Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 is one of 28 school districts in Illinois that are eligible to receive a grant designed to help relieve residents' property tax burden, the Illinois State Board of Education announced on Jan. 29.
The Property Tax Relief Grant covers a share of local property reductions. For the 2019 fiscal year, the state allocated a total of $50 million for the grant program.
In order to receive the grant, school districts need to agree to abate, or reduce, their property taxes up to a certain legal limit. The grant funds then offset a large part of that reduction.
District 200 officials applied for the grant, along with 373 other school districts, late last year. In its application, District 200 officials committed to reducing its 2018 tax levy by $5.8 million, which is the maximum legal amount allowed.
Officials with ISBE said that eligible districts are required to submit an abatement resolution to their county clerks by March 30 and share it with the state board before grants funds are distributed.
After the district files a tax abatement resolution in March, District 200 will receive around $3.8 million in state funds to offset the $5.8 million abatement, officials said in a Feb. 5 statement.
"This action reduces the district's portion of the annual tax bill for a $400,000 market value home by approximately $280," according to the statement released by D200.
District officials explained that residents should note that because OPRF is "just one of the local taxing bodies, a property owner's total tax bill may still increase."
Officials added that the "net reduction in the tax levy also means that the total taxes extended for District 200 would be below its 2010 tax level."
According to ISBE, the grant amount for each district "will become a permanent part" of the minimum amount of state funding each district receives going forward.
During a regular meeting in December, Rob Grossi, the district's financial consultant, said that if D200 receives the state grant, it will get $3.8 million "every year going forward even though the requirement is for" the district to abate roughly $2 million the first year.
In their statement, ISBE officials said that school districts were ranked according to the relative tax burden of property owners within those districts, with eligibility being awarded "to those districts with the highest unit equivalent tax rate compared to all the districts that applied."
Oak Park Elementary Schools District 97 officials said in December that they also applied for the state grant, but that they were ranked much lower than OPRF in the priority rankings. District 200 officials said that OPRF ranked 15th in the state's priority rankings.
"Shifting more of the responsibility for education funding to the state makes our system fairer and more equitable," said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, who is a River Forest resident. "Local property wealth should not determine the educational resources available to each child. The Property Tax Relief Grant takes a critical step toward uplifting families and communities."
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