Council Examines Avoiding Property Tax Hike
At meeting, city manager discusses budget options to reach desired '0 percent' increase.
Alderwoman Jean Higgason (4th Ward), chairman of the finance and administration committee, requested that city staff present a memo outlining specific steps to achieve no levy increase. The council will discuss the matter at a budget meeting Oct. 20.
Jason Slowinski, acting city manager, said expenditures would need to be reduced $450,000 to eliminate the proposed tax increase of 1.95 percent. He described some of the recommendations, including two major ones, in the memo after copies were distributed to the council.
Slowinski said a change in the actuarial rate for the police and fire pensions would yield lower costs, noting that the move "would save the city about $365,000, just from that quarter-point difference."
"The second bullet point would be to reduce the corporate levy by the remaining difference, or $85,000, and that would have a very small, a one-tenth of a percent affect on reserve fund balance," he said. "So essentially your fund balance would absorb that remainder of the amount."
Slowinski mentioned a few other smaller expenditures the council discussed throughout the hearings. He noted by making the changes, the property tax increase could be avoided.
Ted Roediger, an electrician and Des Plaines resident of 23 years, watched the first two hearings at home on television. So on Thursday night, he decided to attend the meeting in person at the Civic Center.
Roediger said while a rise in the property tax should be avoided if possible, he understood the value of maintaining the current level of city services. such as police and fire protection.
"There's a lot of people out of work in this town, and so the minimum amount of tax increase I'm sure everybody would be appreciative of," Roediger said. "And it's not over yet, so I don't know what the outcome is going to be, but they're cutting a lot out of the budget, which I'm glad to see.
"But at what point do you lose services as opposed to spend more?" he asked. "I mean, it's a tricky thing they got to do."
Higgason was optimistic about the council's progress during the three budget hearings.
"I think we're at a good point," she said. "We're looking at probably a 0 percent property tax levy. I'm not sure any other city can say that, and part of the reason is last year we did some major cuts--cutting 38 jobs; the year before, 12."
This is her eighth year working on the city's budget, Higgason said, and she concurred with other aldermen that paying down the city's debt remains a concern.
"I think we still have to be careful, we certainly have a lot of debt," she said. "Much we inherited, but we still owe it. So how it came about makes no difference. It still has to be paid."