Park Ridge alderman unanimously supported a proposed $21 million property tax levy at their committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday.
If formally approved at the city council meeting Dec. 3, the city would be requesting 2.15 percent more in property taxes next year than it received this year, according to Park Ridge Finance Director Allison Stutts.
A property tax levy is the amount a municipality raises through property taxes on property within its boundaries, according to sfgate.com.
Trimmed down from a 7.46 percent increase
The proposed levy the alderman voted on was trimmed considerably from earlier estimates of what the city would need, including an early November version that called for a 7.46 percent tax levy increase.
The changes come in the form of rosier projections for revenue from sales and state income taxes and the decision to defer a number of projects, such as replacing carpeting at the library and resurfacing parking lots at City Hall and other sites.
That work cannot be deferred forever, Stutts warned, and noted that the city now is projecting a $1 million deficit in the 2014-2015 budget, if revenues do not improve and work must be done.
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Fifth Ward Ald. Daniel Knight, who chairs the city council finance and budget committee, said the city council will be in a better position to make long-term decisions next year, after receiving the results of a study on the prospects of the Uptown tax increment financing district, a commercial development that never took off the way city officials expected and has not been generating enough money to cover its expenses.
Library worried about less safety cushion
Margaret Harrison, president of the Park Ridge Library Board, also read a letter from the board expressing concern that the $160,000 cut to the library’s tax levy – which is part of the city levy – would cut the amount of money the library has on hand from six months’ worth of expenses to five months’ worth. That can be a problem if the property tax receipts distributed by Cook County are delayed, if they often are, forcing the city to cover the library’s expenses until the tax receipts arrive.
Cutting the library’s tax levy also will mean putting off projects that need to be done, Harrison said.
“We are very conscientious about addressing the needs of the aging facility. Deferring needed repairs does not accomplish anything other than putting off things so they become the problem of a future board and council,” Harrison said.
Knight responded that the city’s financial situation is precarious, and the library must make its share of the sacrifices.
Deferring expenses makes financial sense, Knight says
“We can’t unspend money,” he said. “Which is why we’re looking at deferrals on spending. If we have a bad result out of this (Uptown TIF) study, we could be talking about deferring these capital projects further, and we could be talking about lowering reserves even more. As painful as it is, we’re forced to ask the library to participate in it.”
With its tax levy reduced by $160,000, the library board has the choice of letting its fund balance – the amount of money it has in the bank – fall, or reducing spending, or some combination of the two, he said.
Mayor David Schmidt spoke in favor of an even lower increase to the city’s property tax levy. He said the city council should uphold his veto of plans to start renovations of the police station, a project with a $290,000 price tag next year. He vetoed the project Nov. 19; Dec. 3 is the first city council meeting where aldermen could decide to override the veto.
“I won’t get into the debate over the renovation of the police facility,” Schmidt said. “If that’s deferred, that would reduce the increase of the property tax levy to near zero, and I think we owe it to the property tax payers to get the increase as close to zero as it can be.”