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Dixon Public Schools will hold truth-in-taxation hearing over levy

DIXON — In the interests of transparency and surety, Dixon Public Schools voted Wednesday to hold a truth in taxation hearing even though it calculates that the levy request will be less than the 5% increase that requires it.

“Simply for transparency’s sake, just to be on the safe side,” said Superintendent Margo Empen after the meeting.

The total levy request is $17.8 million. The taxation hearing will be 6 p.m. Dec. 15.

The presentation and vote came during the board of education’s regular meeting.

Marc Campbell, business manager for the district, asked the board for the hearing based on the fact the district’s levy request is filed with the county clerks in both Lee and Ogle counties.

It is the Ogle portion — representing about 10% of the district’s equal assessed value — that Campbell wants to be certain of.

Campbell explained that the Ogle County clerk’s estimation of the actual extension arrived at a figure of $18.84 million, an increase that would exceed the 5% limit.

Having the hearing is worthwhile, Campbell said, “so the community understands the process.”

Persons wishing to address the hearing should contact Empen at 815-373-4966.

For 2020, the EAV for property within the school’s taxing district was set at more than $391 million.

For 2021, it is estimated to be more than $404 million.

Campbell also provided an estimate of the EAV broken down by property use.

Residential property accounts for 66% of the EAV, more than $265 million. Commercial property is 14% at $57.9 million. Farm use is 10% at $38.6 million. Industrial is 9% at a little under $38.1 million and rail is 1% at $4.766 million.

The EAV is calculated by the assessed value of property and the state equalization factor set by the Illinois Department of Revenue. Counties equalize property tax assessments so the median level is 33% of fair market value.

In other elements of the business manager’s report:

Food service extension

The district will extend its contract with Arbor Management to continue providing food service for the 2022-23 school year.

Under normal circumstances, the district would have been required to conduct competitive bidding to renew this contract, Campbell said. However, the Illinois State Board of Education, citing federal regulations, issued a waiver on school food service contracts because of the declared emergency stemming from the pandemic.

Arbor Management has been a wonderful partner and responsive to district requests, Campbell said, which was made offering the extension an easy call. Price increases are limited by the consumer price index. The deal will be finalized at the end of the calendar year.

Energy update

Campbell said he and Kevin Schultz, director of building and grounds, have started meeting with solar energy providers to learn the gains and drawbacks in having such an alternative source. The purpose of having a long-range energy plan is to “shelter the district” from inflationary electricity costs.

Campbell and Schultz hope to have a recommendation for the board in early 2022.

Countywide sales tax

The Lee County sales tax receipts for July were received in November. At $154,600, it was the third straight month receipts were more than $150,000.

Comparatively, it was a 27% increase over the same month in the previous fiscal year and a 25% increase over the year before that.

Campbell said the figures reflect an improvement in the local economy, but he cautioned that inflation is also a factor.

Savings plan

The final item was informational. District employees already can elect to contribute to retirement investment accounts. TSA Consulting provides this service to the district. The district relies on an outside firm because the tax code is complex and the firm has experts to manage the investments.

A new law is going into effect that creates a new option, the Supplemental Savings Plan, offered by the Teacher Retirement System. The law requires the district — not an outside firm — to take on the role of manager for this plan, Campbell said.

The state is to provide guidance, but Campbell said the board should be prepared to take action on participation early next year.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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