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Geneva residents lobby for 0 percent levy hike for District 304

GENEVA – Three residents implored the Geneva School District 304 board to approve a zero percent levy increase in its operating fund next month for 2012, instead of the 1.5 percent increase board members tentatively approved.

Taxing bodies in Illinois make their levy requests to the county based on the equalized assessed value of property within the district. Final action will be taken in December.

Sandra Ellis, Bob McQuillan and Jay Moffat, all of the taxpayer watchdog group TaxFACTS, said Monday the district still would get more money than last year with a zero levy request in the district’s operating fund.

A 1.5 percent levy increase would hike property taxes on a home with an equalized assessed value of $315,000 by $340, officials said. The tax rate would increase by .34 to 6.06 per $100 EAV, officials said.

The total levy for all the district’s funds is just less than $81 million. Last year’s levy was $78 million.

With a zero request, Ellis said, the district would get $62.5 million, which is $1.2 million more than the $61.3 million it received in that fund in the 2011 levy.

When the school board voted to accept a 1.5 percent levy increase, officials said they would have to cut more than $900,000 from the budget. A 2 percent recommended levy request would have required a $600,000 cut, officials said.

Resident John Rice said he was comfortable with a 1.5 percent levy increase.

“I know there is a push for zero, but 1.5 percent is a compromise,” Rice said. “I don’t want to be taxed out of the community, but I am an adamant supporter of education. … If you can make zero percent work, by all means look at that, but for me right now 1.5 percent seems reasonable.”

But Moffat countered the $900,000 in cuts is not a decrease in the budget, but rather a decrease in what the district could expect to receive in tax dollars from the levy request.

“I don’t think we truly need that when we’re sitting on … a $57 million fund balance that shrinks to $53 million,” Moffat said. “I personally think we can easily survive with a flat dollar amount levy.”

McQuillan said school boards request the maximum allowed levy “not because they needed it, but because they were afraid not to. The process resulted in over-taxing residents and creating a reserve fund that was way too high.”

“The taxpayers deserve a break,” McQuillan said.

After the meeting, school board president Mark Grosso would not comment on whether the board would consider changing its tentative levy request to zero from 1.5 percent.

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