Batavians for Responsible Government Launches New Website

For further information and commentary on the actions of the BPS 101 school board, please visit the website of Batavians for Responsible Government at b4rg.org .

Thank you.

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The Next Step: Batavians for Responsible Government

The question had been asked, “Where do we go from here?” In response, we have formed a new group, Batavians for Responsible Government (BRG). All who had contacted Lower the Levy to request a yard sign or show support had been sent an invitation to an organizational meeting. The turn-out was very encouraging. With the help of Geneva Tax FACTS and a reform-minded school board member from another district, we are off to a good start.

BRG is being patterned after the watchdog group, Geneva Tax FACTS, in their quest to gather and disseminate information on the activities of local taxing bodies, with the school board being our initial focus. BRG will go a step further and work to recruit, train, and get new school board members elected who will use the money of the taxpayers responsibly and respectfully, while working to provide high quality education.

If you would like to get involved in this endeavor, or if you cannot get involved at this time but would like to receive updates on future meetings and happenings, please contact us through the Lower the Levy contact page.

Thank you.

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Tally of email response: 125-to-5 to Lower the Levy

The emails that had been sent to the Batavia School Board regarding the levy were requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Before the board cast their vote unanimously to tax the maximum amount without relief for the taxpayer, the volume of email received by the board members, for and against, was noted. However, no numbers were given. After eliminating repeat, follow-up, and multiple emails, the tally was: 125 requests that the school board adopt a lower levy and lower our property taxes, and 5 emails urging them to keep the maximum levy. 125 to 5, or 25 to 1 in favor of lowering the levy.

When the school board approved the $13 million athletic fields redevelopment plan, they made a big deal of the comments received in favor of the plan, as reported in the Batavia Patch (7/24/13). What kind of response did they get then? A 42 – 8 or 37 – 7 vote (depending on your source of info) in favor of the athletic fields. Yet when 2-3 times as many people take the time to send their comments to the school board, there is no mention of the numbers. With the athletic fields, 84% of a small sampling sided with the board, making it newsworthy. But when over 96% of a significantly larger crowd disagreed with the board, their numbers were silenced and the people ignored.

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Recruitment starting for school board members

It was made obvious by the levy vote that the only way to get a much needed tax break in Batavia is to elect members to the school board who have a serious intent to reduce taxes. If the $6 million is not necessary, as we contend, it can be removed from the yearly levy at a later date. While it may not be until 2017, when under the best circumstances a majority on the school board may be obtained, it can be done (though it would have been much better had it never been absorbed into the budget).

We have already begun recruitment for the next school board election in 2015. There will be 3 seats up for election. Ideal candidates should have competence in an area of value to the school board, e.g., accounting, business management, human resources, personnel management, or any field where tough decisions are made regularly to work within a tight budget, and who will not be dependent on the school district administration for decision making. Common sense, a stiff spine, and upright morals are essential. While candidates with impressive credentials better sway voters, we also welcome intelligent, passionate, discerning individuals who welcome a tough challenge.

Some of the folks involved in Lower the Levy would support good candidates with preparation, campaign help, and, if so desired, help lighten the load of sorting through documents once elected (many hands make light work).

Please contact Lower the Levy through the contact page if you are interested in being a candidate, or want to be involved in any way in this effort. The sooner, the better. Petitions to get a candidate on the ballot must be submitted in November 2014 (less than a year from now). Familiarizing oneself with how the board works should be started no later than Spring (preliminary budget meetings in May 2014 should be attended).

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School Board unanimously approves $7.2 million increase

Despite the many eloquent requests to lower the levy, the school board unanimously approved the $7.2 million tax increase.  There was no discussion among the board members of alternatives. Their minds had already been made up, as some had come with prepared speeches.

This was not unexpected, given the Finance Committee meeting at noon the same day. There were no other plans presented. The Administration offered no other options for review.

A link to the video will be posted here when available.

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IL Property Taxes 2nd Highest in Nation, Batavia Even Higher

If you think your property taxes are too high, you’re right. According to the Tax Policy Center, as reported in Illinois Review 12/6/13,

Illinois’ property tax rates have skyrocketed since 2010…. The average property tax rates as a percent of home value has soared from 1.93 percent in 2010 to 2.28 percent in 2012. This represents an 18 percent property tax rate increase in just two years. This rate spike is due to declining home values and local taxing bodies increasing property tax levies. [emphasis added]

Illinois’ property tax rate is second only to the rate New Jersey residents pay, which is 2.32 percent annually.

In Batavia, taxpayers are faring even worse. In 2012 the taxes paid as a percentage of home value was 2.8%– $6745 on an average $241,000 home. The majority of that money goes to the school district.

If the school board were to lower the levy as this website advocates,  a $400 drop from last year’s taxes (assuming the same EAV for the average household) would bring down our taxes to 2.63%–a step closer to average. This is one of those cases where being above average is not good.

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The School District Responds

The School District has posted information on the levy, presumably in response to the many emails they are receiving. Their arguments are very weak.

They show a graph of average tax bills vs. inflation. Why inflation? Because the graph looks good, especially since they’ve chosen 2008 as their reference point for inflation, just before the economy crashed. Graphs like this are easy to manipulate because the choice of starting point makes a huge difference. Why not 2010 or 2011?

Besides, inflation is not a good measure of how much money we have in our pockets. For some time now, costs have gone up (inflation) faster than money is coming in. From CNNMoney 10/19/11: “…declining wages are not just a result of the Great Recession. Adjusted for inflation, middle class wages, as measured by median household income, have fallen 7% over the last decade.” So while they may point to a graph and say, “See, your tax increase is normal,” that doesn’t make you feel any better as you see less money in your bank account, struggle under the burden of high taxes, and fear retirement.

Most of all, the school district is doing their best to ignore the elephant in the graph: the $75 million building referendum. Because the school board promised voters that the new Fine Arts Center, field house, etc., would not increase the tax rate, for a few years the board played a shell game, moving money around until all the shells came up empty and they had to increase taxes –big time– to pay the bond debt they had incurred. They broke their promise. That is the jump–$460–that you see in their graph from 2011 to 2012.

They say, our current projections estimate a decrease in the average tax bill for our existing property owners.How much of a decrease do they project? If you dig through the Board Book (they don’t make it obvious) you can expect to get from $20-$28 (pp. 175 & 181). However, if they would reduce the levy by the $6 million from the mall, taxes would drop $400. Which would you prefer? AND that would offset the $460 increase in the tax bill due to their broken promise. (Idea for new email to school board: “Keep your promise and lower the levy.”)

What do they say they need the $6 million for? Their website says, “The expected revenue from this TIF led the Board to adopt the FY13-14 Capital and Staffing plan in March 2013, which added 7.5 teachers and 3.5 instructional coaches dedicated to enhancing instruction and improving student achievement.” Oh my, those 11 staff members must be receiving some very hefty salaries. Wouldn’t the requested $1.2 million levy increase the school district would get without the mall be sufficient?

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