Village Trustees batted around a 1.92 percent tax levy increase proposal for more than an hour Tuesday before unanimously approving the $43.6 million tax levy in an informal voice vote.
“None of us want to support an increase,” said Arlene Mulder, Arlington Heights Mayor shortly after the vote, “But the point is, none of us want to go backwards either.”
An increase of nearly 2 percent, village officials estimate the average Arlington Heights homeowner will see a $20 increase on their 2013 property tax bill for a home valued at $300,000.
During the meeting, village manager Bill Dixon pointed out the village only gets 11 percent of a resident’s total property tax bill.
“Over the last few years we have either held or lowered the levy,” Dixon said, “We’ve deliberately held down the general fund.”
With the $43.6 million property tax levy, the village expects to finish the next fiscal year with an estimated surplus of $310,000 in the corporate or general fund.
“We try to be very conservative with revenue,” said Tom Kuehne, village finance director. “But we don’t know what’s going to happen with the state of Illinois, so this is really where you see the art of building a budget.”
Trustee Carol Blackwood expressed the strongest opposition to the property tax increase.
“Is it prudent in these times?--I don’t think so,” Blackwood said, “I think it could be scaled back.”
Referencing the two park district referendums rejected by Arlington Heights voters this year, Blackwood said, “The voice of voters has been heard, they don’t want any tax increase.”
In response to Blackwood’s comment Dixon said, “Those were wants and these are needs,” Dixon said, “This is about public safety and the police and fire departments.”
Because of swelling price projections, climbing healthcare costs, and concern about pension responsibilities, Kuehne said he’d be concerned if Arlington Heights started the fiscal year without a surplus.
According to Kuehne, the village needs the $43.6 million tax levy to meet future projections and to provide a cushion for the fund balance.
Increasing the village’s general fund balance will could end up saving Arlington Heights millions of dollars down the road. Fund balances factor into credit ratings, the higher the rating, the lower borrowing costs, Kuehne said.
Arlington Heights currently holds an AA-plus U.S. credit rating; AAA is the highest rate possible.
“It would be ill-advised to budget for a deficit,” Dixon said, “And that’s what we’d be doing without this increase.”
Now that trustees informally approved the $43.6 million tax levy at the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday, the board will return to to take a formal vote.