More than 70 residents filled the seats of the Carpentersville village board meeting room Tuesday night, many holding signs that read "Stop the tax increase." Residents filed in to condemn the proposed levy that ultimately passed a split board with Village President Ed Ritter making the deciding vote.
Board members across the northern Fox Valley voted this week on their 2010 tax levies. But commissioners on the Dundee Township Park District and trustees in the villages of East Dundee and West Dundee avoided the passion so evident in Carpentersville. No residents offered advice or demands at their meetings.
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West Dundee will be asking for the same amount as it did last year, $3 million. The village implemented a utility tax in the last year and has benefited from that additional revenue source, according to Dave Danielson, the finance director for West Dundee.
"With that in mind, we recognize that during these difficult economic times, we wanted to tax only what was absolutely necessary and nothing more," Danielson said.
East Dundee is increasing its levy by 20 percent, a practice the village has maintained for the past several years. The village does not plan to keep that amount, however.
Though East Dundee has home rule status and can legally raise taxes as much as it wants, the village board is committed to pegging the tax increase to any increases in assessed property values. The 20 percent, then, is requested to capture any potential growth in the village, but will be reduced in the spring, according to Robert Skurla, the interim village manager.
Skurla said residents should not expect a tax increase unless their property values go up.
The Dundee Township Park District is in a slightly different situation. That taxing body is not home rule and regularly passes a balloon levy, asking for much more than it would ever hope to get.
The 2010 levy is $8.5 million but the district is only expecting to receive about $7.4 million according to Greg Gannon, finance director for the park district.
After the 2009 levy, the park district received $7.2 million so Gannon is expecting a slight increase.
Carpentersville, like East and West Dundee is home rule and expects to get the amount it requests. That amount, about $10.9 million, will be a 7 percent increase in the dollar amount requested in the 2009 levy.
That increase, any increase, is what brought so many residents to the Carpentersville board room Monday night.
Virginia Gregg asked the board not to raise taxes. She said if all the taxing districts increased theirs like Carpentersville, she might lose her house and be forced to move in with her sister in Florida.
"I don't like Florida," Gregg said. "I like Carpentersville. I've been here for more than 20 years."
Several residents spoke of the need for the village to cut from its budget before asking for more money from them. But Ritter along with Trustees Kay Teeter and Judy Sigwalt said the village can't cut anymore.
Sigwalt said it would be "irresponsible" to do so.
"Are we supposed to stop the progress? Are we supposed to limit the services to our residents?" Sigwalt questioned.
Though many residents indicated yes on Tuesday night, several firefighters from the Carpentersville Fire Department attended in support of the tax increase.
The additional funds will go to pay off the village debt which is significantly higher this year because of projects like the public works facility and street and infrastructure improvements as well as fire and police pensions.
The village will not increase the amount going to the general fund and hasn't for three years.
As the village has no plans to borrow any more in the near future, Ritter said the tax rate will likely stabilize for coming years. He said the village will continue to hold the general fund constant so pensions will provide the only potential need for an increase.
Ultimately Trustees Paul Humpfer, Pat Schultz and Brad McFeggan voted against the increase. Schultz said raising taxes was reaching a point of "extortion" by the village. Humpfer dismissed what he called an "emotional argument" that increasing taxes is necessary to stem a reduction in village staff and services.
In one of the few times Ritter has been forced to vote, he joined with trustees Keith Hinz, Teeter and Sigwalt to increase the levy from close to $10.2 million to about $10.9 million.