The Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education approved a 1.77 percent increase in its annual tax levy at its Nov. 17 meeting. The district tax levy approved by the school board amounts to $27,329,818. The tax levy assumes that approximately $2 million in new property development will be coming onto the tax rolls this year. 

Tax cap laws limit the increase in the tax levy to no more than the increase in the consumer price index (1.4 percent last year) or 5 percent, whichever is less, plus the value of new development.

The Cook County Clerk’s office will make the final calculation to limit the tax extension to no more than the CPI plus the value of new property. While many taxing bodies routinely approve levies near the maximum of 5 percent to be safe and let the clerk reduce the tax extension, District 96 tries to be more accurate while making sure it levies enough to capture the entire value of new development coming onto the tax rolls. 

District 96 Finance Director Jim Fitton says that he follows the practice of his predecessor, David Sellers, in trying to be as accurate as possible in the tax levy.

Seventy-six percent of the tax levy will go to the district’s education fund, which day-to-day expenses such as the salaries of teachers and other staff and other expenses related to education.

Next year taxpayers are likely to see a bigger property tax increase. For the first time since Illinois’ property tax cap law was passed 30 years ago it looks as if taxing bodies will not be able to increase taxes enough to keep up with inflation. 

The law limits tax levy increases to 5 percent or the CPI for the previous year. As of October, the CPI has increased by 6.2 percent this year. If the annual increase in the CPI is more than 5 percent when the final numbers are reported in January, taxing bodies will only be able to raise their tax levy by 5 percent. That will be the first time since the tax cap law was enacted that taxing bodies could increase their tax levies by the full 5 percent without a referendum.

School finance directors are looking forward to the influx of revenue.

“That’s good as long as our expenses don’t increase by more than 5 percent,” Fitton said.

Last year the tax levy for District 96 increased by 2.55 percent. The largest increase in the extension over the past nine years was the 3.99 percent increase of 2014. In 2013, the annual tax extension (the amount actually collected) decreased by 1.17 percent because the school board decided not to increase the tax levy that year.

The equalized assessed valuation of the property in District 96 decreased by about 4 percent this year due to triennial reassessment process. However, this does not really affect the tax revenue the district collects because the county clerk’s office adjusts tax rates so taxing bodies can collect the maximum amount that they are entitled to by law.