Property Taxes – 2021 District 211 Board of Education Election Candidate Questionnaire


Gabe Classon and Maya Nayak

The Viking Logue sent out a questionnaire to all nine candidates in the District 211 Board of Education race. See all of the candidates’ responses to one of the questions below. See here for The Logue‘s full coverage of the April 6 election, including the candidates’ responses to other topics on the questionnaire.

Striking the right balance between minimizing the tax burden on district residents and ensuring the future financial security of the district is challenging, especially during these economically uncertain times. What is your stance on abating or rebating a portion of the district’s property tax levy?

Curtis Bradley: First the school board should never be in a position where we need to borrow money. D211 is very strong financially right now, however this could change in a matter of 5 – 8 years. My priority on the board is to put the needs of the students first. If the tax levy is in line with their needs then that’s where I will be voting. Currently there isn’t a need to increase taxes for this reason.

Denise Wilson: I do not agree with the tax increase for District 211. This is not the year to increase taxes, the Board should have considered the heavy financial affects of the pandemic on our community.

Robi Vollkommer: I feel with more than a $30 million dollar surplus that we have to look at abating or rebating as an option. Letting that money just sit just doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of the community or tax payers.

Kristen Steel: The District is over-taxing the community to the point that the project costs can not keep up with the money being taken into the district. Fund Balances are growing at the expense of families being able to put food on the table. Significant numbers of our neighbors are accepting free and reduced lunches, yet we raise taxes to the point where they are house poor. D211 needs to raise property taxes based on budget needs, and not treat our money as an entitlement.

Jessica Hinkle: District 211 currently has a surplus of money, but continues to burden the tax payers.
While reserves are important, there is no better time than the present to apply the excess funds to improve and enhance conditions in this Covid-19 impacted environment. We are experiences extenuating circumstances in this is exactly the type of scenario that we provided reserves for.
Invariably, as stated earlier when the topic of tax levies comes up, the board’s response it to impulsively vote in favor of increasing the levy. A more thorough investigation of proposed levy increases is needed and our goal should be to:
• Scrutinize proposed increases and approve only the most appropriate and essential.
• Reduce the funding in other budget areas that are non-essential or seemingly frivolous inclusions.
• Insure budget is cleansed on a regular basis of funding allocated to potentially obsolescent items.
• Review and refine reserve funding requirements. Establish funding caps where none exist and/or adjust fund life expectation.
I am confident that we can provide the best experience for our students, while being respectful and accountable to the members of our community.
I am confident that we can provide the best experience for our students, while being respectful and accountable to the members of our community.

Roxanne Wittkamp:I support the tax levy that was approved by the current board. In order for a school district to remain solvent, it needs money for the long term. Many new housing developments will bring additional tax revenue through property taxes to D211, D54, and D15. The board can make potential changes based on the increased tax amount from these new developments in the coming years. The D211 business office has won awards for its due diligence in budgeting and finance, which means this office is doing its job well.
There are many examples of state school systems that have gone broke and laid off teachers and staff because the boards didn’t look into the future for their schools, and D211 currently has no debt, and it doesn’t make sense to go into debt. As a business college professor, I teach students how to forecast and budget. It makes sense to keep the district at its excellent level of teaching, and in order to do this, the district needs money.

Anna Klimkowicz: I believe that the next school year will come with many unknown expenses for we are still working to determine the needs of students and staff after a year of change and uncertainty. The CPI-U rate of 1.4% will be the limiting rate for the 2021 levy, which is lower than the current rate of 2.3%. This will have an impact on the amount of tax dollars the district receives. The Tax Cap laws restrict the district to increase the levy only by the increase of CPI plus and EAV of new construction. The recommended levy amounts are determined by the amount of funds needed to support general operating costs for educational purposes along with support for ongoing building and maintenance costs and transportation.

Over the last 10 years, we have abated over $30 million dollars which decreased the levy and saved the property taxpayer money. The district is debt free, which is why it is important that we maintain sufficient funds for repairs, technology, and modernization of student classrooms, additional learning spaces and improvement across all school auditoriums, along with general maintenance.

I am weighing all factors regarding an abatement, and at this time would support the abatement over a rebate. A rebate is a complicated matter and may not achieve the results some people want. The proceeds from the land sale should be used to benefit the students, for this is a one-time source of revenue and should be considered for expenses that are non-recurring in nature.

Tim Mc Gowan: It’s important to keep our future financial planning in mind when thinking about this decision. I would be in favor of property tax abatement in the coming years, especially as we recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. At the same time, we want to be able to have the money on hand instead of needing to borrow money in the future. At the end of the day, the taxes paid will benefit our students, who are our top priority, so no money is being wasted.