Winnetka debates tax levy hike
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:35AM
Though the final property tax levy increase won’t be adopted until December, the village board reviewed the proposal Nov. 8 and debated whether to increase it a little more to battle rising pension costs.
According to finance director Ed McKee, the 2012 increase is tentatively set at 1.7 percent, which will be used to pay for increased operating expenses, mostly wages and benefits.
“Inflation in 2011 was three percent so we’re running a little bit more than half of the rate of inflation,” McKee said. “We’ve been trending just a little under the rate of inflation since 1997.”
McKee said a resident who has a $20,000 property tax bill, with the 1.7 percent increase, would pay an additional $45 if the number were to be approved by the village council.
McKee said it is staff’s goal to be as close to a zero percent increase as possible, but employee benefits and pension costs necessitate the increase.
“We don’t want to not raise taxes for two years and then come with a big increase,” McKee said. “We like to do them gradually over each year.”
The village staff did give consideration, according to McKee, to raising the levy number in anticipation of coming stormwater improvements, but decided against it as final stormwater costs and projects have yet to be determined.
Trustee Richard Kates suggested raising the levy number to help pay pension costs, but some on the council felt the village is doing their best already to meet their pension obligations.
“Adding to pensions definitely helps, but I think we’re doing an excellent job now,” Village President Jessica Tucker said. “We’re doing a good job funding almost $4 million every year. It’s fantastic that we can do that.”
Kates said the council does have an obligation to Winnetka’s future generations.
“That’s why I’m only suggesting it,” Kates said. “I think based on history we should do a little more.”
Council members asked to see what affect paying a little more now could have on future budgets and will have one more meeting to discuss the matter before the levy is adopted.
“I think before we do anything we should find out what happens,” trustee Arthur Braun said. “I think it’s important we find out what are the consequences of these very suggestions.”
The final tax levy is expected to be adopted at the Dec. 4 Village Council meeting. ~.