By Martha Stoffel
Property tax rates are falling for O’Fallon District 90 residents, thanks in large part to property value growth, a TIF expiration and fund balance reviews by the board and administration.
The taxing bodies recently received their preliminary tax extensions from the St. Clair County Clerk’s office for the 2018 property taxes. The extension sets the tax rate and is based on the tax levy requests made in December by the taxing bodies and the rate-setting tax base calculated from the Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) of properties in the district. Prior to approving the tax extension, some taxing bodies choose to review their fund balances and abate taxes. That’s exactly what O’Fallon District 90 did at their meeting Tuesday, March 19th.
Taxing bodies, like the City of O’Fallon, took into consideration reserve account balances when setting their tax levy so they do not need to abate taxes during their tax extension review. Other taxing bodies, like the school districts, often set their levy at the maximum increase allowed by the state at 4.99 percent to capture all growth within the district then make adjustments after the extension is sent.
O’Fallon District 90 saw a 5.3 percent increase in their EAV which immediately dropped their tax rate from 3.1648 to 3.1201 based on their original levy request. A review of their FY19 projected ending fund balances during their March 14th finance committee meeting led to the recommendation from Superintendent Carrie Hruby and Business Manager Patty Cavins to abate $200,000. The recommendation was to abate $100,000 from the debt services fund and $100,000 from the IMRF/Social Security fund. Finance committee chair Steve Springer suggested further reductions be considered, and those were presented during the regular board meeting on March 19th.
Springer focused on the abatement of the non-capped funds (IMRF/Social Security, Debt Services and Tort). “The idea is to abate that as much as we can to a point where we cover the obligations that we have and leave some kind of a pad there to cover any kind of contingency that may arise.” The money in each of these funds can only be spent for eligible expenditures within these categories, so the thought is carrying a substantial balance is unnecessary since the district levies for the amounts needed each year.
The second option presented to the board, based on Springer’s recommendation to consider further abatement amounts, was a $230,000 abatement in debt services, $174,245 abatement in IMRF/Social Security and $119,000 abatement in tort. The debt service fund is bond and interest payments, and this amount is calculated by the county based on the payments required of the district. The IMRF/Social Security fund is the retirement for non-certified staff and Medicare contributions, the contributions for the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) come out of the education fund. The tort fund is used for expenditures associated with risk assessment, legal reviews for things like FOIA requests and contract negotiations, liability insurance, legal fees associated with due process hearings and lawsuits, and some security staff salaries.
When discussing the abatement for the tort fund, board member Rebecca Huller said, “I don’t want to abate any money from that (tort fund). We get FOIA’d from the public, we get FOIA’d from our own board members. That creates a lot of time, Jeff’s got to look through all that stuff. On top of the new issues that come. I think abating money out of there is ridiculous at this point.” Huller later indicated she would like to see the reserve fund balance for tort reach at least $200,000. Board member Mary Baskett echoed Huller’s concern in reducing the tort fund balance.
The board voted separately on abating taxes from the debt services and IMRF/Social Security funds. With an approval of 4-2, the board abated $230,000 from debt services. Board members Mary Baskett and Rebecca Huller voted against the motion. They both indicated their overall desire to abate taxes, but were more comfortable with abating a lower amount. Board member Becky Drury was not in attendance. The board voted unanimously to abate $175,245 from the IMRF/Social Security fund. No action was taken for abatement of any taxes from the tort fund.
With the $405,245 in abatements approved by the board, the new tax extension will likely set the rate for the 2018 property taxes at 3.0605. This represents a 0.1043 percent reduction from the 2017 property tax rate. With the recent property reassessments and 1.0337 township multiplier, residents may see an increase to the actual dollar amount on their tax bill, but will definitely see a lower rate for certain taxing bodies.
In other district news:
- Carriel Junior High student Delaney Hall was recognized as the recipient of the Prudential Spirit of the Community Award. This award was given to one middle school and one high school student from each state. Hall was the recipient for the state of Illinois at the middle school level and will travel to Washington DC in May for national recognition.
- The Teacher of the Month recipient was Jami Bossart and Support Staff Member of the Month was Amy Jones. Recipients were nominated by their school principal and voted on by the school board. This month’s awards were sponsored by Todd Stonewater of Edward Jones.
- The board gave approval to the superintendent to begin the process to post positions for an assistant principal at Marie Schaefer, an additional HVAC/Grounds person and up to seven teachers for class size reduction efforts.
- Based on the use of 4 snow days, the last day of school for the 2018-2019 calendar is now Tuesday, May 28th. The district will also have a student attendance day April 2nd, since the county no longer uses the facilities as polling locations, to make up one of the snow days.
- The board also approved the 2019-2020 school calendar. The districts in O’Fallon and Shiloh are trying to align their calendars as much as possible to reduce transportation costs. The board was presented with two calendar options, the difference being Spring Break. Due to mandatory state testing at the high school level on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, OTHS will have a student attendance day on Monday, April 13. OTHS, District 85 and District 104 will have attendance days on April 13, but the District 90 board approved April 8-13 as Spring Break so Monday will not be a student attendance day for District 90.
- The building committee presented the board with a brief overview of projects they discussed at their last meeting, with bids coming to the board soon. Projects included parking lot repairs at most of the schools, roof repair at Fulton, and flooring at Evans.
- The board approved the district’s participation in the property tax abatements incentive for the enterprise zone voting 4 to 2, with Boone and Huller voting against it and Drury absent.