Aurora -- City voters may face an additional 5.9-mill continuous school operating levy on the May 2 ballot.
The Board of Education voted 4-0 on Jan. 5 to approve a resolution requesting the Portage County auditor to determine the amount a 5.9-mill levy would raise in property tax revenue.
If placed on the ballot and approved by voters in May, the levy would begin collection in 2018. It would raise an estimated $3.7 million annually and cost $413 a year in additional taxes for the owner of a home valued at $200,000, according to Treasurer Bill Volosin.
School Board President Gerald Kohanski said the approval of the resolution last week does not mean the issue will be placed on the ballot May 2. For it to appear, a second resolution is needed, authorizing Volosin to submit it as an issue to the Portage County Board of Elections.
Kohanski said the School Board would have the opportunity to vote on that resolution at its regular January meeting on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.
According to the district's October 2016 five-year financial forecast, the district is projected to spend $520,741 more this school year than it will raise in revenue.
"We will have financial challenges this year," said Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli. "Right now, our expenditures for the schools will exceed our revenue. We're going to have to, at some point, look at what our opportunities are to create greater revenue."
According to the five-year plan, the district is projected to end the current school year with a cash balance of about $7.27 million or an unencumbered balance of about $6.8 million, according to Volosin. Assuming a spending increase of 3.72 percent annually and no new operating levy approvals, that money will run out in the 2019-20 school year, when the district is projected to end about $545,264 in the red.
The new operating levy, if approved, would become the third levy on the books in Aurora, according to Volosin. The district also has five-year operating levies of 7.33 mills and 5.61 mills. Voters renewed the 7.33-mill levy in November 2016, and the 5.61-mill levy will be due for renewal in 2020, according to Volosin.
The operating levies help pay for general operations of the district, including utilities, salaries, benefits, contracts and other items needed for the day-to-day operation of the district.
Volosin said the district also has a 1.5-mill permanent improvement levy.
Adding to the district's financial uncertainty is the fact that state legislators will be busy this spring creating a new biennial budget, which is due for approval by June 30.
"We're hoping to stay constant [in revenue]," said Volosin. "We don't anticipate the state giving districts such as Aurora any additional dollars."
Volosin said the phaseout of the tangible personal property tax has hurt the district financially in recent years. In 2010, the district received $2.4 million in revenue from that tax, and this year it is receiving none, he said.
"Basically, they cut it by a quarter, then a third, then a half and then all the way down to zero," he said.
For two years, Volosin said the state increased it's unrestricted state aid to the district and other districts "to give you a little cushion." But that cushion is now gone.
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