Here is the tax information that I discussed in the earlier email. The first compares Unit 4 to other Unit School District’s in what is know as LUDA (Large Unit District Association). Note that this is a picture of school districts throughout the state, not just the wealthy ones in the suburbs. For school year 2009-10 you can see that Champaign had the second lowest rate of any LUDA district. In school year 2010-11 we had the fourth lowest. I assume that in 2010-11 some districts either dropped out of LUDA or did not report the information correctly. Note that the average LUDA rate is 4.60 in 2009-10 and 4.50 in 2010-11.
The second spreadsheet compares Unit School District’s in Champaign County. This information is for school year 2011-12. As you can see, the average Unit School District Tax Rate in Champaign County is about $4.54.
The reason why this tax rate information is so important is not only because it factually demonstrates how low our tax rate is, but furthermore, when you consider what the Unit 4 tax rate was in 1996 ($4.41), you can see that it is not out of the question that a tax rate of $4.41 for Unit 4 might exist. After all, the average LUDA school district and the average unit school district in Champaign County has a rate higher than $4.41. Therefore, the dollars lost to tax caps which compares each years actual tax rate to $4.41 (1996) is not far fetched. So when we say if we had a rate comparable to the average LUDA district or Champaign County unit district, we wouldn’t have to consider a working cash bond issue – that is because we would be getting $13 or $14 million more ANNUALLY if we only had the average rate.
First, let’s talk about “tax rate for any given year”. When I list Tax Year 2010 for example that means taxes that were levied (sorry) by the BOE in December 2010 that will be received in School Year 2011-12. As a matter of fact we usually start getting some early tax collections in May of 2011 which is technically still School Year 2010 -11).
I have the tax rate info & assessed value info, received directly each year from the County Clerk, back to Tax Year 2000. For 1996-1999 I have a spread sheet containing the applicable tax rates & assessed values from a previous Business Manager which I believe to be accurate. If memory serves me correct we once asked Tasha in the Clerk’s Office to verify those early years’ info. Be glad to share that info with you when you come in to meet with me.
I see that tax rate for 2010 listed on the Country Clerk’s website<http://www.champaigncountyclerk.com/taxes/docs/RY2010_rate_book.pdf> says 3.7238, which is exactly the same as you report in the “Tax Rates in Champaign County Unit School Districts – FY12” spreadsheet. How is it that they are they same?
The fact that the rates are the same is a good thing. If you examine the County Clerk’s website, you will find that tax rate info is listed for everyone living in Champaign County (of course not all of these people reside in the Champaign Unit 4 School District). Thus, on page 4 you will note that some of these people who live in Champaign Township 4 live in Unit School District #3 & some live in Unit District #4. Every time you see someone who resides in Unit 4 the rate will always be 3.7238. Thus, the people who live in Bondville, Champaign, Savoy, Champaign Township 4, etc. all pay the same tax rate to Unit 4. However, what the Clerk’s site also shows is that people throughout Champaign County not only live in other school districts they also live in different taxing jurisdictions (City of Champaign, Champaign Park District, Village of Savoy, etc.). This is why the report is 38 pages long. The Clerk is providing the total tax bill from all areas in Champaign County & also providing each level of government that is levying a property tax – not just school district info. You will find other areas of the County where residents live in our district on Pages 30, 31, 36 & some in 38 – some also live in Unit District 5 with a rate of 4.8797 (Heritage Unit SD). In every case they are paying a tax rate of 3.7238 to Unit 4.
I think it is certainly true that for whatever reason ( I have only been here since June 2005) the district fell far behind in building construction. Centennial was built in the mid 1960’s. No major construction occurred until Barkstall & Stratton – I believe the tax referendum of about $26 million was passed in 1998 & the schools opened a couple years later. That by the way is the BIGGEST voter approved bond referendum ever in this district. Thus, from the mid 1960s to today – only about $26 million was invested in new or remodeled (major) schools. $26 million in nearly 50 years. The backlog of building needs was so great that the $80 plus million that could be garnered thru the 1% increase was not enough to catch up – not even close, As you know Dr. Howard is 100 years old. Nothing has been done at SS. Central needs to be rebuilt while Centennial also needs major improvements. Did I also mention that our 3 middle schools need much more than windows, lights & a/c?
My real concern for the community is that w/o major investments in the public schools, parents will chose other alternatives – be they private schools or neighboring school districts. What then happens to property values? I’ m afraid we should be careful what we wish for (lower taxes – yes – but resulting from dramatically reduced home value). While I get it – I really do – No ones likes paying more taxes. I also know that no one enjoys it when property values decline & dramatic losses on ultimate sales occur.