Editor’s note: For more information on District 65’s proposed property tax levy, check out the RoundTable’s full coverage here.

ETHS interim CFO Kendra Williams explained the school’s proposed 2022 property tax levy to board members Monday night. Credit: ETHS YouTube

Evanston Township High School is seeking the maximum property tax increase of 5.5% in its 2022 tax levy of all properties within school attendance boundaries, officials said at Monday evening’s school board meeting.

Property taxes account for around 80% of the revenue collected by both District 65 and ETHS, so the annual levy plays a major role in securing the funding to keep schools up and running, ETHS interim Chief Financial Officer Kendra Williams said.

Overall, the 5.5% proposed increase will bring the total ETHS tax levy to $80.9 million, up from about $78 million two years ago. Every year, school districts are allowed to increase the property tax levy by up to the amount of the consumer price index, which represents inflation, or 5%, whichever number is lower. This year, unlike in the past, the CPI exceeded 5%, paving the way for both ETHS and District 65 to request a maximum increase in property taxes of 5%.

However, districts can also add the estimated value of all new properties to the tax rolls on top of that 5% figure, leading ETHS to propose a 5.5% total increase and District 65 to request a 5.98% hike. For a single-family home in Evanston worth $620,000, the requested increase by ETHS would raise the property tax bill by $198 for a total bill of $15,509, including the taxes from all sources.

But those numbers also represent the amount requested by each district, rather than the amount of tax money that they actually end up receiving after the Cook County Clerk’s Office reviews the figures, according to Williams.

“You can do a ‘balloon levy,’ which may be above what you would expect to receive, in order to make sure that you’re able to get everything that you have the opportunity to,” Williams told ETHS school board members Monday night.

In Evanston, more than half of each property tax bill goes toward the two school districts: 41% of the money goes to District 65, 26% to ETHS and 17% to the city government. The remainder goes to the Evanston Public Library, Cook County agencies, Oakton Community College, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District.

This graphic from the City of Evanston shows the break down of Evanston property taxes for different taxing bodies. Credit: City of Evanston

The city plans to keep its portion of the property tax bill flat in fiscal year 2023, officials have said at budget hearings and community meetings this fall. As a result, the school districts will primarily be responsible for any major increases in the property taxes paid by Evanston residents, Deputy City Manager Dave Stoneback said at a ward meeting earlier this month.

Though most property taxes go to the schools, no one showed up to speak at the legally required public hearing about the ETHS proposed tax levy held during Monday’s board meeting.

Illinois cities often need a property tax hike more desperately than school districts, according to Sheila Weinberg, founder and Chief Executive Officer of public finances watchdog Truth in Accounting.

“Most of the school districts I’ve looked at seem to be in a fine financial state, and for some reason, just historically, even if they don’t need the money, they raise the levy as high they are legally able to,” Weinberg said. “On the North Shore, I looked at a few of those districts, and they actually have lots of extra money, where the cities have very high unfunded pension plans.”

The ETHS board will officially vote on whether to adopt the levy at its next meeting on Monday, Dec. 12, while the District 65 board has scheduled the mandated public hearing on its property tax levy for Monday, Dec. 19.

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. Yes, it’s true. No one showed up to the D202 meeting, or D65 meetings about tax issues, because many of us were at City Council meetings, also on Monday evenings. Yes, this schedule needs to change.