Last week the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 school board unanimously approved a 2012 proposed property tax levy that is a 4.95 percent increase over last year for operating funds.

That levy will ultimately be reduced to just a little more than 3 percent by the county because of property tax cap laws that limit the increase in the levy to the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever is less, plus an amount to capture the value of new property on the tax rolls.

For the 2012 tax year, the tax increase will be limited to 3 percent — the Consumer Price Index — plus the value of new property. Next July, just before property tax bills are sent out, the county will reduce the District 208 levy to the maximum allowable amount.

School districts, and other taxing authorities, routinely propose a levy that is more than they will ultimately be allowed to collect to insure that they collect the maximum amount allowed by law and do not, as finance officials say, leave any money on the table.

District 208 is asking for a little more than $16 million for its education fund, which pays for instructional services, including teacher salaries.

It is asking for about $1.8 million for operations and maintenance, $250,000 for transportation, $500,000 for Social Security expenses for non-certified staff and $140,000 for special education services.

The district will not ask for any money to cover Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) costs. A recent IMRF audit of the district found that the district had been using part of its IMRF levy to cover Social Security costs for clerical and other non-certified employees not covered by the Teacher Retirement System.

As a result, the district will not levy for the IMRF fund, but instead use revenue from the Social Security levy to cover Social Security and IMRF contributions for the next two years. In Illinois, teachers and other certified staff are not covered by Social Security.

The overall levy for District 208 will increase by only a half percent, because debt service costs will decrease by 16 percent, District 208 financial chief Tim McGinnis said.

Fine arts survey waiver finalized

In other action at last week’s board meeting, the school’s administration unveiled its policy for waiving the required fine arts survey class. Students will have two ways to waive the class.

A student will be waived from the fine arts survey requirement if he or she takes a class each year of high school in the same area of the fine arts, such as taking four years of music. Alternatively, a student will not have to take the fine arts survey if he takes one class in the performing arts (music, dance or theater) and one course in the visual arts.

This policy will take effect with the next year’s freshmen class, the class of 2017.

The school board had discussed the issue of a new waiver for the fine arts survey class extensively for the past couple of months. Board members have said that they want to offer students more flexibility in class selection and free up time for students to take classes that are important to them.

The fine arts faculty has opposed making it easier for students to waive the fine arts survey, saying the class is valuable for all students. Currently, only students who pass a test, attend two performing arts performances and write papers about the performances can waive the requirement.

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