District 100 schools and originally estimated when it was put on the April 2017 ballot that the cost to homeowners would be $160 per $100,000 of assessed home value. That projected cost was based on the 2015 equalized assessed valuation.

On June 20, 2018, the results of the triennial reassessment were released by Cook County and showed the EAV of homes in the district went up by more than 20 percent. The tax rate of 4.195 percent did not change, but because home values went up, the tax dollar amount increased. The district requested a levy of $17 million, but it will now receive about $19.5 million.

During the meeting, board President Mark Titzer expressed regret for the district’s miscalculation when estimating the cost to taxpayers. He said he “did not foresee this outcome.”

“I personally regret not further questioning the potential of the levy to exceed the referendum’s intent should the unforeseen EAV go up significantly, which it did,” he said. “I’m personally very sorry that this has all happened. I’m sorry for the anger and frustration that’s resulted from this. But I would ask you all, who are neighbors and fellow taxpayers, for some patience as we determine the prudent next steps.”

Several residents at the meeting said they could lose their homes and were struggling to find ways to pay their tax bills by the Aug. 1 due date. Many people demanded the school district refund the extra money it received because of the increased EAV.

Berwyn resident Teresa Figueroa said her tax bill went up by about $1,200. She said she knows the increase in property value accounts for a portion of the increase, but a big part of it is because of the miscalculated referendum.

“If [the school board] made a mistake, they need to correct it and refund the money because a lot of people cannot afford this,” she said. “I don’t know how people will come up with the money. A lot of people are really angry and desperate. Some are fearful that they’ll lose their homes. We have to pay these tax bills. Cook County doesn’t care what District 100 did.”

Superintendent Mary Havis said the district’s lawyers are investigating options to help taxpayers, including a one-time rebate.

“[The lawyers] are looking at the authority of the board to be able to issue rebates to taxpayers based on their tax payments,” she said.

Titzer explained the board is “early” in the process, and no decisions would be made immediately.

“We’re trying to determine if it’s legal to pay individual taxpayers from the school district’s operating funds. As taxpayers, we aren’t vendors or employees,” he said. “We’re not making actions tonight. We’re not equipped to do that. I know that patience is thin, but [issuing rebates] sounds like a very complex and fraught process, although I understand that it sounds expedient and would be cash in your pocket.”

The board will continue to discuss this matter at its next regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. July 25 at Heritage Middle School, 6850 31st St., Berwyn.

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