While Elmhurst residents are getting ready to pay the first portion of their DuPage County tax bills, Elmhurst Unit District 205 School Board officials now know how much money they will receive from the county once the checks have been written.
School District staff told the board Tuesday night that the levy extension for 2012, which will fund operations for the 2013-14 school year, will be $99 million, up 4 percent over last year.
As expected, the removal of Elmhurst Memorial Hospital from the tax rolls impacted the total equalized assessed valuation of commercial property within District 205. Commercial EAV dropped 25 percent compared to last year, a change board member John McDonough called “stunning.”
The total EAV for the district dropped almost 11 percent; residential properties are down 8.5 percent, which is in line with what the district predicted when it submitted its levy request to the county late last year.
Assistant Superintendent of Finance Chris Whelton explained that taxpayers will see a line on their bill called “Pension.” This has nothing to do with the Teachers’ Retirement System, he explained, but instead is a shorthand way of accounting for retirement funds for district staff who are not educators and are part of both the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and Social Security.
Whelton added that IMRF employers have had to increase how much they pay into the system in recent years.
Because the district receives nearly 90 percent of its funding from local taxes and only 7 percent from the state, and because board members said a few state legislators had asked for information on the district’s finances, the board on Tuesday also reviewed a briefing prepared to help lawmakers understand the district’s financial position.
The briefing includes numbers comparing the district to state averages and the Chicago Public School system in areas such as expenditure per pupil, and state aid and other funding sources. Also detailed are the financial pressures on the school system, including enrollment, state mandates, staff benefits and technology that make cutting costs difficult.
And districts have limited options for raising revenue: a referendum, a wage freeze or program cuts.
“This is the math problem,” said board member Chris Blum.
Board members agreed that while the briefing offered much information that would be valuable to lawmakers, the message needed to focus on three issues:
- The state needs to keep its promises about funding education.
- Districts need relief from state mandates.
- Pension reform is overdue.