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D-158 not looking for more property tax dollars

HUNTLEY – District 158 is asking for the same amount of property tax dollars for the second consecutive year, a decision primarily driven by the late arrival of a state construction grant.

The district’s flat, $61 million property levy request likely will translate into tax relief for most homeowners in the district’s boundaries because property values in McHenry and Kane counties declined by roughly 10 percent.

But for the ones who didn’t have home values decline, the district’s flat request coupled with declining values mean their tax bills will rise. The district’s tax rate increased by 60 cents per $100 equalized assessed value.

“We are not asking for more money from the community,” said Mark Altmayer, the district’s chief financial officer. “Rather, [the rate] is the result of declining home values, which is driving our tax rate up. I think that is important to know.”

Altmayer presented the district’s levy request to the board during its Thursday committee meeting. Members were supportive of the request, and they will vote on the measure Dec. 20.

The administration was able to request a flat property tax amount after officials finally received a 2005 construction grant from the state. The $39.4 million grant was meant to cover construction costs from the district’s Square Barn Road campus and Marlowe Middle School.

Part of that multimillion dollar grant is being used to pay the district’s construction debt. Because of it, the district is staving off increases to its property tax levy for another year.

The administration also has plans to use some of that $39.4 million to expand Huntley High School, although talks about that from the board have yet to start.

Illinois school districts are primarily funded by local property taxes, but District 158 Superintendent John Burkey said the flat revenue amount will not affect the district’s ability to pay its expenses and keep schools running.

“We still feel we have the funds coming in to operate the district at the level we need to operate for our kids,” Burkey said. “We think it’s the right course to do this year.”

In other business, the board voiced support to keep school registration fees flat next year. But Burkey warned that discussion on creating a new technology fee will start in the coming months.

The potential fee would help the district pay for the district’s emerging digital reading program that incorporates the use of tablets, not textbooks.

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