Rock Island-Milan Schools propose $30M tax levy for 2020

Rock Island-Milan Schools propose $30M tax levy for 2020

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ROCK ISLAND — School board members got a look at the proposed 2019 tax levy Tuesday and green-lit the next step in the process of the Rock Island-Milan possibly bonding out 1% sales tax funding in order to tackle facility updates at a quicker pace.

Chief financial officer Bob Beckwith’s proposed 2019 tax levy would generate an estimated $30,805,625, or about $1.1 million more than the 2018 levy. The district is eyeing a rate of 5.36, down slightly from last year’s actual rate of 5.37.

Under the proposed rate, the owner of a $100,000 house in the district boundaries would pay $1,785.23, or about $5.23 more than last year, for the school district portion of their tax bill.

Tuesday’s presentation was for information only, with board members not slated to adopt the recommended tax levy until Dec. 10. Board member Terell Williams asked that the district administration make stakeholders aware of this information prior to adoption.

Beckwith said the rate proposal is based on a variety of assumptions, including an estimated 0.81% increase in equalized assessed valuations over last year. Beckwith noted other neighboring Illinois school districts have realized much higher EAV increases and he’s not sure exactly why that is. As one example, Moline-Coal Valley School officials based their 2019 levy assumptions on a 2.35% EAV increase over last year.

The EAV represents the combined values of the properties within a district, including residential, commercial, industrial and farmland. The figure is used to help determine what a district can expect to receive in property tax collections next spring.

Board members also held a work session to continue discussing bonding out some of the 1% sales tax revenue the district receives from the county in order to accomplish some of the $25.9 million in proposed facilities projects.

Tuesday, board members cast an informal vote of 5-1 to direct administration to seek out proposals from firms to sell alternate revenue bonds on behalf of the district. The proposed terms are bonding out 65% of the 1% sales tax revenue with a term of 15 years for repayment. According to district documents, the district could generate about $25.6 million if it borrows 65% of anticipated 1% sales tax revenue with an interest rate of 4%.

Board member Marji Boeye voted no and board member Tiffany Stoner-Harris was absent.

Board member Dave Rockwell said he urged the board to waste no further time making these moves.

“See what kind of money we can get at the rate we want to pay and move forward,” he said. “Some of these projects should’ve been done a couple of generations ago. We’ve got to really start going after it.”

Rockwell said it’s important to secure bond funding now while money is cheap to borrow.

Taking a different view, Boeye said she thinks the district is trying to tackle this work backwards. She said she’d prefer the district focus on a specific project to seek out bonding for and she’s concerned the facility committee’s project list is out of date.

“I’m concerned these are things that needed to be done 20 years ago,” she said. “Right now, I feel we need a junior high that encompasses sixth through eighth grades. But if we focus on this, can we have that conversation?”

Boeye said she has no problem committing to a project and spending money on it, but she is concerned about the process.

Williams said he also had concerns about what items are on the list. He said he does not want the board focusing on projects that are just “nice and new.” Instead, he said, he wants to pursue projects that will positively impact students based on research by administration.

Superintendent Reginald Lawrence said when the pieces fall into place, he believes there will be a mixture.

“Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing – giving our kids and our community what they need and want.”

In other business, board members:

– Scrapped plans for an executive session that would have focused on employee matters.

– Discussed proposed calendars for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school year. Next year’s proposed calendar would have students start Aug. 3 and end May 28. Board members will vote on the calendars at the next board of education meeting, Nov. 26.

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