Tax levy discussion draws a crowd

By on November 19, 2010

Residents, officials discuss Elburn’s financial situation
by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—The announcement that the village of Elburn was going to ask for a 47 percent increase in the 2010 property tax levy to Kane County awakened a crowd of citizens to ask for the facts while expressing their protests.

The 2010 property tax levy of $939,718 would extend the tax rate to .49700. In other words, on a $300,000 house, taxpayers would pay $176.16 a year more in taxes.

That’s if the village gets the entire amount requested.

According to village officials, it’s not likely they will. Last year, the village asked for $742,321 and received $637,404.

Nevertheless, residents asked the hard questions at the public hearing Monday. Citing foreclosures and unemployment, food pantries and fixed incomes, people called for the village to take a hard look at its expenses.

“Take a hard look at reducing wages and salaries and other expenses—do hungry people and those on fixed incomes care if we are a Tree City USA?—before looking to increase taxes,” said Jack Hansen, an Elburn resident and former village trustee.

Where does the money come from?
Village President Dave Anderson explained that roughly one-third of the money the village collects comes from property taxes, one-third from local sales taxes, and another third from state income taxes.

Municipalities present their property tax levies to the county by the end of each year. The county, in the spring, determines the actual amount each municipality will receive, as well as the property tax rate.

Where does the money go?
Here’s where it gets dicey: you have mandated costs that the village has no control over like retirement funds, social security, liability insurance and an audit. These expenses cost the village more than it takes in from the tax levy.

In 2009, Kane County extended $120,414.17 to the village for retirement funds, but the actual cost to the village was $159,000. It received $63,285.43 for liability insurance, but paid out $92,000. Social Security cost the village $158,000, but it received only $87,920.17.

“We have zero control over mandated costs, other than letting people go, and then service is going to be diminished,” Anderson said. “The money has to come from somewhere.”

The only place cuts can be made are in the discretionary costs that involve cutting personnel, reducing salaries, losing services, and trimming day-to-day expenses.

“The residents brought up good comments, and I think we need to discuss, in depth, ways we could cut expenses before we raise taxes,” trustee Jerry Schmidt said.

The board discussed the difficult process of cutting. Ken Anderson reiterated his commitment to being fiscally responsible in the face of tough times.

“We can come up with a bunch of things to cut, but the village of Elburn is going to look different, and the village of Elburn is going to feel different,” he said. “But I’m going to keep saying it: when we get into the budget, we need to keep chipping away to be the leanest, meanest machine we can. We’ve got to do that.”

The state-mandated process ends when the village submits its levy to the Kane County Treasurer’s Office before the Dec. 28 deadline. After that, the village can discuss the budget in more detail.

“We ask for what we need. Are we going to get it? No. But if we don’t ask, then it’s shame on us,” Dave Anderson said. “If we don’t approve the levy, we get nada. We still have time left, through the budget process. That’s when we can make decisions.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the levy. Trustees Bill Grabarek and Jeff Walter were absent.