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updated: 12/19/2012 3:31 PM

Aurora tax levy increases 2.5 percent

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The 2013 budget Aurora aldermen passed last week was based on the assumption the city would levy $74.4 million in property taxes.

On Tuesday night, that assumption became fact as aldermen voted 10-1 to approve the $74.4 million levy, which supports city operations, pensions, Aurora Public Library operations and the library's $30 million construction and technology improvement plan.

The levy is about a 2.5 percent increase from last year's $72.7 million total, but the amount needed for the fund that supports most city programs and services decreased about $186,000 to $41.6 million, according to Finance Director Brian Caputo.

He said the increase in the levy comes from pension costs, which rose from $17.9 million in 2011 to $19.1 million this year, and from $21.5 million set aside for the library's plans to build a new main branch downtown and improve technology.

Despite those increases, the percentage of a homeowner's property tax bill that goes to the city decreased from 22 percent in 2005 to 19 percent this year, Mayor Tom Weisner said.

"With reduced resources, we're getting the job done," Weisner said.

As aldermen on Tuesday night debated the ups and downs of the tax levy, one said the amount of property taxes the city is seeking actually found middle ground.

"We've found a good centerline to be able to take," Alderman Rick Mervine said. "The key thing to look at ... is over the years, we've become less of the overall tax bill."

Alderman Rick Lawrence, who voted against the levy following a vote last week against the city's $396 million 2013 budget, looks instead to the tax rate, which remains unknown.

Caputo said he is not estimating a tax rate this year because information about estimated assessed property values (EAV) provided from the townships and counties within Aurora has proved incomplete and unreliable in the past. The city also was not providing an estimate of how much more the average homeowner will pay.

"If EAV stays the same or goes down, the rate will go up," Caputo said.

Lawrence said he expects the rate to increase, causing residents to pay "a higher percentage on less wealth."

"I'll speak for the West side here: the taxes that you're paying on your home are becoming an issue to live there," Lawrence said. "It's a concern."

Weisner said the city is working to decrease the costs it can control -- namely its general fund. This year's general fund levy of $41,600,000 is a result of decreases in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and is lower than the 2005 amount of $41,619,271, according to budget documents.

"We're trying to control things as best we can," Caputo said. "And we're a smaller portion of the tax bill over time."

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