Analysis: Evanston/Skokie District 65 spending grows twice as fast as enrollment
In 1997, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 had 6,710 students and spent $86.1 million in local property tax dollars, adjusted for inflation.
In 2015, it had 7,139 students-- a six percent enrollment increase. And it spent $96.1 million in local taxes-- 12 percent more than in 1997.
That’s according to an analysis of district spending by Local Government Information Services (LGIS), which publishes North Cook News.
It comes as teachers and school administrators lead a campaign to pass a tax increase referendum on April 4. It would allow the school district to raise property taxes on Evanston homeowners, increasing their budget another $14.5 million per year, from $110 million to $124.5 million.
For local property taxpayers, the referendum represents a 15 percent annual increase in spending on District 65-- from $96 million to $110.5 million.
Currently, 84 percent of District 65 funding comes from local taxpayers, versus 10 percent from the state ($11 million) and six percent from the federal government ($7 million).
At $15,374 per-pupil, District 65 spends 14 percent more than the average Chicago-area district ($13,450).
Deficit spending, higher taxes and lower Evanston home values
District 65 is currently spending more money than it is taking in, as district leaders have chosen to borrow to fund operations rather than cut teacher salaries or benefits.
A 2015 Chicago Tribune analysis reported the district had $79 million in debt, or 46 percent of what the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) defines as its “limit.”
ISBE reports detail how District 65’s spending has outpaced its tax revenues by $80 million over the past five years-- by $20 million in 2011, $20 million in 2012, $20 million in 2013, $10 million in 2014, and $10 million in 2015.
Meanwhile, Evanston Township High School District 202 spends $21,606 per student, eleventh-highest of 292 Chicago area school districts and sixth of high school districts.
Homeowners have taken the brunt of this spending and debt. Higher property taxes are already driving down Evanston home values.
According to an LGIS analysis, Evanston’s median home price fell 25 percent from 2007 to 2015-- from $415,000 to $313,000.
A 2016 Chicago Tribune study of suburban effective tax rates pegged Evanston’s at 2.66 percent, or $8,326 on a median-priced home. That’s more than three times the median rate in Indiana (0.87 percent) or California (0.81 percent), according to Wallet Hub.
In Rancho Santa Fe, Calif, this home listed for $1.629 million has a tax bill of $5,117 per year.
Comparably, a home at 225 Lake Street in Evanston newly-listed for sale for $1.5 million had a bill of $26,379 in 2014.