D65 to vote to join D202 in tax issue

Jonathan Murray

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education will vote tonight on a measure to join District 202 in a fight against property tax appeals.

Such a move would end both districts’ practice of staying out of the property tax appeals process, which reduces their tax revenue. The D65 board will vote at its meeting to authorize a Chicago law firm to represent both districts in the appeals process.

During the 2000-01 school year, D65 expected to receive an additional $225,000 in revenue from the collection of past-due taxes. Instead, the district lost $259,000 because of successful tax appeals from property owners.

Board member Greg Klaiber said the district is taking action now to try to avoid losing so much money again, especially in light of recent financial troubles in the district.

“We’re in desperate need of revenue sources,” Klaiber said. “When people try to reduce their property taxes, that directly affects us.”

The district recently approved its operating budget for this year with a $1.5 million deficit, and it faces a delay in property tax revenue that might require it to borrow money until it receives the funds.

Whenever a property owner’s appeal is approved, the school board must pay back a portion. Board member Mary Erickson said the tax appeal measure could help the district save money in the long run.

“We’d like to put forward the school board’s point of view and make sure the county knows there’s a consequence if (an appeal) goes through,” Erickson said.

Klaiber said Cook County currently notifies the district if an appeal is for $100,000 or more, but “there has been no real policy or directive from the board even on how to handle that.”

If the D65 board votes to approve the partnership with D202, the districts would hire law firm Franczek Sullivan to oppose tax appeals of all sizes, which can add up. The firm would charge legal fees between $2,200 and $4,000 for each appeal, with D65 paying 60 percent of the costs and D202 paying the rest.

At the meeting, the D65 board also will:

_Ѣ discuss the district’s application for a community development block grant for a playground at Dewey Elementary School, 1551 Wesley Ave.

_Ѣ vote on approval of working cash transfers, which would allow the district to use emergency funds to pay bills and cover expenses when D65’s operating funds run out. The board usually approves such transfers in the spring, but the delay in property tax revenue this year created a problem for the district.

Cook County sent property tax bills to residents in September, three months late. The district normally would receive about $28 million by mid-October, but now D65 must wait until November or December for the money.

_Ѣ begin the process to adopt the 2001 property tax levy. At Monday’s meeting, the board will discuss a resolution that would approve the levy estimate, which is $62.8 million.

After it approves an estimate, the board will hold a levy hearing in early December before it submits the final tax levy to the county before Dec. 25.

_Ѣ receive the district’s Opening of School Report, which summarizes enrollment and health statistics for the current school year.

Total district enrollment decreased from last year by 72 students to 6,874.

The board will meet at 8:30 p.m. tonight at King Lab School, 2424 Lake St.