The McLean County Board of Education opted to raise taxes for the 2019-20 fiscal year during a recent special-called meeting at the board office in Calhoun.
According to Board of Education Superintendent Tommy Burrough, the board’s tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year will increase 1.2 cents, which will change the current tax rate of 56.7 cents per $100 of assessed value to 57.9 cents of $100 of assessed value. As an example of this change, taxpayers with property valued at $100,000 would now pay $579 per year with this new tax rate as opposed to $567 they are currently paying.
“It was 56.7 and they voted to go 57.9 and it’s still considerably lower than surrounding counties, so that’s the thing. In 2018-19, the tax rate went down … we just can’t do that every year,” Burrough said. “We’re not going to burden the taxpayers every year, but sometimes we just can’t go backwards.”
Burrough said that one of the biggest reasons for the tax increase is a loss in funds due to a loss in students. According to Burrough, the schools have lost 110 students over the last four years, which adds up to a loss of $440,000 annually for McLean County schools.
Burrough said that transportation of students also comes at a large cost to the school system.
“We’re mandated to transport students and that costs us $921,000. The state’s supposed to fund us transportation, but they only fund us 59 percent and that costs … our general funds $376,000,” he said.
Burrough said the McLean school system also does a full day of kindergarten, which costs the district $232,000.
He said the board is also considering increasing teacher salaries in an effort to be competitive with surrounding counties.
“We’ve lost some great teachers to neighboring counties and they wanted to start thinking about raising teachers’ salaries to get competitive with the salaries around us,” Burrough said. “We don’t have to be equal but we need to be competitive. That gives our kids the best teachers we can.”
Burrough said that while tax rates increased this year, it is subject to change in upcoming years as long as the schools can maintain financial stability.
“We were going backwards. We just can’t go backwards,” he said. “Occasionally, like last year, we lowered our rate, but this year, we just had to make some money back due to the fact that we’re just taking a lot of hits.”