CHARLESTON -- A "negligible" increase in property tax revenue is likely for the Charleston school district next year.

That's according to a report from Dean Keller, the district's financial consultant, that he gave to the Charleston school board Wednesday concerning the district's upcoming property tax levy adoption.

Keller told the board he plans to recommend a levy that calls for a 4.99 percent increase when the board votes on it next month.

However, noting that the district is under the restrictions of the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law or PTELL, he said the actual increase will be limited to that of the Consumer Price Index.

For this year's levy, a CPI figure of 0.7 percent will be used, and that should result in an additional $89,000 in property tax revenue for the district next year, Keller explained.

The budget for the current school year the board approved in September has revenues and expenses both at just more than $25 million.

PTELL limits a taxing body's revenue increase to the CPI or 5 percent, whichever is less.

Five percent is also the maximum increase for a levy before the taxing body has to conduct a public hearing, and the district has regularly set its levy slightly below that.

Taxing bodies frequently levy for more property taxes than actually expected in order to cover increases from new construction or others that PTELL doesn't limit.

The board is scheduled to vote on adopting the levy during its Dec. 21 meeting and that would start the cycle that will result in tax bills property owners receive next year.

Keller also told the board that PTELL allows the district to move revenue from some budget funds to others if it's necessary.

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He said that might be needed because the district has received no state reimbursement for transportation costs so far this school year.

The lack of the state payments also led to the board's votes Wednesday to move more money from the budget's working cash fund to the transportation fund.

There were actually two votes on that matter: one that repaid an inter-fund loan from last year, which was required, and another to authorize a second, larger loan for the current year.

The move amounted to a $700,000 reduction in the working cash fund.

Also during Wednesday's meeting, Superintendent Jim Littleford updated the board on plans following voter approval of a school sales tax in Coles County during last week's election.

Littleford repeated the stance district officials gave before the election: that they'll employ a "pay-as-you-go" approach and delay projects until money's received to avoid debt.

He said planning on how to use the sales tax revenue, which is limited mostly to funding for repairs and similar projects, will take place "in the coming weeks."

"It's going to go a long way toward keeping our buildings in good shape," Littleford said.

Littleford also told the board that the district plans to use a delayed start system for school during some periods of bad weather this winter, as it did last year.

The option for the two-hour delay to the start of school allows flexibility when road conditions improve later in the day after early bad weather, he said. It means school won't have to be canceled for the entire day when not necessary, he added.

Littleford said the delayed-start schedule and snow routes buses will use are both posted on the district's website, www.charleston.k12.il.us.

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Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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