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Deadline looms for property tax task force

Monday, Dec 2, 2019

* Tribune

Seeking to alleviate the growing burden of property taxes for Illinois homeowners, a group of legislators is considering a host of options that include consolidating school districts and allowing voters across the state to dissolve units of local government.

The legislative task force, created this summer by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, has a Dec. 31 deadline to deliver its recommendations. Its report is expected to lead to “very multifaceted” — and likely controversial — legislation this spring, said Rep. Sam Yingling, the Grayslake Democrat chairing the panel. […]

Funding for public schools in Illinois is heavily reliant on property tax revenue, and another possibility under discussion within the tax force has been school district consolidation and finding other revenue sources for education.

Also on the table: Reducing the 23-year limit on tax increment financing projects and overhauling the state’s property tax extension limitation law, which places a limit on tax increases that governments can enact. The collar counties became subject to that law in 1991, while Cook County was added in 1994.

School district consolidation sounds like a no-brainer, but good luck trying to consolidate, say, Dunlap’s schools with Peoria’s schools

The buses keep coming. On a brisk autumn day, one after another pulls up next to the grandstand to let out dozens of students. The kids walk in bunches past the flagpole. A metal sign near the main entrance, glinting in the sun, reads, “Dunlap High School.”

The high school may not look it, but it’s something of an oddity. It’s a typical suburban-style school in a country setting, framed by rolling hills and cornfields. Its enrollment of 1,300 students nearly equals the population of Dunlap, Ill., itself. But the vast majority of its students are not from Dunlap. They’re from Peoria.

The city of Peoria has its own school district, a chronically troubled system with a declining enrollment that serves mostly black students. About 70 percent are low-income. White families have been avoiding the troubles of the inner-city school district by moving to the northern part of town, where they can send their kids to Dunlap instead. As a result, Dunlap’s school system is booming. The number of students enrolled has nearly doubled since the 2002-2003 school year. Nearly two-thirds of Dunlap’s students are white; only 7 percent are black. The Dunlap School District isn’t shy about its enviable position. Until recently, the high school’s website made that clear in bold lettering at the top of its profile page: “The high school graduation rate is 90 percent, and the low-income rate is 10 percent.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

49 Comments »
  1. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:21 pm:

    Speaking as an immigrant, until Illinoisans lose their incredible desire for local, easily accessible government, nothing will happen. (Rich once called it the “Jacksonian” approach.) I once suggested Illinois follow the Florida / Nevada approach - 1 school district per county. Using $150K/year cost per superintendent (and no other reductions), Illinois could decrease from 852 to 102 school districts, saving $112 million. Yet the reaction I get is similar to Ralphie (”They looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.”) People talk a good game, but when they see the consequences of governmental consolidation, they flinch.


  2. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    Like Rich says, good luck with consolidation, especially outside Chicago. Parents don’t want their kids to have to sit on a bus for an hour or more twice a day. Legislators are gonna get an earful on this topic from parents


  3. - 47th Ward - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:30 pm:

    ===The city of Peoria has its own school district, a chronically troubled system with a declining enrollment that serves mostly black students. About 70 percent are low-income. White families have been avoiding the troubles of the inner-city school district by moving to the northern part of town, where they can send their kids to Dunlap instead. As a result, Dunlap’s school system is booming. The number of students enrolled has nearly doubled since the 2002-2003 school year. Nearly two-thirds of Dunlap’s students are white; only 7 percent are black. The Dunlap School District isn’t shy about its enviable position. Until recently, the high school’s website made that clear in bold lettering at the top of its profile page: “The high school graduation rate is 90 percent, and the low-income rate is 10 percent.”===

    This says so much about what is wrong with education in Illinois. And then it goes on to say so much about inequality, institutional racism and the sense of entitlement that some folks have because they have means.

    Abandon the poor, black and brown and failing system. Start your own. That’s a metaphor for a lot that is terribly wrong in this state and I wish either ISBE or the General Assembly had the guts to put an end to it.

    But they won’t.


  4. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:30 pm:

    ===Parents don’t want their kids to have to sit on a bus for an hour or more twice a day===

    I don’t think a lot of this is about a bus ride.


  5. - City Zen - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:32 pm:

    Sounds like this tax farce needs more time.


  6. - Ok - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:35 pm:

    Easy. Get rid of winter. Means no potholes, no expensive repair.


  7. - h'okay - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:40 pm:

    ===Parents don’t want their kids to have to sit on a bus for an hour or more twice a day===

    I don’t think a lot of this is about a bus ride.

    Ding-Ding-Ding, and for the daily double I’d wager all my points that the answer is:

    what is racism, Rich (of course well-mixed with bigotry and class-ism for that all-American flavor)


  8. - don the legend - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:41 pm:

    ==“The high school graduation rate is 90 percent, and the low-income rate is 10 percent.” ==

    … sense of entitlement that some folks have because they have means.

    Like it or not, most people who have “means” will use them to insure more opportunities and better resources for their children.


  9. - Romeo - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:41 pm:

    If you honestly think that this taskforce will produce any meaningful change, I have oceanfront property in Wyoming to sell you.

    The debt is owed to the tune of $140 billion+. Property taxes will continue to increase. With a progressive income tax, property taxes may increase only slightly less than without a progressive income tax.

    For examples of broken Illinois government promises, see: creation of toll bonded roads intended to be freeways, 2011 “temporary” income tax hike, et al.


  10. - DuPage Guy - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:42 pm:

    The property tax system for school districts strength lies in the fact property generally doesn’t move up and down quickly (2008 notwithstanding)

    The weakness is poor areas cannot invest in their schools, and those who have the hardest time paying often have the most levied on them.

    Honestly, there needs to be a Amendment that levies a base property tax across the state for schools (with a lockbox provision) that is then distributed statewide. That way rich areas will help poor, and the Metro will help Downstate.

    After that, let schools levy more on top of it.


  11. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    What should certainly and thankfully be missing is “local control,” proposing to allow local governments to repeal prevailing wage and end certain collective bargaining rights for public employees. Illinois won’t be held hostage for those terms.


  12. - Pick a Name - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:45 pm:

    Some of these good ol boys who played basketball in the 60’s and don’t like the small town next to them have to realize schools MUST merge. Overhead has to be reduced and class offerings expanded.


  13. - 47th Ward - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:48 pm:

    ===Like it or not===

    Well I don’t like it. The Dunlap thing is an egregious example, but then again, I grew up just outside the city limits of Kankakee. Want to guess why?

    (Full disclosure, I attended Catholic elementary and high school)


  14. - Ok - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    I also support the one school district per county goal, for counties under 300,000 or 500,000

    But, take a look at this map, and compare the number of school districts around the state in Illinois vs. other states in the Midwest.

    https://nces.ed.gov/programs/maped/acsmaps/

    It is not dramatically different.

    But, if you compare to the Southeast, you will see they have much more consolidation. But I don’t know if anyone sees the southeast as a model for good public education.


  15. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:52 pm:

    ===The Dunlap thing is an egregious example===

    Look at how Chatham’s school district overlaps parts of Springfield.


  16. - Huh? - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:54 pm:

    “levies a base property tax across the state for schools”

    Um, no. Property taxes are levied locally and ought to remain local.


  17. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:54 pm:

    It is not just neighboring towns that object. Some towns have a unit school district kids in same district K thru 12. Some towns have an elementary district K thru 8 and a separate high school. Wages not equal. Elementary teachers usually women get less pay than high school teachers. In my town we tried to consolidate and high school fought against even regional superintendent who supposedly was for consolidating


  18. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:55 pm:

    ===I have oceanfront property in Wyoming===

    “I remember the great quake of ‘85… when all the people in California surfed to Denver.”

    - Robin Williams as a far-future version of himself, on Throbbing Python of Love


  19. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    Ok -
    It isn’t just the Southeast. Nevada does it also, and they aren’t seen as having failing schools.

    http://www.doe.nv.gov/uploadedImages/ndedoenvgov/content/Resources/Nevada_School_Districts/nevada-districts1_002.gif?n=2681


  20. - fs - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 1:00 pm:

    == ===The Dunlap thing is an egregious example===

    Look at how Chatham’s school district overlaps parts of Springfield.==

    That’s simply because school district boundaries were drawn decades before areas that were once farmland were annexed into Springfield. It’s the same with virtually every school that surrounds Springfield (Rochester, New Berlin, Pleasant Plains, etc.).


  21. - Ok - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 1:01 pm:

    Nevada is clearly an outlier.

    They just didn’t know how to carve out a local school boundary for Area 51.


  22. - City Zen - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 1:02 pm:

    ==there needs to be a Amendment that levies a base property tax across the state for schools (with a lockbox provision) that is then distributed statewide.==

    How does another property tax lower property taxes?


  23. - Bobby Hill - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 1:16 pm:

    RE: h’okay - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:40 pm:
    ===I don’t think a lot of this is about a bus ride. Ding-Ding-Ding, and for the daily double I’d wager all my points that the answer is:
    what is racism, Rich (of course well-mixed with bigotry and class-ism for that all-American flavor)===

    For the benefit of civil discussion, let’s pretend all the members of the great white flight are just “classists”. Do we really think the current leaders of our state are going to stand up to for the class of children left behind? I certainly don’t.


  24. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 1:27 pm:

    How about a school redistricting proposal to have school district maps and municipality boundaries be contiguous.

    Throw them into the 10-year remap cycle and reconfigure them after each census.

    That would be fun.


  25. - Anonymous - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    A good place to start is consolidating elementary districts into the HS district they feed into. It’s not atypical for three separate elementary districts feeding into one HS district. There’s money to be saved here. One problem is HS districts typically pay more than elementary districts and I believe there is a state law requiring the elementary teachers be brought up to HS teachers salary. That need to change.


  26. - DuPage Guy - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:05 pm:

    ==How does another property tax lower property taxes?===

    Sorry, I was tad bit unclear. You get rid of current schools property taxes, levy a base across the state, and then if a school district so chooses, they can levy more afterwards.

    Though the goal isn’t to lower property taxes. The goal is a more equitable education system.


  27. - Cool Papa Bell - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:05 pm:

    School consolidation is about many things, racisim, classism, tribalism. Its true - white folks don’t want black kids in their district as well as some white folks don’t want the other small town’s white kids along with cheering for a different mascot.

    (Aside) we are already bussing kids more than a hour a day in the country or the city of Chicago so why not work to give them all the best education possible.

    Christian County is a good example of needed consolidation between a population base like Taylorville, and then tiny schools in Edinburgh (75 students), Kincaid,(151 students). That county could have two state of the art high schools with class sizes big enough to encourage better college prep courses and trades to be taught. One in Taylorville and another by Pana and the entire area would be better for it. But won’t happen, too many jobs at risk, too much worry about taxes and too much love for the Ponies and Wildcats to bring on constructive change.


  28. - Nick Name - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:08 pm:

    ===and the low-income rate is 10 percent.”===

    Well ain’t that a nice dog whistle.


  29. - Dan Vock - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:14 pm:

    ===Look at how Chatham’s school district overlaps parts of Springfield.===

    I did that, too. “The same thing is happening on nearly every side of Springfield; city residents, in fact, now go to seven school districts other than District 186. In the Chatham school district, more than a third of students have Springfield addresses.”

    https://www.illinoistimes.com/springfield/school-segregations-new-frontier/Content?oid=11493853


  30. - Dan Vock - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:17 pm:

    As far as consolidating school districts at the county level, one reason that was so popular in the South for so long was so that white officials could control the school districts. Now, though, you’re seeing several secession movements in places like East Baton Rouge where white enclaves want to leave school districts with sizable numbers of minority students.


  31. - Cool Papa Bell - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:19 pm:

    @ Dan and Rich

    I had a builder tell me some of the back story on that situation. In the 80’s there was movement of school district lines that could go on. And it was my understanding that district lines in areas then without homes left 186 (Springfield) and then went to other schools. It took a state law to stop it, but not before lasting change took place.


  32. - phenom_Anon - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:33 pm:

    If you live a dangerous neighborhood with high crime, but you get to a point where you have the income to afford live in a safer community, would you move? Of course you would.

    If you have kids and live in an area with low performing schools, but you get to a point where you have the income to afford a community with better performing schools, would you move? Again, of course you would.

    It’s not rocket science. With income inequality between races, it has been caucasians with more ability to move. This is a symptom of the income inequality more than racism (thought that is a small component as well).


  33. - Sue - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:33 pm:

    This was and is all a hoax. Yea- the State will deliver on property tax relief in exchange for the Fair tax. What a pile of horse manure. The fair tax is already totally spoken for between pensions and JB’s new spending priorities. Anyone who believes this is real hasn’t lived in Illinois more then a week


  34. - 47th Ward - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:40 pm:

    ===thought that is a small component as well===

    Whatever helps you sleep at night.


  35. - h'okay - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:48 pm:

    I’m sorry, Bobby Hill, but I’m very confused by your question. My comment was in response to Rich and an earlier comment that long bus rides were the cause of parental opposition to school consolidation.

    My understanding is the task force is looking at a problem: high property taxes, a potential cause is: funding public education via property taxes, and a proposed solution is: consolidate school districts.

    The roadblock is: voters who don’t want their schools to consolidate for R E A S O N S

    I, and think you as well, cannot separate many of those “reasons” from the history of white flight and racial discrimination in the State and nation. I would argue that there is also a history of bigotry (immigration, religion, etc.) and class-ism (working parents, living in an apartment instead of owning a home, etc.), and often all three at once, i.e. that all-American flavor.

    The idea of standing up for what is right is laudable. However, there are two separate problems in play here: one is property taxes and the other is inequality in access to quality education. While they are both intrinsically related and need to be addressed, you cannot assume that all parties interested in lower property taxes are interested in equal education or vice versa (another roadblock).


  36. - phenom_Anon - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 3:34 pm:

    =Whatever helps you sleep at night.=

    As a school board member who has dealt with consolidation, I can tell you that absolutely, without a doubt, 100% of the time, the first question/issue/concern from parents is how long bus rides will be, the second is the quality of the other school, and the third is the other community. Every single time.


  37. - phenom_Anon - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 3:36 pm:

    =Whatever helps you sleep at night=

    I would also add that people with the means, regardless of race, are heading to the same communities with better schools. Due to income inequality, more white people can afford to make the move, but they are all going to the same places.


  38. - Illinfan - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 3:41 pm:

    Dunlap is not unique. It is white flight out of the city. In Peoria’s case, it is Dunlap, Washington, Metamora, Morton, Brimfield, etc.

    Dunlap is primarily white, but has a significant Asian/Indian population.


  39. - The Taxman - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 3:59 pm:

    Iroquois County has 30 individual schools in 10 separate school districts. Can we re-align them into 30 schools in 3 districts? Is it that the students and parents want to know how far the bus ride is, or is the superintendents who want to know how long their commute is going to take?

    Given what I know of Iroquois County, there probably isn’t much white flight going on there, But yes, 10 school districts within a county with a population of less than 28,000. They could probably make do with one district for the whole county, but then they’d lose all those redundant administration jobs.


  40. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 4:07 pm:

    ===10 school districts within a county with a population of less than 28,000===

    It is ridic, but I think it’s the second largest county by square mileage.

    They also used to have, like, 50 county board members there. Love them some government.


  41. - Shemp - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 4:09 pm:

    Good TIFs create projects to increase the tax base over the long haul. Reducing the term only makes more projects unachievable. With so few economic tools in this state to spur growth, especially at the local level, reducing TIF is a shortsighted option for political gain (so it will probably happen).


  42. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 4:17 pm:

    Shemp. TIFs are the short term . Please research EastWest Gateway Councils research on this issue.


  43. - Chicagonk - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 4:34 pm:

    @TheTaxman - They appear to have a lot of single school school districts that employ both a school principal and a superintendent. Definitely some room for consolidation.


  44. - Karen Disharoon - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 5:34 pm:

    Just to add some information…. Dunlap School District spends $9,000 per pupil, Peoria District 150 spends $13,780 per pupil. The state average is $13,784. Dunlap is a great value in education. Also, Dunlap has a 21% Asian population with over 40 languages spoken among its students. Dunlap receives only about 11% funding from the state, with 86% coming from local taxes and Peoria District 150 receives 37% of its funding from the state and 50% from local taxes.Source Illinois school report card.


  45. - MyTwoCents - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 5:42 pm:

    Karen Disharoon, the 10% low income rate is the entire reason why Dunlap can spend $9,000 per pupil. More low income kids, more issues, more needs for special ed teachers and aides, social workers, etc. It’s easy to say, “oh look at how little we spend” when the school district doesn’t have to spend the additional money.


  46. - Karen Disharoon - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 6:00 pm:

    MyTwoCents, that may be partly true, but I’m not sure it tells the whole story. Dunlap has 13% with IEPs (individual education plans) and Peoria has 18%, I don’t think that’s enough to account for the difference. Both districts have the same in terms on English language learners (6%). Peoria District 150 has a 152:1 students to admin ratio… Dunlap has 226:1. Same student teacher ratio for both districts of 11:1. Peoria has class size of 22, Dunlap 24. I’m just pointing out that normally we think of suburbs as spending more, esp if you look at the Chicago suburbs. But with the Peoria situation, it is the opposite, the more urban school district spends more. Additionally, Dunlap is competing academically with the Chicago suburban schools but at a much lower per pupil spend.


  47. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 6:19 pm:

    fs - “That’s simply because school district boundaries were drawn decades before areas that were once farmland were annexed into Springfield.”

    Actually, at least in Springfield, it is much more sinister and racist than that (disclaimer - got this from the Copley SJ-R, and apparently Gatehouse didn’t pay for archive access). Once Illinois Revised Statutes said when property annexed into the City of Springfield, it also annexed into District 186. So, while Springfield High School Class of 1970 had 5 African-Americans (heard that from number from a member of that class), there were plenty of poor people. Specifically, Hollywood - Amos from Jefferson to N Grand. But those poor people were white.

    After the desegregation decree, every school in 186 would have African-American students. So, the Springfield power structure got the that provision of Illinois Revised Statutes removed. Since the consent decree was issued on Pearl Harbor Day 1976, my presumption is the change occurred under Jim Thompson. Frank McNeil, anything to add?


  48. - Downstater - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 8:29 pm:

    We are way off base if we think school consolidation is going to dramatically reduce property taxes. Similarly, eliminating units of local government (mostly townships) will also have a minor impact on property taxes. The task force will need many more serious ideas beyond these two.


  49. - RDB - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 9:32 pm:

    Melvin-Sibley resisted consolidation with Gibson City for years, but I cannot imagine what situation those kids would be in today had the districts not merged in ‘93. It is sad to have a high school fade to dust, but I think these folks (particularly Iroquois and Vermilion counties) should think of the kids first.


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