About 10 residents expressed opposition Monday as the Normal Town Council voted to increase property taxes next year.
The Normal Town Council held a public hearing prior to its regular meeting for residents to speak on the property tax levy increase of 6 percent, to $12.9 million. A municipal body must hold a public hearing if a levy increase is above 5 percent.
The extra revenue would help fund police and fire pensions. The council has an obligation from the state of Illinois to fund 90 percent of both pensions by 2040.
Council member Chemberly Cummings said municipalities are taking heat from taxpayers who should blame state policies.
“The same fervor, the same passion that they come to council meetings and share ... go to Springfield, go before the General Assembly, share the concerns and share what you want them to do. That also helps us,” she said.
Those who spoke are calling for town cuts in other areas of spending before turning to taxpayers. Several council members say cuts are coming during next year’s budget planning cycle. The town is also reducing payroll through an early retirement program.
Mayor Chris Koos said Tuesday on GLT’s Sound Ideas that there are other places the money could come from, but it would require bigger cuts.
"(The money) is there if you’re willing to do deeper cuts. What services would you like to eliminate? Do we go to private garbage pickup? Do we reduce our police force? Do we reduce our fire department?" Koos said. "Then our insurance rating goes down, and you end up paying more for your homeowners insurance. It’s not a simple solution, and we’ve always identified property tax as the most reliable and steady source of income to fund these pensions."
The increase in property taxes will cost the owner of a $165,000 home an extra $40 per year. Council members say they’re sorry they must increase the levy but have no choice. Council members emphasized they will also be paying more in taxes.
Resident Jarrod Rackauskas said that will be a burden for him.
"As a median citizen with increasing tax costs, I have been forced to say 'no' to the Mediterranean platter at the Coffeehouse, 'no' to the occasional round of golf at Ironwood, 'no' to coffee at Gloria Jean's with my wife, 'no' to a family pool pass at Fairview in the summer,” he said.
Although Rackauskas and the other residents were able to voice their concerns Monday night, Koos believes the town should be doing a better job of communicating with residents about how the town spends its money.
“That’s something we need to be doing a better job of," Koos said. "It was a point of discussion in our recent strategic plan, and you'll be seeing some examples of that. I think the first thing you’re going to see is on a website (we're making) called Myth and Fact. We’re going to take some of these issues that are going around that are commonly held beliefs and put the flesh in the background of it so people really know what’s going on.”
The town has also lost revenue to the state, taken by lawmakers as part of the budget deal.
You can also listen to Koos' full interview with GLT:
Editor's note: GLT General Manager R.C. McBride is a Normal Town Council member.
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