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Normal Takes First Step Toward Property Tax Increase

Cindy Le
From left, Normal Town Council members Scott Preston and Kevin McCarthy.

Homeowners in Normal will likely see an increase in their property taxes next year.

The Normal Town Council on Monday moved toward increasing its property tax levy to fund police and fire pensions.

Council member Kevin McCarthy said the town is required by the state to collect 90 percent of the estimated pension obligation by the year 2040.

"They're trying to encourage municipalities to make sure (they) can pay their future obligations," said McCarthy. "I understand the motivation of the rules. It's very, very difficult given the economics to be able to do that and afford it without putting a bunch of new tax on the taxpayers."

A resident with a home valued at $165,000 would pay an additional $44 on their tax bill. The Normal Town Council has told staff to prepare a draft levy for a public hearing that would increase the town's property tax levy by nearly 7 percent, or about $800,000.

During Monday’s meeting, council member Scott Preston said the town will not neglect paying into the pensions.

"There's such a clear example of the path the alternative would lead to, and that's looking at the state of Illinois," said Preston. "If we are not responsible, if we are not proactive and continue to stay on top of this situation, it can develop into a public pension crisis down the line like the state has been facing for a while."

Council members said property tax money is the most reliable source for funding the police and fire pensions, but there are other budget obligations that will not be covered by this tax increase. 

Appearing on GLT's Sound Ideas, Mayor Chris Koos said the town is taking a closer look at service cuts to address the rest of its projected budget shortfall.

"We're looking at everything, every service we provide," Koos said. "We look for efficiencies in that service, and we look at services and say, 'Are these realistic services to offer our residents now?' It may be programs that we started 10 or 15 years ago. We look at the viability of them, how people are engaging with those services (and) how important those services are."

Koos added basic services such as public safety, garbage and water will not be touched.

Meanwhile, only four or five employees took the town's early retirement incentive, Koos said. It was offered to 18 employees, and town officials were hoping 10-12 would take it to help the town cut labor costs.

"We'll have to cut more," Koos said.

The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed levy since the property tax increase is above 5 percent. The hearing will be Dec. 4. 

Listen to the full interview

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Baylee Steelman joined us in November 2016. She is a journalism major graduating in May 2018. She mainly covers Bloomington City and Normal Town Council meetings, Unit 5 School Board meetings, produces the weekend News In Review, and helps run GLT events. Baylee also produces and anchors at TV-10, Illinois State University's student TV news station.
Dania is a reporter at GLT, as well as a student at Illinois State University.