Arlington Heights trustees have recommended a slight bump in the property taxes levy for next year.
At a committee-of-the-whole meeting Tuesday, the board, with one exception, approved a 1.84 percent increase in the levy. The board also approved a general fund ceiling of to $69.8 million. The general fund provides dollars for such operations as public works and public safety.
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Final approval of the levy requires a vote at a regular village board meeting.
The cost to the average taxpayer for the village portion of the property tax bill would be $19 if the increase is given final approval, village officials said. The village property tax makes up about 11 percent of the total bill
Originally, it appeared the board was set to approve a 2.06 percent increase in the levy, a difference of about $100,000 in the total budget, with the average taxpayer paying $22 more. With the revised play, the village instead would take $100,000 from contingency funds.
Trustee James Tinaglia initiated a long discussion by raising the question of how the village could get to a 0 percent increase. He later cast the lone vote against the levy.
Before the tax vote, village Manager Bill Dixon reported that general fund revenues were coming in better than expected through September, with the trend looking like it would continue through the end of the year. He said staff levels, which were decreased by about 45 positions in response to revenue declines in 2009 and 2010, will remain flat in the coming year.
In answer to Tinaglia's question, Finance Director Thomas Kuehne said it would be difficult, outside of finding a different revenue source, to close the gap on the revenue side, while the only thing to look at on the expense side to close the gap would be staff levels, which represents three-quarters of the general fund costs.
Trustee Joseph Farwell said the question of how to get to no increase was one which he had wrestled during the village's bad times.
"Now we're in better times," he said. "And I'm still wrestling with the answer. When do we put the brakes on, in order to relieve some of the tax pressure on our residents?"
However, Mayor Thomas Hayes said, "I think we would all like to keep the levy at 0 percent (increase)," but added, "I would prefer to maybe take little baby steps rather," rather than taking a step that would make it necessary to add a big chunk to fill a gap later.
Trustee John Scaletta reminded the board that while the village may be in a better position, "clearly there are still a lot of people out there who are still struggling and that are making less than they made five, 10 years ago. So I just don't want anyone to walk away from this meeting with the rosy picture that things are better for everybody. Things are better for our financial picture of the village and not necessarily for all of the residents."
Trustee Bert Rosenberg suggested a compromise. The board finally resolved on an increase of 1.84 percent.
"Even though, granted, it's only savings of $3, $3 is $3," Rosenberg said.
Trustee Mike Sidor challenged Dixon and his staff to find $100,000 in savings, rather than dipping into the contingency fund. "I would hope that we can find $100,000 somewhere in this village building. I believe we can do it."