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updated: 9/28/2012 10:31 AM

Buffalo Grove likely to boost tax levy

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As Buffalo Grove works on the budget for its upcoming year, village officials find it will be difficult to avoid an increase in the tax levy.

Finance Director Scott Anderson said the figure for the increase at the moment looks like 3.5 percent, roughly a $500,000 increase.

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He did not have a specific estimate of the levy, but last year's levy was a little more than $14 million.

Anderson made his remarks this week before a committee of the entire village board.

Last year, the village had a 0 percent levy increase. But this year there is very little wiggle room as items that are out of the village's control, like pension costs, increase.

The levy has three components. One is for general operations, another for debt service and the remaining for pensions.

Anderson said that the village normally looks at something called the Municipal Cost Index and follows that "for the most part in lock step" in determining the increase. Last year was an exception, however.

"We were able to come forward with a 0 percent growth of the levy _ actually a reduction of $10,000," he said.

This, he said, was allowed by such special factors as the retiring of bonds.

Anderson said it is likely that the levy for the corporate fund -- which covers day to day operations -- will increase by 1.3 percent, generating $98,000.

Within the debt service levy, there will be some growth as the result of the issuance of the 2012 bonds, mainly for street maintenance. Debt service will grow by about $180,000, but abatements from the water fund and the corporate fund should offset the increase.

The big component is pensions. Anderson said the only firm number is the contribution to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, with a projected 5.5 percent increase. But increases are expected on the police and fire side as well. He predicted a $400,000 levy increase will be required.

The only control the village has is over the $98,000 extra being spent in the corporate fund, he said.

"We're in a challenging spot right now," he said.

Trustee Jeffrey Berman said the village wants "to minimize the impact on the property taxpayers to the extent reasonably possible while maintaining the services the village provides."

Village Manager Dane Bragg echoed those remarks.

"We'll do everything we can to hold the levy as tight as we can," Bragg said. "We have a had a history of levying what we need, not what we should have."

But he warned, "We're running out of ways to tighten the screws down on the budget."

Trustee Beverly Sussman said, "I would just hate to see a tax increase at this time. I think timing is very important. It's never a good time. But this is truly a very bad time, and I would hate to put that on the residents."

At the same time, she noted, "I know we're always careful with the budget."

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