The Lyons Elementary District 103 school board on Nov. 23 passed a tax levy request for an 18.59 percent increase in total levied funds over the previous year, triggering a “truth in taxation” hearing that will take place Dec. 14. The district will request $22,732,350 from taxpayers, up from $19,169,532 in 2014.

Officials say the district botched its levy request last year and that the strategy this year is to make up for the losses from last year’s tax levy by creating a $2.9 million “balloon” in the transportation fund, which is not covered by a 5 percent cap through the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law.

Some members of the public in attendance at the board’s Nov. 23 meeting were not pleased.

 “They’re trying an end run around the tax caps,” said Lyons resident Toni Parker, who made an unsuccessful run for the school board in the spring. 

According to a presentation created by Jacqui Parisi, the school district’s interim director of business, the district failed to capture $1.5 million in its 2014 tax levy request. According to the presentation, the district levy calculation failed to account for the 1.5 percent rate of inflation as measured by the consumer price index plus a portion of new equalized assessed value growth, which the document referred to as “lost for eternity.”

Local taxpayers “experienced a 6.2 percent decrease in taxes” last year, according to the presentation.

But that deficit will be made up this year. 

The 2015 levy statement calls for a “balloon” in the district’s un-capped transportation fund. Last year, the fund levied $1,133,000, but this year, the district will ask for a levy amount of $4,060,000, an increase of 358 percent. 

That’s significantly more than the district has been paying for transportation in the past. According to budget documents submitted to the Illinois State Board of Education, last year’s transportation expenses were $1,143,355.79.

The district plans to transfer money from the transportation fund to other funds which are limited by 5 percent caps, such as education or operations “in accordance with state law,” according to Parisi’s presentation.

The district also increased its working cash fund levy from $62,800 to $177,400, or 350 percent. The district requested a levy increase for its tort fund from $206,000 to $480,000.

Parisi explained to the Landmark in an email that the district must adjust levy the amount to catch up.

“The monies extended [in the 2014 levy] are not meeting our current fiscal year expenditures,” she wrote. “Therefore, we have to request in the levy resources to meet our anticipated expenses for the upcoming year.”  

School districts rarely receive the total amount of revenue they request by levy from the Cook County Treasurer. The county’s formula takes into account the amounts collected by the county, the assessed values of commercial and residential property and the tax rate. 

School board member Mark Camasta said the district was trying to make up for last year’s loss.

“It’s as if we lost 8 percent [of the levy revenue] last year,” Camasta said. “This year we are trying to recapture that revenue.”

“The taxpayers have already paid for this,” Camasta added. “We are just asking for a larger bite of the money already collected by the county.”

District 103 creates human resources position

The District 103 school board has created a new $75,000-a-year human resources position and has hired attorney Martin M. Stack, of Western Springs, to work full time for the district. 

In 2007, Stack was briefly an employee of Odelson and Sterk, the district’s law firm, according to documents published by the DuPage County Bar Association. 

Stack has a legal practice in Chicago and formerly worked for the Cook County Sheriff’s legal department. 

Stack has also been a contributor to the political committee of Lyons Village President Christopher Getty, donating $200 in 2014 and $250 in 2013.