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updated: 10/16/2012 12:17 AM

St. Charles moving toward flat tax levy, but taxes would increase

Property values in St. Charles are down

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  • St. Charles aldermen, in a preliminary vote, set a flat property tax levy for next year. But with declining home values, that means taxes will still increase for many property owners.

       St. Charles aldermen, in a preliminary vote, set a flat property tax levy for next year. But with declining home values, that means taxes will still increase for many property owners.
    James Fuller | Staff Photographer

 
 

A committee of St. Charles aldermen voted Monday night to essentially keep the city's tax levy flat next year.

While that sounds good, the decision will still cause many St. Charles property owners to have a larger city tax bill next year.

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The reason for that is a 5.16 percent drop in property values across the city.

That means property in St. Charles is worth an estimated $75.2 million less than the last time the city set its property tax levy.

When property values fall but the amount of taxes the government charges remains the same, property taxes increase.

To look at it a different way, city officials would have to cut the tax levy by 5.16 percent to keep property tax bills from increasing.

That's not part of the current plan for St. Charles.

The current plan keeps the city's pool of money that it uses for day-to-day operations at about $12 million. In a belt-tightening move, aldermen have maintained that $12 million since 2009.

Employee pay freezes and buyouts in the past few years have also prevented city officials from increasing the tax levy. The city isn't getting any more money, but with property values plummeting, most residents must pay a bigger share of that $12 million.

"We haven't quite seen the bottoming out of the real estate market from the Great Recession," said Finance Director Chris Minick.

St. Charles taxpayers will also notice a $1 million increase in the city's tax levy that goes to paying down bonds and other debt. In some communities, that $1 million increase would be built into the tax levy, causing property tax bills to rise even more. St. Charles officials traditionally vote to abate that portion of the levy every spring. City officials use non-property tax funds to pay off that kind of debt.

Likewise, there is a special property tax levy in place to fund the Red Gate Bridge project. The special levy has been in place since the late 1990s. No increase is planned in that portion of the city's levy.

All the aldermen present Monday night approved the levy plan. When they vote as a city council, the levy will be put in place. Then aldermen would have to vote in the spring to abate the debt service portion of the levy and lock in the final total of property taxes the city will collect.

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