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District 304 amends levy to ensure special ed funds

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Geneva District 304 board members met in a special meeting Friday to amend its 2013 tax levy in the categorical area of special education.

The board voted 5-0 with two absent to approve levying $1.9 million in transportation, which initially was approved in a levy for special education Dec. 16. Board members Leslie Juby and Mike McCormick were absent.

Officials said because of a lawsuit filed in another district in which the special ed levy was requested after not being filed for a few years, it was better to move to another area of the levy.

Finance Director Donna Oberg said the action would not change the dollar amount of the district’s 1 percent levy increase request of nearly $80 million. In January, officials will move the $1.9 million levied for transportation to the special education fund in a permanent transfer, Oberg said.

“When a district has not levied for special ed for three years, then what’s in question is – and it’s a gray area in the law; it’s an interpretation – then they may or may not be able to levy in special ed. Or it may have to go to public referendum,” Superintendent Kent Mutchler said. “That’s being challenged in court ... to be clarified. And actually, our school attorney is involved in a case like that.”

Mutchler said to be clear, officials are taking advice from their school attorneys and taking action so as not to risk the district being sued over it.

The district had not levied separately for special education for three years, because its cost was covered in the education fund, officials said. But with the reduction in equalized assessed valuation in the district, its education levy reached a limit, board member Kelly Nowak said.

Board president Mark Grosso said the district spends more than $11 million on special education. Putting it in a separate levy allows the district to capture enough to meet the need, while not inviting a legal challenge or a referendum.

“It is not going to change the bottom line,” Grosso said. “We will levy this in our transportation fund, and after next year, we will do an interfund transfer and put it back in special ed.”

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