Mokena SD 159 levy request met with criticism
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent December 21, 2012 5:46PM
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:28AM
The Mokena School District 159 Board on Wednesday adopted a 2012 tax levy that it hopes brings in about 3 percent more than last year.
Teachers’ salaries were a subject of debate before the vote, as residents complained about rising property taxes and board President Patrick Markham said there was more work to be done from a payroll standpoint.
The levy is the amount of the district’s budget that it hopes to collect from property taxes. The board adopted a levy for just over $13 million, about $300,000 more than last year.
Tom Mau, a 15-year Mokena resident, said high property taxes are causing problems because of “tough economic times.”
“I propose that high tax rates will force families and businesses from the area,” Mau said.
He said the district has a “spending problem, not a revenue problem,” and it should “prepare to cut and cut deeper.”
Markham said that although the district has “come a long way” and is “in the black,” payroll still is a budget issue. The board and teachers union in January agreed to a three-year contract with a salary freeze for the 2011-12 school year, increases of 2 percent and 2.5 percent the following two years, and no step increases.
“I believe the board has done a lot of good work in reducing that, bringing that down,” Markham said. “But we’re not done. We’re not done.”
Resident Robert Swale, a candidate for the school board in April’s election, called for teachers to “forgo or severely cut back” next year’s raise because it accounted for the bulk of the tax levy increase.
Therese Dydo, a seven-year resident, said higher taxes of any kind will hurt her family and others in Mokena.
“Everyone knows the trades are hurting,” said Dydo, who said her husband had been laid off twice in three years from his job as an electrician.
“The hard fact is that I think there are a lot of us who are going to have to leave here,” Dydo said. “My taxes have gone up $600 since I moved here, which means my mortgage goes up. I’m not sure a lot of families can take another increase.”
Taxing bodies such as school districts don’t always receive the full amount for which they levy, and for that reason often levy for the maximum 5 percent increase.