Elmhurst District 205 Will Ask for a 4.7 Percent Increase in Property Tax Revenue

One homeowner wants to know why property taxes to the School District have gone up 100 percent in 12 years, while inflation has risen only 39 percent over the same time period.

Elmhurst District 205 School Board members on Tuesday unanimously adopted an overall levy of $95.8 million, an increase of 4.7 percent over 2010, which is based on a consumer price index of 1.5 percent and an amount for new growth.

A large portion of taxes related to new growth is coming from the Elmhurst Memorial Hospital properties, but that money—$1.4 million—will have to be returned if the hospital regains its tax-exempt status.

Board member John McDonnough pointed out that if the district has to return money to the hospital, it will have to do so with interest.

"The interest we'll have to pay on $1.4 million will exceed any interest we will earn (while holding on to the money)," he said. "This whole hospital thing is going to cost us money."

The district is levying more than it expects to receive from taxpayers in order to capture all potential revenue from new growth.

"We expect (to receive) more like 3.79 percent," assistant Superintendent for Finance Chris Welton said.

District 205, like other districts, is facing falling revenues and increasing expenses, Welton said. Interest income is down, state funding is unreliable and likely to decrease and federal funding is flat, while healthcare and other staffing costs, technology needs and energy costs have gone up. The district gets 84 percent of its revenue from property taxes.

"The district is a very service-intensive organization," he said. "Seventy-nine percent of the budget is related to staffing, and that is closely linked to enrollment and the needs of students."

Flat revenues and increasing expenses have resulted in "a structural deficit for schools," he said.

The tax cap limits taxing bodies' annual request for property taxes to 5 percent or the consumer price index, whichever is lower, plus an amount for new growth. It was put in place to force school districts and other taxing entities to get permission from taxpayers, via referendum, to receive more money.

"Our last referendum was in 2006," Welton said. "The district is attempting to stretch the amount of time between referendums with significant budget cuts and staff reductions over the past two years."

The district has achieved a net reduction of about $5 million in expenses over the last two years as a result of budget cuts and fee increases for students.

In related business Tuesday, the board heard a summary of its annual, independent financial audit. Welton said the district, for the fifth year in a row, has received recognition for its positive financial position. A summary of income shows a net increase of $4.15 million in the district's fund balance in fiscal year 2011.

"It was a positive financial year for the School District," Welton said. "This can only be achieved by hard work, budgeting and prudent financial decision making. We continue to comb through the budget to see what costs can be lowered."

But that is no consolation to Elmhurst homeowners like William MacDonald, who spoke during the tax levy public hearing.

MacDonald lives in a 1,500-square-foot, three bedroom ranch house on Madison Street. He told the board that in 1998, he paid $3,800 in property taxes, with a large portion of that going to the School District. In 2010, he paid $7,600 in property taxes, of which $5,200 was for the schools.

"That's a 100 percent tax increase in 12 years—more than 6 percent a year," he told the board. "According to the Federal Reserve Bank, inflation was 39 percent over the same time period. Why does education go up 100 percent and (inflation) go up 39 percent? It speaks to the fact that you haven't managed the (district) very well.

"Over the last 12 years, home values have collapsed, but the taxes you levy have not. Now you want to raise them again."

He said the action was "cruel" to taxpayers, and board members are not willing to ask the teachers to make any sacrifices.

"You are great advocates for the teachers union and administrators, but the taxpayers of Elmhurst have no advocate," said MacDonald, who was the only citizen to comment at the hearing.

concerned citizen December 15, 2011 at 02:42 AM
This racist and elitist statement obviously comes from someone who doesn't know how much D205 gets from the North side industrial Park, car dealers and other businesses. That was the deal they struck and many apartments came with it. Every child deserves an education, Ken, and believe me the north side schools are hardly receiving the benefits that other schools get in the form of donations to purchase much needed equipment. Don't you worry, the children on the north side of town aren't negatively affecting the "gems" of the district or getting more than the others. This town is far too segregated and competitive to let that happen. As for the school board raising local taxes, why not complain to the state that doesn't pay their portion or equally share in the education of students across the state? The School Board is trying their best to manage funds while providing a quality education. I admire their dedication and time for a thankless, volunteer position.
Paul Guerino December 15, 2011 at 03:10 AM
Thank you Concerned Citizen. At least you remember how this district was formed.
Dan December 15, 2011 at 04:32 AM
The ever ending increase in property taxes are a legitimate concern. Take the time to look at what the greatest concern that is reported on the Elmhurst Citizens Survey year after year. People are leaving not just Elmhurst but Illinois, I have a friend that is running for an elected office and he can't believe how many people he comes across while knocking on doors that are making active plans to leave Illinois. We should complain and our represenitives should start listening. Look at all the complaining the Hospital is doing about thier property taxes. I tried to work the numbers to get an idea of the impact 1.4 million would have on a hospital bill. Consider a few hundred rooms 70 percent occupancy 365 days a year, then all the additional folks visiting the emergency rooms. I bet the impact is less then 10 dollars per day per patient which for most people is covered by thier insurance, Talk about complainers. When the Hospital complains about what amounts to less then what they charge for an aspirin they are viewed as good citizens. When a citizen complains about what amounts to 10 percent or more of thier yearly income their told to put up or shut up. Darn that Rosa Parks she should of just stayed off buses. What a complainer she must have been. Maybe she could have just moved to a different state or rode a bike.
Paul Guerino December 15, 2011 at 05:10 AM
Dan. How do we pay for the services that some people have come to depend upon. What constitutes a "common school education?" If you remember the debate over bus fees, the community was divided over what should be paid by whom. If we tax hospitals we are taxing ourselves. If we use a hospital in any community and pay the $10 fee to that town, others that are using our hospital, are paying a tax to our town, It would be a wash. I think that taking and spending this money without the gurantee that it will not be taken back would not be prudent.
Dan December 15, 2011 at 02:10 PM
Paul, For the majority of us that have insurance the hospital fees are predetermined by the insurance companies. I doubt the insurance companies check to see the tax status of the hospital to determine how much to pay them. We already are paying for the property tax component it is just an added benefit to the hospital if they don't have to pay it out. So if people come into town and buy gas and we collect our gas tax that is good because we benefit from those outside our community but if they use the hospital and part of the bill goes to property taxes that's bad? Just to be clear I'm with the hospital. Property taxes in our area are way to high and the system needs to be changed for all of us. Convince me that 1.4 million payed by the hospital has a bigger impact on them then the property tax levels the average citizen is asked to pay.
Paul Guerino December 15, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Dan. All I am saying is , the school district shouldn't spend the money, until after the court case is decided, so we don't have to figure out where to get the money from if the hospital wins.
NancyC December 15, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Texas. Bought some acreage there a year ago just far enough out of town for Property taxes of - $330.00 annually! The weather is fantastic. If you price your property here realistically it will sell.
Dan December 15, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Sounds like a good idea to me. All I'm saying is that soon we will be voting in a primary for reps that could be there for the next six years and we ought to know where they stand on school funding and property taxes. I will go back and check the web sites but last time I looked they didn't have any written ideas about either issue.
Doremus Jessup December 15, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Perhaps a few people who do not have children attending District 205 schools but own houses in the district should run as board members. They could bring a slightly different perspective to the board.
Paul Guerino December 15, 2011 at 06:31 PM
My children are pushing forty. I have run three times since I retired.
nana December 17, 2011 at 05:09 PM
Really, people? Reading some of these posts literally made my blood run cold. All of this hate (and I deliberately chose that word) directed at the school district? Society has chosen this way to educate our children and teachers aren't indentured servants. You get what you pay for in this life. Do you really want your children educated by people who chose teaching because they "can't do"? And those who don't have kids in public school, it is really to society's benefit to have an educated public; it's a shared responsibility. District 205 has a great reputation-when the referendum was passed to re-build York, all of our housing values went way up. Great schools benefit everybody. Merry Christmas, and God Bless Us Every One!
concerned citizen December 17, 2011 at 05:18 PM
BRAVO Nana! We have a lower tax rate than most suburbs and should be happy we live in a wonderful community that takes care of all of their kids, even those that live a little bit across the Elmhurst City border. They all matter. Merry Christmas to you too!
Cincinnatus December 17, 2011 at 06:14 PM
More Dillard: Dillard recognizes that the current method of financing education in Illinois is broken and he is in favor of increasing the foundation level of funding in elementary and secondary education. “We need to simplify the school funding formula and reorganize our schools and school districts to most effectively teach our children.” He also believes that Illinois high schools need to bring back a modernized version of vocational education with a curriculum developed in concert with Illinois system of community colleges. And finally Dillard feels very strongly that more attention and funding is badly needed by our state system of higher education.
Cincinnatus December 17, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Dillard's father was a teacher in Hinsdale.
Cincinnatus December 17, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Dan, Senator Dillard has long campaigned on education reform. He promises to promote a series of “best in class” reforms to be worked out by yet another blue ribbon panel devoted to fixing Illinois’ education policies. “We need to go through the school code line-by-line, not unlike our thorough review of Illinois' criminal statutes just a few years ago. It is imperative that we return the focus of Illinois classrooms to teaching our children those core subjects of reading, writing, history, math and science. Our children don't spend enough time in classrooms and too little of the time they do spend there is devoted to these core subjects. Part of my commitment to improving Illinois' business attractiveness is by producing a better-educated workforce; particularly in science and technology that will be the center point of our future economy.”
Floyd December 18, 2011 at 03:03 AM
Don't look now, but the sewer repair tax ($70 million) is coming to Elmhurst to save the homes in the flood plains. State income tax will also be increasing due to the fine men and women that we have in Illinois politics. I can hardly wait to break out the checkbook.
Paul Guerino December 18, 2011 at 06:22 AM
Cincinnatus quoted, "reorganize our schools and school districts." Sounds like a great idea. BUT WAIT. For those of you who don't keep up with all the DUMB ideas that come out of Springfield think about this one. It died the past year or so. All all the school districts in the state were to be changed.There would be one school district in each county. The six northeastern counties would have new districts created with similar sized populations. Then every ten years or so the districts would be reworked.
Dan December 18, 2011 at 03:50 PM
According to District 205's booklet sent out this year the state of Illinois only funds 8.25 percent of the school budget. The majority of funding comes from property taxes. At what point are property taxpayers paying thier fair share? Over the next few years should Illinois be able to continue to lower the portion they pay to just a few percent? When can we stand up and say enough is enough fix school funding without being labeled "teacher bashers" or"kid haters" ? The problem isn't that property taxpayers aren't paying enough so thier taxes should be raised. The problem is that Illinois doesn't pay anything near thier fair share. Our income taxes have been raised. The school board needs to take the hard route and work to get the increases in revenue from the state government. Maybe the school district could invite the canidates running to represent our area Springfield to an education summit where they could give us an idea where they stand on various education related issues like school funding in Illinois before we elect them to office.
Ken December 19, 2011 at 03:13 AM
That's right, 'citizen', attack anyone who you don't agree with as "racist". Typical liberal retort. A few years back a bond referendum to repair and expand existing schools passed and one month later my taxes went up. Part of the money went to alleviate the overcrowding at Conrad Fisher school. The very next school year the expansion is complete and the school is still overcrowded. Why? According to school officials they have no way of anticipating enrollment for all grades because of the influx of children coming from Bensenville. These students and mostly children of illegal immigrants and I guess my mentioning this makes me a 'racist'.
Paul Guerino December 19, 2011 at 03:28 AM
Ken---The laws of this state say that if you live in the community you go to those schools. If you are unhappy about that, remember, it is a state mandate. If I remember the school code, there is no mention of immigration status. I don't think the school district can exclude a person because of their immigration status. Why don't you check the state school code and get back to The Patch. You can contact the County Superintendent's Office in Wheaton. The people that work there are very helpful.
Ken December 19, 2011 at 03:34 AM
You're missing the point. If our government would stop playing politics and enforce the existing immigration laws these children wouldn't be here overcrowding our schools.
concerned citizen December 19, 2011 at 03:41 AM
Yes, Paul, you are correct. Here is the ISBE rules and regulations. It stems from Federal Law. http://www.isbe.net/pdf/guidance_reg.pdf Is there information somewhere that shows the increase in enrollment at Fischer is due to immigrants? I think the enrollment has gone up at most schools. Do they have the same problem? Is it all right for a community to only expand the schools who have natural-born citizens in them? Should we give more money to schools like Lincoln and Hawthorne because there are more mansions in that area, so those homes pay higher taxes. What is fair in education? Giving each child what they need to succeed no matter what their background, income level, or ethnicity. Not every child wins the birth lottery when they are born. Do they deserve less of an education? I know it is a "liberal" view, but if we paid more into education from preschool on, we would certainly be paying less for prisons. I understand that no one wants higher taxes and many are struggling financially and cannot take the hit. As others have said, however, some of the anger of these posts are directed at the wrong people. Call your state legislature and demand fair funding at the state level. So much of the increase in costs of D205 are state mandates that are not funded. That is where you should be venting, not at the 205 board members and employees.
Doremus Jessup December 19, 2011 at 03:09 PM
It is interesting to note that the hispanic enrollment has increased 72% since 2008 as seen in the district report card . 2008: 7757 total enrollment, 8% hispanic.= app. 620 students 2011: 8054 total enrollment, 13.3 % hispanic.= app. 1071 students. While I am more than happy to pay taxes for any student living within the district 205 boundaries, my hope is that the school administrators are confiming that every student is living in district 205.
NancyC December 19, 2011 at 03:24 PM
School choice is the answer friends but the powerful Teachers union is opposed to that. Public schools have been granted a monopoly and the unions bank on that never changing. If they were even partially interested in parents involvement, they would be in favor of school choice. If they really want to see improvements in student performance they would not make it impossible and illogical to fire BAD teachers. When people are not free to choose where they want to spend their education dollars who suffers and who benefits? The adults are benefiting and the kids and our country are suffering. Support School Choice.
Paul Guerino December 19, 2011 at 11:27 PM
Answer this question. Where does the Mayor of Chicago send his children? Where does the President of the U.S. send his children? By actions, not words, they tell you where they stand and what they believe. The last President who sent his children to a D.C. public school was Carter. Look at the Kennedy family for more private school choice. I can't remember any Chicago leader that used the public schools.
John January 11, 2012 at 03:53 AM
First of all, Stewart, the Board of Education is a VOLUNTEER position, which these members dedicate inordinate amounts of time to because they genuinely care about the quality of education in our system. So no, they're not "paid to sit and think of how to do it on your dime." And as much as you dislike our "Soviet public education," it actually benefits you. Better school districts are big draws for families hoping to settle down, and can eventually catalyze growth economically for regions. As a senior at York, I feel I've received an excellent education which will extend to my post-high school plans. Of course there are things that can change, but I've definitely gained a solid foundation, and I owe that to PUBLIC education. We've never been "explained gay rights" (although I think that would be perfectly acceptable since it is a burgeoning political movement) or that it is "normal to experiment with bisexuality," but we have been taught one thing: tolerance. I hope this is something your homeschooled kids will also learn.
John January 11, 2012 at 04:02 AM
^^^Of course they don't send their kids to public schools. But inner city Chicago public schools and, perhaps worse, DC public schools are NOT the same as District 205. Do you know why Lab School and Sidwell Friends are able to consistently rated top in private schools? Because they have proper funding. We can't expect our Board to face huge deficits, and not take actions to correct it. And further, if we hope to better our own schools, we have to give them a chance. Yes, that costs money.
Paul Guerino January 11, 2012 at 04:48 AM
John. The taxpayers of Elmhurst couldn't afford to support York at the same level as the Lab School. Fees at the Lab School are about $40,000 per child per year. That is about four times what we spend in Elmhurst. Read the Chicago Tribune for Nov. 2, 2011. There is a list of the top 50 public schools in Chicagoland. The top four are Chicago Public Schools. President Carter is to my limited knowledge the only President in the past half century that sent his child to a public school.
John January 11, 2012 at 05:01 AM
^^If you're referring to places like Walter Payton and Northside College Prep, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't those charter schools? I don't think you can use that as a metric to York, because those schools matriculate selectively and also have generous funding. And I'm not saying we have to spend $40,000 per child per year. I'm saying that we can't assail our Board for wanting to raise taxes to remedy a deficit that many of them were not responsible for. We don't need to commit that much money to per pupil expenditures, but we can learn to use what we have more efficiently and also recognize that sometimes excellence requires certain financial sacrifices.
Paul Guerino January 11, 2012 at 06:20 AM
John. There have always been magnet schools in Chicago. Chicago in the 1960's had one very famous magnet school on the north side, Lane Tech. At that time it was all male. There were several others in the city as well. Elmhurst is selective by the very fact that it is a middleclass suburb. When I went to college I was taught that the economic and education backgrounds of the parents would predict the schools success.This is proved when we look at Leyden High School. The school district has a great economic base but the population doesn't have individual economic and educational success. The school's scores are terrible. If we broke our scores down by family level of education and income our scores would be very impressive. We have a changing demographic and it is reflected in our scores. We have to look at the flewed idea that Dr. Krizic pushed of one school with many campuses and face the reality that were are a community of diverse neighborhoods. We are going to have to allocate funds on the basis of need and toss the idea of equal funding if we are going to raise York's scores.


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