PBL to get $1 million boost from wind farm

PAXTON — The Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district should see a $1 million spike in revenue next year, while homeowners in the district should see a savings on their property tax bills next summer, thanks to the construction of a wind farm near Paxton.

The district’s proposed 2012 tax levy calls for an increase of more than $1 million in taxes to be collected in 2013 — exclusively due to the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm being assessed for the first time this year, Superintendent Cliff McClure said.

All 94 of the wind farm’s  turbines are within the PBL school district’s boundaries. Assessed through a standard formula at $215,000 each, the turbines have pushed the estimated equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of the school district to $158.46 million, up from $133.83 million in 2011, McClure said.

Meanwhile, the anticipated increase in taxable property is expected to allow the district’s tax rate to be reduced by more than 16 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, McClure said. The projected rate reduction is up from last month’s estimate of 13 cents.

The savings for the owner of a typical $100,000 home is expected to be about $54, McClure said.

The rate projected by the school district — $5.18 per $100 of assessed valuation — would be the lowest for PBL taxpayers since 2003, when the rate was $5.07.

The supervisors of assessments in Ford and Iroquois counties will set the rate for PBL after the counties’ EAV is finalized in December.  Ford County Supervisor of Assessments Candice Short said her county’s EAV and its tax rate will be finalized after Dec. 7, the deadline for property owners to appeal their assessments with the board of review.

Short said the wind farm is the only significant factor for Ford County’s EAV increasing, as most residential properties show little change from last year’s assessments. Only the eight townships in northern Ford County saw residential assessment changes this year, Short said, noting the properties’ values were lowered, rather than raised.

Short said there were no significant changes to the residential property assessments in either Paxton or Gibson City, “as it didn’t require any revaluating of those two jurisdictions.”

Iroquois County’s supervisor of assessments was not in the office Monday and could not be reached for comment.

PBL’s tax levy will be up for approval at the board’s Dec. 12 meeting, after the board holds a required truth-in-taxation hearing at 7 p.m. that day to take public comments.

McClure said the hearing is required because the district’s levy is proposed to rise by more than 5 percent of the amount collected from property taxes in 2012.

The 2012 levy calls for $8.2 million in property taxes to be collected, up from $7.1 million. With bonds not included, the levy shows $7.5 million to be collected next summer, up from $6.5 million.

But McClure stressed that the only reason for the higher levy is the increase in EAV due to the assessment of the wind farm.

The additional revenue will be used to help fill a budget gap in the education and transportation funds.

Other business
Also at last Wednesday’s school board meeting:

— The board met in closed session to discuss the possible purchase or lease of property for use by the district, but McClure said the board came out of the executive session without moving forward. “We’re not going to do anything,” McClure said.

— The board accepted the only bid received, from Fox River Foods, for the district’s food program. Fox River is the district’s current food program provider, and McClure said the district is pleased with the company’s service.

— The board voted to dispose of a 2002 Chevrolet Venture van that is inoperable and no longer of use to the district. “We’re planning to donate it to the Paxton fire department, if they’ll accept it,” McClure said. “If not, it will be salvaged.”

— The board agreed to authorize the district to purchase  a used van as a replacement for the one that was disposed of.

— The board directed its vice president, Dave Dowling, how to vote on various position statements up for approval at the Illinois Association of School Boards’ Triple I Conference in Chicago. Dowling attended the conference last weekend as a delegate.

— The board took action on the district’s Title 1 plan, which is required to be updated and resubmitted every three years for the district to qualify for a Title 1 grant each year.

Action after closed session
Following a closed session, the board:

— Approved the hiring of Emily Ward as junior high school librarian.

— Approved the appointment of Margaret Seibring as yearbook sponsor at PBL Eastlawn School and Courtney Taylor as yearbook sponsor at Clara Peterson Elementary School.

— Accepted the resignation of Nancy Hofer as a unit office bookkeeper and Cecile Ratcliff as a cook at the junior high/high school.

— Approved Mark Coplea as a volunteer coach for high school boys’ basketball and Jenna Seibring as a volunteer coach for high school girls’ basketball.

— Approved the contracts of PBL High School Principal Trent Eshleman, PBL Junior High School Principal Josh Didier, PBL Eastlawn School Principal Barry Wright, Clara Peterson Elementary School Principal Amanda Wetherell, Director of Curriculum and Assessment Tara Wienke, all through June 30, 2015. The board also approved the contract of District Superintendent Cliff McClure, through June 30, 2017.

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