Crystal Lake’s Community High School District 155 proposes increase to property tax levy

Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155 is eyeing a 1.7% increase in the amount of money its collects in property taxes next year, with the funds going to the district’s nursing and career programs and different capital projects, district officials said.

Like several other area districts, District 155 falls under a state law that limits how much taxing bodies are allowed to raise their levies by each year, tying the increases to inflation plus new construction, such as a new subdivision or an addition on a home. The rate of inflation used this year is 1.4%.

This year’s projected levy is just under $78.2 million, about $1.4 million more than last year’s levy.

More money is needed across “multiple disciplines,” said Kevin Werner, chief officer of finance and operations for District 155, to account for potential salary increases, rising operating expenses and the district’s planned enhancements to its curriculum, specifically in its career experience and nursing programs.

A 10-year facility condition assessment will also require incremental future costs as well, Werner said. In the next year, projects associated with this include roofing; flooring; heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; electrical; asphalt and concrete work; and other general trades improvements.

The district’s reserves have dropped by more than 46% over the past decade because of capital expenditures undertaken over the years, Werner said.

Over a 15-year period, District 155 invested $119 million in projects, using money from its fund balances and general obligation bonds.

From 2007 through 2014, the district concentrated on what it considered “general maintenance and replacements,” Werner said, meaning it was just focused on maintaining school buildings and infrastructure and fixing or replacing broken items. About $3.6 million a year was spent on these projects.

Then, in 2015, District 155′s school board decided to start projects aimed at improving schools’ campuses, to the tune of about $12.9 million annually, Werner said.

These projects, which included installing air conditioning, renovating theaters, replacing gym floors, upgrading parking lots and remodeling cafeteria floors, were “much needed,” Werner said.

Another factor for the lower fund balances is that the board decided to use money it already had in the bank to pay down debt instead of levying for it, Werner said. The board also levied less than what it could have under state law two times, in 2015 and 2018.

Although the levy itself is going up, the owner of a $250,000 home who does not see an increase in their home value can expect an $8 decrease on the portion of their tax bill that goes to District 155.

This is because a tax increment financing district along Route 14 in Cary is coming on the district’s tax rolls later this year and because overall property value is growing higher than the rate of inflation, Werner said.