Schaumburg to lower property tax a fourth time

Posted12/6/2013 5:30 AM

Schaumburg officials expect to follow through next Tuesday on earlier projections showing they would reduce their 4-year-old property tax levy by another 1 percent.

Contrary to many suburban communities and taxing bodies, down is the only direction Schaumburg's levy has gone since it was introduced -- to much public outcry -- at $23.7 million in December 2009.

That came during the deep recession when officials were forced to concede that sales taxes could no longer be counted on for 60 percent of village revenues as had been the case for many years.

But as the economy has gradually bounced back, the levy has been reduced each December -- 4.4 percent in 2010, 6.1 percent in 2011, 1 percent in 2012 and another 1 percent in 2013.

Schaumburg Village Manager Brian Townsend said sales taxes are now back to about 55 percent of the village's revenues. The village board has directed the village staff to continue searching for creative ways to responsibly lower the levy, he said.

But the economy is only one of many factors that affect village finances, Mayor Al Larson said.

The village couldn't have predicted Chicago's significant increase of its rates to suburbs for Lake Michigan water, and no one expected the emerald ash borer to take such a big chunk out of both the region's tree stock and its financial resources, Larson said.

Everything from the severity of the coming winter to the consumer confidence of shoppers this holiday season will have an effect on Schaumburg's financial health, he said.

"If you could tell me what the economy will be doing in the next few years, I'd be happy to make a statement in that regard," Larson said. "Certainly the (Schaumburg) convention center is doing extremely well."

Even if the economy continues to improve and unforeseen expenses are kept minimal, a philosophical question about the property tax would remain. When it was introduced four years ago, it was presented as a fairer method to cover the cost of garbage pickup -- even if every other reason for having a property tax were eliminated.

So, if sales taxes ever do return to their old levels, village officials would have to choose between what they consider a resident-friendly way of paying for garbage pickup or regaining the reputation of a town without a property tax.

Larson said it's far too early to make that philosophical decision yet.

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