By Marilyn Thomas on January 7, 2019 – 6:06pm

The District 233 school board unanimously approved a grant application that could help reduce property taxes by more than $2 million.
 
The board agreed at its December meeting to apply for the Property Tax Relief Grant. The Illinois State Board of Education will review applications this month to determine whether Homewood-Flossmoor High School qualifies for the grant.
 
Superintendent Von Mansfield said the board has, for the past several years, considered ways to reduce taxes, adding, “Now we can do it and there’s money available to allow that to happen.”
The deduction will benefit both individual and business properties.
 

When H-F gets word the application is approved, the district will need to abate $2,032,558 million for property tax relief. The state will give the district 96.6 percent of that, or $1.96 million, in additional revenues through the grant program.  

The Cook County Clerk’s Office will be notified, and the reduction in taxes will appear on the tax bills due in August.

 

Illinois has shifted its school funding formula to try and give funding equity between districts that have great property wealth and those that do not. The evidence-based formula is meant to help districts, including Homewood District 153, Flossmoor District 161 and Homewood-Flossmoor District 233.

 

Board members applauded Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood) and Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) for their work in pushing the grant program that will offer relief to taxpayers.

 

Board member Jody Scariano, who has served on the board’s Finance Committee for years, said she continuously reminded local legislators and state school officials that the South Suburbs were getting the short shrift.

 

Bob Grossi, the Bloom Township school treasurer who handles and invests school funds for H-F and other school districts in the South Suburbs, said the heavy property tax burden puts south suburban schools at the top of the list for state relief. The area is considered “property poor” because it doesn’t have a strong commercial and industrial base that would take some of the burden from the homeowner.

 

“Our average tax rate in South Cook is almost twice the state average,” Grossi said.

 

Based on tax rates and Equalized Assessment Valuation (EAV), Grossi said ISBE ranked districts with the highest property tax rates. The list shows Homewood-Flossmoor District 233 is first, Rich Township District 227 is second and Thornton Township District 205 is third and, he added, South Cook County has 40 of the top 100 schools on the list. The state has 850 school districts.

 

Grossi and Mansfield credited Davis for the work he did in getting $50 million of the new $350 million in state school support designated for property tax relief.

 

Using a specific formula, Grossi told the District 233 Finance Committee in November that although the abatement drops tax revenues by $2 million, the state grant will give the district 96.6 percent of that, or $1.96 million, in additional revenues. He called it “a wash” because District 233 collects about 97 percent of its property taxes.

 

District 233 board President Steve Anderson was hesitant and asked what the catch was. In the past, the state has promised funding for schools only to reduce revenues, hurting school districts’ finances.

 

Grossi admitted there are no guarantees, but he’s talked to representatives from ISBE and the Illinois Department of Revenue and was assured that there wasn’t a give-and-take. This could be true property tax relief if H-F is selected for the grant “because the money the state gives you this year becomes embedded into your base funding minimum state aid formula, which means you’ll get it every year thereafter. In essence, if you give $2 million in relief this year, that $1.9 million you’ll get is perpetual, even if you only do one year tax abatement.”

 

By accepting the tax relief, “you’re getting closer to being fully funded under the state formula,” Grossi explained. “Right now (H-F is at) 62 percent of where you should be.” Because H-F will be getting closer to parity, the tax relief will drop from year to year, but Grossi estimates H-F could receive as much as $8 million over 10 years through the grant program.