The cost of a property tax freeze to Illinois schools? Up to $830 million
Late last month, the Illinois Senate passed a bill that would freeze property tax collections for school districts (and other local governments) across the state for two years.
That may sound appealing to many property owners, but because the bill provides no state assistance to make up the resulting revenue shortfall, it essentially amounts to a Springfield-mandated funding cut to every school district in Illinois.
How big of a cut? According to CTBA analysis, as much as $830 million per year — or more than $420 per student.
The bill provides a bit of wiggle room: School districts may increase the property taxes they collect by the amount of inflation (the Consumer Price Index, or CPI) — but only for debt service or pension payments.
Actual, current classroom teaching and student support services, in other words, will have to do the same (or more, in the case of increased enrollments) with less, as inflation chips away at the value of a two-year-old property tax levy.
Moreover, a property tax freeze would come on the heels of more than a decade of state disinvestment in K-12 education. Adjusting for inflation, Illinois cut per-capita spending on K-12 schools by about 13 percent between fiscal years 2000 and 2015. A property tax freeze without a corresponding increase in state support would just mean more cuts to classrooms across the state.