Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tax Group Fighting Back

The ranks of taxpayer activists continues to grow. A round of applause for our friends in Will and Dupage Counties.

Tax group fighting back
Will DuPage alliance says its levy figures came right from District 203

By Melissa Jenco
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Friday, December 02, 2005

The new Will DuPage Taxpayers Alliance went on the defensive Thursday, saying its calculations regarding Naperville Unit School District 203’s finances are credible, having come from the district itself.

The group was responding to a comment by Superintendent Alan Leis in Thursday’s Daily Herald that the community would be hearing a “flurry of numbers, untruths, half-truths and innuendoes” from people asking for a lower tax levy.

“These are the numbers, 203 numbers,” said Dan Denys, a member of the group. “So should I be cute here and say that 203 numbers are half-truths, innuendo? That’s what I’m using. I’m not making up numbers. I’m not manufacturing numbers.”

Leis said his remarks — made to about 60 community and business leaders Wednesday — were not referring specifically to the Will DuPage Taxpayers Alliance, but he felt he needed to defend the district.

“Because I felt the school system was being attacked, individuals were being attacked for not being truthful, and I didn’t think that was fair,” Leis said.

Criticism of the district resurfaced when the school board approved a tentative 2006 tax levy of $169.4 million.

While this is at least $5 million less than it could have asked for, some residents believe it’s still too high because the district already took in at least $24 million more than taxpayers expected after approving a 2002 tax increase.

The alliance plans to ask the district to reduce its levy by roughly $6 million, which is the amount the district expects to have in surplus at the end of the school year.

Leis said in considering the proposal, the district will have to look at what it means for its future because collecting less this year will mean collecting less in subsequent years as well.

“The district has rightly been focused on five-year projections and out, and we have to be very careful of the (impact) it will have in the out years and not just in next year’s budget,” Leis said.

Members of the alliance said the district can sustain a lower levy if it makes cuts in spending, which they don’t believe will affect the quality of education.

“It just really bothers me that they take the coward’s way out and make the community feel that, in order to save any money, we have to hurt the children,” said resident Maureen Taylor, who attended the tax group’s news conference Thursday. “Or if we don’t give them additional money, it’s going to hurt the children.”

The group suggested outsourcing maintenance and transportation staffs to reduce expenses.

Ultimately though, members said their goal is to promote a better understanding among taxpayers.

“If taxpayers want to pay more taxes, that’s certainly a right that they have,” said group member Ari Rosenthal. “We just want to make sure there is an open discussion and all the facts are out on the table.”

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