At its regular monthly meeting last night, the Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 Board of Education approved a 2014 tax levy of $54,700,807. This is $10,250,000 less than the 2012 levy. The Board also approved abating $2,565,785 from the debt-service levy. This means that—for the third straight year—the district will be paying down debt from its cash reserves rather than from future property taxes.
Last December the Board passed a 2013 levy that was $10 million less than the 2012 levy. Because the effect of a reduced levy compounds over time, the net effect of the two reductions is that the District will collect $72 million less in property taxes over 10 years.
In taking these actions, the Board was following recommendations provided by its Finance Advisory Committee, or FAC. The FAC convened for several months in the latter part of 2013 to evaluate the appropriateness of the size of District 200’s total fund balance, which had become one of the largest in the state. The Board was concerned that such a high fund balance created unnecessarily high tax levels, interfered with community trust of the District, and would lead to the need for a dangerously high referendum in the future.
Based on recommendations made by the FAC, the Board is aiming to bring the total fund balance below 40% of expenses gradually and responsibly within the next eight to 10 years. This will ease the tax burden on property owners while maintaining the district's excellent reputation.
Because Illinois law limits school districts’ ability to preserve their taxing capacity after three years of increasingly lower tax levies, it is anticipated that the 2015 levy will return to the 2012 level.