January 20, 2020 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

SJO still waiting on property tax money

St. Joseph-Ogden High School has only received roughly $22,000 of the money it is due from Champaign County property taxes.

The district usually receives around 55 percent of the tax levy in May or June and then around 45 percent of the levy in September.

The property tax levy accounts for almost 64 percent of the districts revenue. Superintendent Brian Brooks told the Board of Education during their June meeting that he did not expect to receive the rest of that money by the end of thefiscal year.

“It is not going to happen,” Brooks said. “I would be floored if it happened.”

The payment has been delayed because Champaign County property tax bills were delayed and the first installment isn’t due until July 1.

Brooks said the district would need $1.45 million in order to breakeven in the education, working cash, operation and maintenance and transportation funds.

Because the district has not received the money it is due, they will run a budget deficit in their Annual Financial Report.

“Which will be very frustrating because normally we wouldn’t,” Brooks said. “We would be in the black by at least $186,000. This will require us to have to do a deficit reduction plan for the state, even though we would not have  had a budget deficit if the County would have gotten the tax bills out on time. “

Brooks said he also expected the district’s financial profile to be effected. The district has been rated by the Illinois State Board of Education as having received Financial Recognition, which means they
are in good financial standing and is the highest rating. The ISBE looks at fund balance to revenue ratio, expenditure to revenue ratio, days cash on hand and percent of short-term borrowing ability remaining. Brooks said the district not receiving the money it is due will also effect their bond rating if they wanted to go out for bonds. 

“It is very frustrating, very frustrating to be honest,” he said.

Brooks said the district will not have to take out loans (Tax Anticipation Warrants) to pay its
bills like some other districts in Champaign County and can transfer money between accounts instead.

“We are fortunate there,” he said.

Brooks said Champaign County officials have told schools that the delay in the tax bills being mailed out was because of a delay by the Illinois Department of Revenue issuing a final county multiplier, which is needed for the calculations done by the Champaign County Clerk’s Office on tax rates.

The state issued the county a multiplier of “1” in April, which was the same as the tentative one the county was issued in August. The county multiplier is determined by the state each year to assure that equalized assessed values of property are in line with 33.3 percent of fair market value.

Assessments in Champaign County are 33.27 percent of market value basked off sales in of property in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Brooks said the county does not seem to understand how serious it is that the district will not receive the money before the end of the fiscal year.

“It is a big deal and I don’t think they have any clue how big of a deal it is,” he said. “It is an absolute disaster to be honest.”

Brooks said numerous Champaign County Superintendents have expressed their opinion to the county.

“We are hopeful that July 1will not be the new norm for tax bills,” Brooks said. “We have been told it won’t be but we were also told for the past few months that we would get our money by the end of the fiscal year.”

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