Skokie Review: Skokie schools shine light on funding challenges
By Mike Isaacs
Updated: November 22, 2012 5:36AM
When residents look at steep hikes in their property tax bills, they often direct much of their frustration toward the revenue source collecting most of their money.
That’s local schools, but understanding how school funding works in Illinois indicates that the issue is not so simple.
That was a key message delivered Nov. 15 by a panel of administrators representing every Skokie school district at an education forum sponsored by the residents’ association, Skokie Voice. Also there was Niles Township Assessor Scott Bagnall, who said he functions as a taxpayer advocate in his job.
Bagnall, and then District 68 and District 73.5 respective Business Managers Beth Millard and Cyndi Cohen talked about challenges facing school districts in generating revenue.
“Just because schools represent the largest percentage of a tax bill does not mean that the number is unfair,” Bagnall said.
As dictated by the state, school districts rely heavily on property taxes and benefit from strong commercial and industrial tax bases; where residents live makes a difference.
But as Millard and Cohen said, districts are getting less support from the state than what is even promised in the Illinois Constitution. The state is supposed to fund at least 50 percent of local education, but falls below this mark.
The districts are also impacted by the Cook County property tax cap; an increasing number of unfunded state mandates; and successful property tax appeals by businesses.
Some asked about consolidation since there are six school districts in Skokie.
Skokie School District 73.5 Superintendent Kate Donegan said consolidation is an issue decided by the community.
Others noted that consolidation is a complicated solution. District 219 Superintendent Nanciann Gata called it a “double-edged sword” because with districts that merge, the higher tax rate and the more expensive teachers’ salary contract would apply under state law.~.