Unit 1 School District presents tentative tax levy

Each year in the month of November, the Coal City Community Unit District 1 Board of Education approves placing its  tentative property tax levy on file, the amount of the request  is intended to cover district expenses for the coming year. 


For tax year 2023, payable in 2024, the school district is seeking to collect $33 .8 million in corporate and special purpose property taxes. The  amount outlined in the tentative levy represents a 25.7% increase over the previous year.  The amount extended for debt service is $3.49 million  bringing the total estimated property taxes to be levied to $37.6 million, an increase of 23.5% from 2022. 


The levy is calculated on the equalized assessed value [EAV] of the district and as of Oct. 30, the Grundy County Assessor's Office estimated that value to be $1.1 billion with a rate setting EAV of just over $930 million.  The latter figure is calculated to include reductions that come as a result of exemptions  and approved tax increment financing [TIF] .


Out of a value of $930 million, $520 million  is assigned to Constellation’s Dresden Nuclear Generating Station. That figure is  based on the terms of a negotiated agreement the company has with seven local taxing districts including the school.


In the coming weeks, a legal notice framed by a heavy black border will be posted in the local newspaper announcing a public hearing on the proposed property tax levy and while it may appear frightening to taxpayers,the proposed increase is actually a means of protecting their interests.


In preparing the tentative 2023 levy, the district’s Chief School Business Official Jason Smith developed two plans— one that accounts for no change in the value of the GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy facility in Goose Lake Township and another that represents an increase in  the value of the site over what the Grundy County assessor and  Board of Review  have placed on the facility. It is the latter version that the Unit 1 Board of Education approved and placed on file at its November 1 meeting. 


“For the last two years we have filed tax objections against the valuation, so what the levy represents is one that places additional value over what the Board of Review has traditionally put on the plant by about $200 million,” Smith said, noting that figure is based on a recent appraisal commissioned by the school district and six other public districts that receive property tax payments from  that site. 


“That is what we believe is the value of that facility and that will be the argument that we will make with the Board of Review,” Smith said. The value of the GE-Hitachi site and other properties throughout the county are scheduled to be published  within the week. Appeals and objections to those values must be filed with the Board of Review within 30 days of publication. 

The levy on file would allow the district to capture any increase that could be assigned to that property.

“It’s a big number, so if the Board of Review should rule in our favor, we will be able to capture that portion of the EAV.  And, that is why the numbers look big. If you think, wow, that’s a 25% increase in levy over the previous year’s extension, remember it’s a mechanism for us to be able to capture the value that we are arguing for with respect to the GE-Hitachi facility,” Smith said. 


Located on Collins Road in Goose Lake Township , the GE-Hitachi facility houses 17 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel, the majority of that shipped to the site from nuclear facilities in California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Nebraska. It is the  only high-level nuclear waste storage site in the country.


The district first filed an objection to the value assigned to the GE-Hitachi site with the county’s three member Board of Review in 2021. At that time, the Board of Review adjusted the value of the site from $3.2 million to $6.13 million. There was no change in the facility’s EAV  in 2022  and that is the value that is expected to be reflected when the 2023 values are released. Therefore, the district  is prepared to file an objection within the coming month.


Based on the value assigned by and maintained by  the Board of Review, the school district and the six other local district’s have  submitted appeals to the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board [PTAB] for the 2021 and 2022 tax years.


“Right now we have no estimate on what the time frame is, most estimates that run through the docket in that system could be several years to a decade or so for a case to be heard,” Smith said. 


The tentative levy is available for public inspection on the financial operations page located under the district tab on the  website. 


As Board vice president and finance committee member Shawn Hamilton points out, “taxes are not going up 23%,” rather the proposed increase in the levy is simply seeking to capture any additional dollars.


The tax rate for 2022, funding the 2023 academic year, was approximately  $3.41  and the Board anticipates the rate for the 2023 levy to remain about the same. 


As Smith notes, the levy document is subject to change prior to the public hearing and  Board approval at the December 6 meeting. A required Truth in Taxation hearing on the levy will take place at the start of that 6 p.m. meeting.


The final levy must be approved and filed with the county clerk on or before the third Tuesday in December. The Board of Review hearings are expected to be held  in early 2024 and the final levy  extension will be completed by the county in the spring.