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Normal council adopts increased tax levy, drops tax rate slightly

Several people sit behind the dais, during the Normal Town Council meeting. Two poinsettias sit on the floor in front of the panel.
Michele Steinbacher
The Normal Town Council adopted a new $14.3 million levy on Monday. The town's tax rate will drop slightly.

The Normal Town Council on Monday adopted a nearly $14.3 million levy for the upcoming fiscal year — nearly 7% higher than the year before. But the town’s tax rate will go down slightly, offering taxpayers some relief.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the levy, with members Scott Preston and Kathleen Lorenz voting “no.”

Other votes at the council's meeting included awarding a $3.7 million contract to Stark Excavating for road improvements in the Savannah Green subdivision, and a $47,000 contract to Minutemen Security for replacing Normal parking enforcement’s automatic license plate readers [ALPRs].

Property tax levy reflects EAV growth

With the levy coming in 6.78% higher than last year, the town will see an additional $907,000 in local property tax revenue.

The town uses this revenue to cover its retirement obligations [including police and fire pension], as well as operating costs for the Normal Public Library.

While Normal sets its own levy, the McLean County assessor formulates the equalized assessed value [EAV] for property. The town’s overall EAV has grown 19% this year, bringing it to about $1.2 billion.

Based on Normal’s levy and EAV, Normal’s tax rate will decrease slightly — about 14 cents — to $1.22 per $100 EAV.

“The EAV grew so significantly this year [by $228 million] — that even with a levy increase of 6.8%, the tax base is larger," finance chief Andrew Huhn said after the meeting.

The result of that growth is “more is being absorbed of that increase. So in the end, individual taxpayers will likely pay less in taxes than last year to Normal,” he said.

Lorenz and Preston have criticized Normal’s choice to take $500,000 of the levy, and put it into the budget’s general fund. On Monday, Lorenz again cited this in her opposition vote.

Huhn told WGLT after the meeting that a half-million dollars is a small piece of the overall levy, adding allocating that 4% of the levy to the general fund is a way to diversify.

Up until a few years ago, Normal would take about $1.6 million of its levy and put that into the general fund. But leaders changed budgeting strategy, opting to focus the property tax revenue on catching up with pension responsibilities.

“We’ve become more reliant on sales tax and income tax, and we want to try to have a little more revenue diversity,” said Huhn.

Normal’s levy ordinance technically asks for closer to $14.8 million. But that ordinance includes a tax abatement of about $5 million for debt service. So the $14.3 million figure is really what the town will collect. Historically, Normal has used this abatement technique to cover the debt without using tax revenue, according to council materials.

Stark awarded contract to fix Savannah Green roads

The $3.7 million project in Normal’s Savannah Green subdivision will patch or replace sections of streets and alleys in the 20-year-old development. Additional work covers sidewalk improvements, and repairs to manholes, inlets, and alley underdrains.

Bloomington-based Stark’s was the lowest of two bids. Work should begin in April, and be complete by September.

Normal staff say Savannah Green streets have deteriorated faster than expected, due to issues in workmanship, materials, and the area’s high-water table.

“This has been a long time coming,” said council member Chemberly Harris, who noted she’s been pushing for this work for about seven years.

The scope of improvements is too much for one project. Stark’s portion represents phase one, said City Manager Pam Reece. The town will budget for the next part that could cost about $2 million, after this initial phase is complete, she said.

“We’ve known that Savannah Green pavement has needed attention," said Reece, but getting the design phase done took some time, she said. “This is a great start, we appreciate everyone’s patience.”

The town is using COVID-relief funding made available through the American Rescue Act Plan to fund the project, she said.

In other business, the council:

  • OK’d spending about $47,000 to replace the 10-year-old automatic license plate (ALPR) system for Normal’s parking enforcement vehicle.
  • Approved Mayor Chris Koos' appointment of Rory Roberge as a Normal representative to the McLean County Regional Planning Commission. 

Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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