Property tax drop not as severe as originally feared for Danville schools

Property tax drop not as severe as originally feared for Danville schools

DANVILLE — Danville schools officials are still bracing for a loss in property tax income next year, but it might not be as substantial as they once feared.

Based on revised Vermilion County projections, officials are now preparing for a 5.42 percent decrease in the district's equalized assessed valuation of property, which would mean a $325,314 loss in property tax revenue (without bond and interest) from this year.

That's not as severe as the 9 percent decrease officials anticipated two weeks ago, which would have meant a $795,983 loss.

While that's not exactly good news, it is better regarding two matters that board members will take up on Wednesday — the proposed 2012 tax levy and a proposed bond issue to help finance the East Park Elementary School renovation.

The Danville school board will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Jackson Building, 516 N. Jackson St., Danville. A copy of the agenda is available online at http://bit.ly/RJZlPV.

Board members will vote on whether to adopt the proposed levy, which is projected to bring in about $15.89 million in taxes (without bond and interest) or $17.88 million (with bond and interest) next year. The district' tax rate (with bond and interest) would be about $5.19 per $100 of assessed valuation, which up from $5.03 in 2011.

"That's our best guess right now," Superintendent Mark Denman said Friday, adding county officials won't know the actual rate until April.

If projections are on target, this would be the fourth consecutive year that the equalized assessed valuation has dropped, which translates to a loss of over $2 million in property taxes, according to business and finance director Heather McKiernan.

Officials are currently looking for ways to offset the anticipated loss, as well as the loss of state and federal funding.

"It's too early to make any definitive decisions, but it could involve cuts," said Denman, who added that could be softened by the retirement of 40 certified staff next spring.

Board members also will vote on whether to issue a second round of general obligation school bonds to help pay for the East Park renovation, which officials hope to start at the end of the year. The project has been estimated at $10.74 million to $14 million, depending on the scope.

The bond amount would not exceed $8.5 million, which is higher than the $6.5 million the district was looking at with the 9 percent EAV decrease.

"That was actually the original amount we thought we would sell," McKiernan said, adding officials don't know how much will be available until the day of the sale. "It will all depend on the interest rate.

"We're trying to maximize our dollars for the project without increasing the burden on taxpayers," McKiernan said, adding the district would be able to levy a bond and interest rate of no more than 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. "That means a median homeowner would pay less than they paid this year."

Denman said the district has also put aside about $4.4 million in other funds for the project.

Also at the meeting, board members will vote on whether to raise the daily pay rate for substitute teaching assistants and substitute secretaries by $5 to increase the pool of candidates. The new rates would be $65 for teaching assistant subs and $70 for secretarial subs for a total increase of about $9,600 each year.

According to a survey, the higher rates would fall in the middle range of pay rates offered by other Vermilion County districts as well as Champaign and Urbana.

Late last month, the board increased the daily pay rate for substitute teachers to $95, up from $85, to be more competitive when attracting qualified subs.

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