The Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Board of Education recently authorized issuing up to $28 million in working cash bonds.
The bond issuance is the third part of a three-phase funding plan that would give the district around $77 million in non-referendum funding over three to four years to pay for the initial stages of a facilities master plan that could take at least a decade to complete.
The plan calls for a variety of site and infrastructure improvements at all three high school campuses in the district.
During a Nov. 13 joint meeting between the D209 board and the district’s Financial Oversight Panel, board members voted 6-0 in favor of issuing bonds. Board member Della Patterson abstained.
During the meeting, Patterson expressed some concerns about the fact that the bonds would take around 20 years to pay off, according to FOP officials.
“Twenty years you’re asking this board to vote on,” Patterson said. “I’ll be quite old by then. … We’re saying the public isn’t responsible [for the bond payments]; however, we’re talking about it being paid off in 2037. At some point, the public could be responsible in helping pay it back, right?”
District officials have pointed out that the new bonds will not cost taxpayers any money, assuming that the relative value of taxable property in the district grows at 1 percent a year — a figure that they said is conservative in light of recent trends.
Craig Schilling, the FOP chairman, said that, regardless of forecasts, the board “always has the ability to pay for [the bonds] themselves if there’s a shortfall in any year,” adding that the district can avoid asking taxpayers for the money.
“If you’re off by, like, $200,000 because you didn’t get the 1 percent, you can just pay for it right out of your operating fund,” he said. “Nothing prevents you from doing that.”
D209 approves 4.6% levy
The D209 board adopted the 2018 tax levy, i.e. the amount of property taxes that need to be raised in order to fund the district’s operations, during a regular meeting on Oct. 9.
During the Nov. 13 joint meeting, the district’s Financial Oversight Panel also voted in favor of the levy, which is 4.67 percent greater than the 2017 levy.
The new levy represents an increase of $2.8 million, from $59.8 million in 2017 to $62.6 million in 2018. Those numbers, however, are not baked in, district officials said.
“We’re not necessarily going to get the entire tax levy we ask for,” said D209 board member Amanda Grant on Oct. 9. “We asked for a higher amount so that we will get everything available to us once we’ve determined what that is.”
The state’s tax cap law limits how much local governments like D209 can raise property taxes. The increase depends on the amount of growth in the Consumer Price Index and the growth of new property values. The CPI rate of growth used for this year’s levy is 2.1 percent, district officials said.
The district will not know much taxable revenue from new property it will capture until next spring.