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Unit 5 tax bill likely to be larger than originally thought
[December 13, 2012]

Unit 5 tax bill likely to be larger than originally thought

Dec 13, 2012 (The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Unit 5 exploring redistricting for next school year NORMAL -- A committee created to look at how McLean County Unit 5 students are distributed among schools -- especially in the rapidly growing ea... Read more NORMAL -- McLean County Unit 5 taxpayers likely will see a slightly bigger property tax increase than originally predicted this fall, the school board was told Wednesday.

At the same meeting, the board also approved spending $270,000 to improve its communication systems both inside schools and with first responders during emergencies -- an action taken in response to a Sept. 7 gunfire incident at Normal Community High School.

In October, the board was told the tax bill for a $150,000 house would increase by $17; on Wednesday, it was told the increase would be $37.

The total property tax rate for the district is predicted to inch up from the current $4.74 per $100 equalized assessed valuation to $4.85 per $100 EAV.

An increase in the cost of paying bonds from the 2008 construction referendum is behind the increase, according to Erik Bush, the district's business manager. The cost of the referendum debt is $18.7 million this year and likely will increase to about $20 million in 2014 before leveling off and then decreasing, he said.

The total levy for taxes payable in 2013 is $103,286,827, including $18,751,005 for debt payment.

The amount the district actually will receive and the tax rate will be determined by the total taxable value of property in the district, which has yet to be finalized.

The total taxable value had been increasing by 5 percent to 6 percent, but in recent years has stagnated or even declined.

The board also approved spending $270,000 over a two-year period for new walkie-talkies from Motorola Solutions Inc. to improve both day-to-day and emergency communications. As part of the agreement it will join Starcom21, the statewide system used by police and other emergency agencies.

After the gunfire incident, the district met with various agencies, including Normal and Bloomington police, to see what improvements could be made. Communication between emergency agencies and the district was cited as a key concern.

Superintendent Gary Niehaus said he expects the two-way radios will be in schools by January.

They will replace some "direct connect" services previously supplied by the district's cellular phone service provider and will significantly reduce the $10,000 monthly cell phone bill, he said.

Some of the equipment being replaced was "piecemeal and antiquated," said board member Mark Pritchett.

___ (c)2012 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) Visit The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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