Naperville working to lower city portion of property tax bill

The city's portion of the property tax bill for the average Naperville homeowner could go down by $1 next year, if staff members get the right answers on a homework assignment from the city council.

The council has asked City Manager Doug Krieger to come up with $2.1 million in cuts and/or revenue increases that will bring a general property tax levy of roughly $48.6 million down to $46.5 million.

The change would seek $200,000 less than the city levied from property owners last year, and it could charge the owner of a $395,000 house, the average in the city, an estimated $1 less, said Erik Hallgren, financial services supervisor. Without the cuts, Hallgren said the average homeowner would owe $40 more than last year's bill.

While asking for the decrease, the council also approved the property tax levy at the higher, $48.6 million, amount for the time being. Council member Patty Gustin voted against the move because it's a tax increase without further action.

"Unless the city finds the budget savings in time to stop the real estate tax increase or unless the city raises its sales tax and/or fees, real estate taxes just increased," Gustin said.

Krieger said he plans to vet ideas for cost reductions and revenue increases with department heads before bringing them up for council consideration in January or February. The city has until early April to submit paperwork to the county to abate its levy and potentially lower the amount it collects to $46.5 million - if council members approve any proposed cuts.

Council member Kevin Coyne pushed for the council to seek ways to lower the levy. Despite months of budget discussions in which the city lowered expenses by $12.6 million, then asked departments to cut $1.2 million more, he said there are still strategies to drive costs even lower.

"I'm not supporting an increase on our tax levy," he said, "when I'm very confident there are still things to cut or other revenue levers that can be pulled."

Council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski said she hopes Krieger comes back with "a blend of cuts and efficiencies and also new revenue sources" to create the levy-lowering effect.

Council member Becky Anderson Wilkins said the potential $1 reduction doesn't add up to much, especially when the city already is one of the smaller contributors to the total property tax bill.

But Coyne said the city shouldn't make excuses when it comes to property taxes, which he said are causing people to move out of town.

"It's a difference between getting a dollar reduction and paying $40 more," Coyne said. "I acknowledge we're not the biggest part of the bill but ... we need to lead on this issue."

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