Danville considers scenarios for school tax levy

DANVILLE — When Danville school board member Randal Ashton told two of his constituents about an upcoming tax levy discussion, he was surprised when each said he wouldn't mind paying higher property taxes to the district next year.

"They said they'd rather invest in education and make sure students are taken care of than have dropouts and other problems, if they're not educated, further down the road," he said.

But board member Frank Young said he's hearing a different opinion.

"My people say if you can't do it on what you've got, you're not doing it right," Young said, making it clear he doesn't support any type of increase in this still-recovering economy and still-struggling community.

The comments came during Tuesday's special study session on the district's proposed 2013 levy, at which administrators presented four potential scenarios. They're based on an assumption that the district's equalized assessed valuation of property will continue to decline for a fifth consecutive year, business and finance director Heather Smith said.

The Vermilion County supervisor of assessments' office is projecting a 3.6 percent decrease in property values in the district, although the actual amount won't be known until next spring.

The decrease is based on a projected loss of $2.96 million in EAV from Carle on Fairchild Street, which has tax exempt status; a 6 percent decrease in EAV in Danville Township; a 4 percent increase in Blount Township; no change in Catlin and Newell Townships; a 10 percent increase in farmland; and additional losses due to increased exemptions.

"Assessed valuation has continued to go down," Smith said, pointing out that's resulted in a nearly $2.76 million loss in local revenue since the 2009-10 fiscal year, including $918,098 this year. Property taxes make up about 32 percent of the district's revenue.

Administrators are recommending adoption of the first or second scenarios, in which the district would see a gain or no loss in revenue. Here's a snapshot of each:

Scenario 1: The district would raise the amount it needs — about $17.55 million. That's a $229,000 increase over this year's amount.

The tax rate would be about $5.38 per $100 of assessed valuation, up from last year's rate of $5.06. Smith said the owner of a $66,500 home — the average home value in the city, according to the last census — would pay about $869 in property taxes to the district, a $50 increase over this year, if the home's value stays the same.

Scenario 2: The district would raise about $17.32 million. "That's zero new dollars to the district," Smith said.

The rate would be about $5.31 per $100 of assessed valuation. Smith said the owner of a $66,500 home would pay about $858 to the district, a $39 increase over this year, if the home's value stays the same.

Scenario 3: The district would levy the same amount as last year, generating about $16.93 million or $397,000 less than this year.

Smith said the owner of a $66,500 home would pay about $838 to the district, a $19 increase over this year, if the home's value stays the same.

Scenario 4: The district would keep the same rate of $5.06 per $100 of assessed valuation. That's the least popular option among administrators because it would bring in the least amount in revenue — $16.53 million, a $789,000 decrease from this year.

Smith said the owner of a $66,500 home would pay about $819 to the district, if the home's value stays the same.

In each scenario, property owners would pay less if their home value drops.

"That would do us the most harm," Smith said of the fourth scenario, adding the equalized assessed valuation could decline even more than 3.6 percent. "Then we would lose even more dollars."

Last year, school officials anticipated a 5.4 percent EAV decrease and a $700,000-plus loss from the previous year.

"But the estimates were incorrect," Superintendent Mark Denman pointed out. "We lost $918,098."

Board members said they weren't ready to throw their support behind one of the options on Tuesday. Although the board will decide whether to put a proposed levy on public display at its Oct. 23 meeting, members asked for more information and time to digest what they had and its impact on taxpayers.

The proposed levy will be on display for at least 30 days. The board must vote on its adoption in December.

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