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Article updated: 11/20/2012 12:11 AM

Arlington Hts. passes smaller tax increase than proposed

By Melissa Silverberg

After a week to consider it, Arlington Heights is now planning a smaller tax levy increase for next year than was previously proposed, the village board decided on Monday.

The Arlington Heights village board on Monday approved an amendment to the tax levy ordinance and will be asking for a 1.2 percent increase in 2012 rather than the 1.92 percent increase that was proposed last week.

Board members called the smaller increase "prudent" because it will balance the village budget, but have a lesser impact on the taxpayers.

For residents with an average $300,000 home, this will mean an approximate $12 increase due to the village portion of their property tax bills, rather than the $20 increase that was approved unanimously by the board during the Nov. 12 meeting. The village portion of the property tax bill is about 11.5 percent, while the rest is split between school districts, the park district and other taxing bodies.

The 1.2 percent levy increase means the village budget will be balanced.

The additional money that had been proposed was going to boost the village's reserves, said Trustee Joseph Farwell. The village has about 35 percent of its operating budget in reserve, while municipalities are recommended to have between 25 percent and 40 percent. A healthy reserve helps the village's credit and bond ratings, he said.

"It was unanimous last Monday, but in looking at this and talking to the community, some of us have come back and said let's cut it more," Farwell said. "This covers our bills, but does not increase the reserve."

A 0 percent levy increase would put the village in a deficit for next year, village staffers said.

Board members said departmental budgets and personnel have already been scaled back substantially -- the village has 46 fewer staff members than in 2008.

A smaller increase this year could put the village in a difficult spot in the future, though.

"My concern is that it's a bit of a risk in terms of what happens if we have a bad year down the road. I wouldn't want to get closer to a 0 percent increase this year and then have to go up to a 3 or 4 percent increase next year," said Trustee Thomas Hayes.

In spite of the lessened tax levy hike, some residents still weren't happy with the increase.

"My taxes went up 12 percent last year. You want another 1 or 2 percent increase, that's ridiculous," said resident Frank Slowinski when he addressed the board. "It ought to go down, not up. The economy is going down not up."

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