Several Grayslake small business owners addressed the District 46 School Board on Oct. 17 about increasing school expenses and property taxes, the deficit budget and how it's affecting their bottom line.
The board took a half-hour before the regularly scheduled meeting to hear the business owners' presentation.
Leading the presentation was Larry Dyer, president of Platford Commercial Realty, which has been in business throughout Lake County for 30 years. Platford owns two commercial complexes in Grayslake that are home to 68 small businesses.
Dyer said continued tax increases are hurting local businesses to the point that they have to consider relocating or going out of business. He presented several handouts (see attached PDFs) reflecting school tax increases and their effect on commercial property owners.
For example, out of seven townships, said Dyer, Avon has the highest percentage (73 percent) of its total property tax bill going toward educational expenses.
By passing a 2012-13 budget that includes a $1.2 million deficit, said Dyer, "District 46 appears to be on a path to once again raise the local tax levy at its December meeting to make up for the deficit."
"We are vehemently opposed to such action. The business community cannot continue to absorb these kind of real estate tax increases largely driven by increased educational cost overruns."
If this trend continues, said Dyer, business will start moving out of the township in search of more business-friendly environments.
"If you lose the business community, the residents who live here in Avon and do have children to educate will be forced to pay even more taxes to make up for the loss," said Dyer.
Joann Alam, owner of the Gymnastics Factory in Grayslake, was one of Dyer's first tenants. Her combined warehouse space encompasses 11,000 square-feet.
Alam's total annual property tax bill of $29,000 for 2011 has increased about $10,000 since 2005. Her taxes for District 46 alone have increase nearly $4,000 since 2005.
If she has to pass these increases on to her customers, said Alam, she risks losing business or is forced to make program cuts.
"I do not want to have to do that to these kids," she said.
Grayslake painter Jim Stried, who has been in business for 28 years and has a staff of 13, said he is paying about $2,100 more a year in property taxes than he did in 2005.
He said he is worried because the painting business has been "so-so" at best.
"This is a lot of money for a small business," said Stried. "Stop coming back to the taxpayers. Do what you can to help us so I can keep my staff employed."
Mark Schroeder's family owns the Canny Group, which includes Canny Tool and Mold Corp. and Canny Innovative Solutions, Inc.. He said his father has put his life's blood, sweat, tears and savings into the business and is still struggling as a result of increased taxes.
"We don't have the money to throw into the fire anymore. We need to start sacrificing a little more," said Schroeder to the school board.
"When I take over the business, my goal is to move from Grayslake."
The school board thanked the business owners but had little response. The district disputed some of the numbers the business owners obtained from the Illinois State Board of Education related to the district's income and expenses (see attached PDFs).
District 46 Board President Ray Millington said loss of state funding ($1.45 million) was the biggest "hit" to the district.
"We're trying as hard as we can to make up for the reduction in state revenues," he said.