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Hinsdale District 86 Board approves flat property tax levy

About 300 people attended the District 86 meeting at Hinsdale South High School where the School Board approved a flat tax levy. | Kimberly Fornek/Sun-Times Media  Dec. 16, 2013

About 300 people attended the District 86 meeting at Hinsdale South High School where the School Board approved a flat tax levy. | Kimberly Fornek/Sun-Times Media Dec. 16, 2013

About 300 people attended the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board Monday, many to voice their opinion on the plan to approve a flat 2013 property tax levy.

The board voted 4-3 to levy $74.6 million, the same as last year.

The majority of speakers said they thought the board was being irresponsible in not increasing its property tax collection by at least the consumer price index of 1.7 percent.

“The School Board’s primary function is to provide each and every student with an education of the highest quality by being responsible for school district operations,” said Joe Ardovitch of Darien, who has two children at Hinsdale South. “Its duty to all taxpayers is to ensure tax dollars entrusted to the district are spent wisely to build top academic institutions at both Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South. Contrary to what some may believe, its primary function is not to reduce property taxes in Hinsdale.”

Dick Kingman of Clarendon Hills said it was a laudable goal, especially when it appeared some belt-tightening is needed.

“Having been a manager in the field of cost accounting and purchasing for a $50 million manufacturing company for many years, I can sympathize with the goal of controlling costs and saving taxpayer money,” Kingman said. “The challenge is to accomplish this without hurting the morale of the organization, which could negatively affect classroom performance, test scores, academic rankings and, ultimately, property values.”

Hinsdale resident Linda Burke argued District 86 already is fiscally conservative “with per pupil spending and financial reserve levels substantially lower than our academic peer group, including New Trier Township.”

But not everyone agreed.

Resident Ed Mack of Darien supported the flat levy.

“Even after the 0 percent levy, we are still going to graduate excellent students who are going to go to excellent institutions and go on to lead excellent lives,” Mack said.

He argued public school districts are monopolies that lead to increasing property tax bills.

Some supporters of the flat levy brought signs reading, “Hinsdale H.S. Dist. 86 Yes! 0 % tax increase.”

School Board members Kay Gallo and Jennifer Planson suggested raising the levy by 1.7 percent would be a compromise between no increase and raising the levy by the consumer price index, plus taxes from new construction.

Planson said not only were the expense projections “too aggressive,” but by not levying the maximum amount this year, the district will lose out on that amount year after year. Next year’s levy will be limited to the lesser of the CPI or 5 percent more than this year.

Board President Claudia Manley and Richard Skoda, Victor Casini and Ed Corcoran voted for the flat levy.

“That is the point. We are giving up the multiplier,” Manley said.

The district needs to stop the annual tax increases for at least one year and live within its means, Manley said.

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