School districts hurting without property tax revenue - Republic-Times | News

School districts hurting without property tax revenue

By on December 19, 2018 at 3:03 pm

Local school districts are feeling the pain of not yet receiving local property tax revenue.

The districts normally would have had the money by now, but the tax assessments were completed late. They did not go into the mail until the first week of December, with due dates of Jan. 16 and Feb. 20. 

“We may be struggling all the way through February to March on this,” Regional Superintendent of Schools Kelton Davis said. “So it’s almost been an entire school year based on six months delay on property taxes. It’s not pretty, and ultimately your taxpayers pay for it because it’s a loss of revenue that (school districts) have got to make up somehow. The schools run on taxpayer money, and the taxpayer money didn’t flow through. Nobody wins.” 

At an August Monroe County Board meeting, Monroe County Assessor Carl Wuertz said there were a few reasons for the assessments coming out late. 

He noted that his staff was one person larger in 2010, but that person retired in that year, and a hiring freeze prohibited a replacement at the time. While he has shared an employee as a clerk in recent years, that arrangement recently ended. He also said an added 700 homes in the county since 2010, and said new requirements for data entry have added to the office’s burden. 

The three Monroe County school districts have taken different approaches to dealing with the lack of tax revenue.

Waterloo loaned $1 million from its working cash fund to the education fund and $900,000 from the working cash fund to the debt service fund. It did that so it would not go into the red in either fund.

The district also issued $6 million in tax anticipation warrants, a type of loan using the property taxes it will receive as collateral. 

“Waterloo CUSD 5 has prepared to borrow up to $6 million in $2 million increments, as needed,” Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron summarized. “We have now accessed $4 million. We are paying simple interest and this loan is being paid back upon receipt of tax payments collected.”

The interest on the loans costs taxpayers about $20,000 a month. The district has used the loans for two months. 

Columbia did not have to borrow money, instead relying on reserves it had built up through investing to pay bills.

It has lost some money from not being able to invest those funds, but the financial impact has been minimal. 

That could change if the district does not receive money soon. 

“Columbia CUSD 4 has $2.6 million of bond and interest payments due Jan. 1, which significantly depletes the district’s reserves,” Columbia Superintendent of Schools Gina Segobiano said. “Without a large property tax distribution to the school district in January, the district will have to pursue options in order to meet payroll requirements.”

Valmeyer is in a similar situation.

“After we pay our bills and payroll in December, Valmeyer will have $50,000 to its name,” Valmeyer Superintendent of Schools Eric Frankford said. “For a $4.5 million budget, that’s not significant. If we do not receive funds by Jan. 1, we will need to borrow money under tax anticipation warrants to make payroll.”

It has also lost thousands on interest by not being able to invest funds like it normally would. 

Davis said there is only one way for residents to help the school districts. 

“What it would rely upon to get the money out, which is really for our schools and other taxing bodies, is for individuals to pay them early on their own,” he said. “I really think we need to get people to do that.”

Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein is sending out money to the various taxing bodies, including school district, as soon as he can. 

He will send it on a weekly basis, with plans to start distributing funds this week. Koenigstein can prioritize where to send the funds, meaning those taxing bodies that need the money most can get payments first. 

For those payments to be large enough to make a difference, though, residents would need to pay early. 

“We are hopeful that tax payments made early will allow us to save on interest costs and eliminate the need to borrow the full amount,” Charron said. 

“To me it’s what every individual can do,” Davis agreed. “Even if it’s a little bit, it’s going to make an impact.”

So far, Monroe County has received more than $14 million in property taxes. That is about 25 percent of the total amount due. 

Usually, payments do not come in until the last 10 days before the due date.

“Payments have been brisk, with most people paying their full installment now,” Koenigstein said. 

Citizens can pay their property taxes at local banks, by mail or online through the state’s E-Pay system.

That can be accessed by going to monroecountyil.gov/departments/treasurers-office/tax-payments and clicking on the Illinois E-Pay website link under online payments. 

“We are a very generous county with helping those in need,” Davis noted. “And, really, it’s not a donation. It’s just stepping up and doing it sooner for money that would have been collected this summer.”

First installment distributed

The Monroe County Treasurer’s office released the first installment of property taxes to the taxing districts on Dec. 21. It distributed just over $12 million, which represents about 20 percent of the taxes levied.

Of that $12 million, Waterloo’s school district received a little more than $4.1 million, Columbia’s got almost $3 million and Valmeyer’s got $433,643.

“I want to thank all of the citizens who paid their property taxes early and allowed us to get this money out in as great amounts as it was,” Koenigstein said.

Davis also thanked the “great people of Monroe County” who helped the school districts by paying early. In addition, he gave kudos to Koenigstein’s office.

“I’ve been in constant contact with Kevin, and I want to commend him and his staff for going the extra mile to process and calculate all this to ensure we get the support needed for our schools,” Davis said.

James Moss