United school districts target big businesses
Commercial tax appeals in Lincolnshire
Updated: February 11, 2013 1:57AM
LINCOLNSHIRE — They will get their money, one way or another — but four local school districts are lobbying Lake County to take as much of it from the area’s largest businesses as possible. The alternative, if the money does not come from the corporations, is to take it from families.
Stevenson High School and the three elementary districts that send students there have pooled their resources and hired a law firm to discuss local commercial properties’ assessed valuations with the Lake County Board of Review. The goal, officials said, is to convince the county to be cautious before granting any large businesses’ assessment appeals — because whatever breaks the board approves for corporations will have to be made up for from another local source.
“That would shift the tax burden from the companies onto the residents,” said Dan Stanley, assistant superintendent for business at Lincolnhsire-Prairie View Elementary District 103.
District 103, Aptakisic-Tripp Elementary District 102 and Kildeer-Countryside Elementary District 96 are sharing the cost with SHS of hiring Robbins Schwartz, a Chicago law firm that specializes in representing schools and other taxing bodies. The collective’s aim, officials said, is to take a close look at Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove’s largest commercial properties, and their requests for lowered assessments.
Any time a company files an appeal with the Board of Review to have its valuation lowered by more than $100,000, the board must notify affected taxing bodies. Stanley said that this year, in District 103 alone, about a dozen properties had filed those requests. Should the board grant each applicant its full appeal (an unlikely scenario), that could take $300,000 out of the commercial side of Lincolnshire-Prairie View’s total tax levy.
But, unlike revenue from the state, local tax levies are one stream from which districts can reliably draw everything they are due — and any reductions the county gives to nearby businesses will be made up for by increasing payments from homeowners.
“That has to get spread among everybody else,” Stanley said.
The impact would be spread thin, he and other districts’ business officials hoped. In District 103, 90 percent of its taxable parcels are residential. Businesses have always contributed more than homeowners, though — in Lincolnshire-Prairie View, the 10 percent of parcels zoned commercial contribute 30 percent of the district’s current $24.7 million total levy.
At Stevenson, assistant superintendent for business Mark Michelini said many districts have had discussions about pooling their resources.
“What we’re doing now is we’re combining forces,” he said. “In recent years, there’s been pushing for consolidation.”
Marty Paulson, the Board of Review’s clerk, said individual districts, including Stevenson, regularly ask to review applications from businesses to have their assessments reduced by $100,000 or more. In such cases, schools can study the arguments made by the appellants and bring their own evidence forward, he said.
“That’s an appropriate practice,” Paulson said.
Stanley said the new group still has a few weeks to make its case — and that it would keep in mind that all businesses need to mind their bottom lines.
“We’re having our guys look at the numbers and see if they’re reasonable,” he said. “If they’re reasonable numbers, there’s nothing more you can do.”