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District 87 To Contest Mall Tax Appeal; Name New Raymond Principal

District 87 sign outside Bloomington Junior High School.
Eric Stock
District 87 plans to intervene in two property tax appeals that have been filed with the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board.

District 87 is contesting two property assessments that could impact the school system's share of tax revenue.
The Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) will take up appeals for Eastland Mall owner CBL Properties and AMF Circle Lanes, a bowling alley that closed in 2015.

The school board on Wednesday night is expected to direct the district’s attorney, John Pratt, to file a request to intervene in those cases on the board's behalf.

District superintendent Barry Reilly said both properties have out-of-town owners who are trying to skimp on paying their taxes rather than investing in their properties.

“We have gone as low as we feel we can go in fairness to the entire community and we’ll hopefully get a good result at the state," he said.

CBL Properties said it would appeal the McLean County Board of Review’s decision to lower its property tax assessment to $32 million. The company wanted it brought down to $21.5 million. It sought the lower tax assessment as the mall has suffered through a rise in vacancies, particularly among its anchor stores, in recent years. 

District 87 would receive the largest chunk of tax revenue from both properties.

Reilly objected to CBL’s claim that its assessment was too high. He said the mall sits on some of the best real estate in McLean County.

“We think that they are undervaluing it,” Reilly said. “We think that they are doing not a good enough job of trying to attract tenants of the mall.”

Reilly said the district would offer to work with CBL to help attract new business to the property.

AMF Circle Lanes was assessed in 2019 at $480,667. AMF Bowling Centers Inc. was seeking to have that lowered to $313,302, according to documents filed with PTAB.

The state board has not set hearing dates for either case.

New Principal

Jeff Dobbs closeup
Credit District 87
Jeff Dobbs is set to become the new principal at Sarah E. Raymond School of Early Education in Bloomington in the fall, pending District 87 school board approval.

The school board on Wednesday is also expected to name a new principal at Sarah E. Raymond School of Early Education in Bloomington.

Jeff Dobbs, the current principal at Dr. Howard Elementary in Champaign, is set to succeed Danel Behrends-Harr, who will become principal at Sheridan Elementary.

Dobbs, who lives in Normal, taught all grade levels at Bent Elementary in Bloomington from 1999 to 2015 before working as a school administrator in Champaign starting in 2015.

“District 87’s commitment to students and families is one of the reasons I was drawn back,” Dobbs said. “Early childhood education is so critical and has become a passion of mine since I completed my administrative internship at Raymond.”

Reilly added he was glad to see Dobbs return to the district after leaving to seek an administrative post.

“Given that we have very limited opportunities for building leadership positions, he was ready at the time he left and went to Champaign," Reilly said. “We knew we had a strong candidate in Jeff.”

Dobbs’ hire completes a string of new administrative hires throughout the district as several retirements and internal hires led to a domino effect of changes.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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