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The last time School District 56 needed a property tax increase was fiscal year 2013-14. The circle remains unbroken for fiscal year 2019-20.

The district’s Board of Trustees agreed Monday night to retain the 167.5-mil tax levy in order to balance a $26.6 million general fund budget. The budget figure is higher than last year, with more revenue coming from state sources and county growth, and a $482,000 expense that the district is absorbing.

Board Chairman Jim Barton called it “an atrocity” that state lawmakers are bragging that they “did so much for teachers” when, actually, all they did was pass along some traditionally state-funded expenses to local districts. Board Member Tammy Stewart voted “no”; she said the board needs to have a full understanding of the administrative salary schedule and needs to consider changes to the supplemental salary schedule (coaches, organization sponsors, etc.) before approving a new budget.

The $26.6 million revenue-spending document passed on a 6-1 vote. The 167.5-mil tax figure passed 7-0. There were no comments from the public, pro or con, in the required public hearing.

The state is giving districts enough money to pay teachers 4 percent more next year and make the starting teachers’ pay $35,000 a year. Some wealthier districts are adding their own money to the state increase and will start their teachers at $40,000. The state is passing along the cost of “step increases” for teachers – a $250,000 expense for District 56 – and provides no money for raises for other personnel.

The board was told that, normally, the base-student cost is increased $50-$60 a year, and in District 56’s case, that’s enough to provide other raises. This coming year, the base-student cost is increasing $10.

In District 56, teachers get 4 percent more – state-funded, and all other employees (except those on the administrative scale) get 4 percent more – district-funded; administrators get a 1 percent salary increase – district funded.

Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said the current budget being closed out now, and the proposed FY19-20 budget, will produce surpluses.

But these are expected to be much smaller than in the past, he said. As the annual surpluses decrease, the fund balance grows at a slower rate, making it more difficult to “fill the gap” between state revenues and state mandates, without a property tax increase.

With a $10 increase, the base-student cost next year will be $2,490. If the General Assembly was funding the base-student cost according to the formula set forth in state law, next year’s base-student cost would be more than $3,000 – money paid by the state to the districts for each student, the board was told.