In June, the members of the North Riverside Village Board agreed that the long-standing practice of freezing the village portion of the annual property tax levy had to end.
Since 1989, the village board has declined to raise the local share of property taxes, choosing instead to rely on the sales taxes that the village’s commercial enterprises generate.
But with the village facing enormous budget pressures – increasing debt, years worth of deferred pension obligations, lower sales tax revenues – the game was up.
“We gotta start doing it,” Trustee Hugh Hermanek said of an annual tax levy hike. It appeared set in stone.
But on Monday night, the village board unanimously agreed that, in fact, raising property taxes to help fund village operations was not something they needed to do. The explanation was that the amount the village would receive was so small it wasn’t worth the added pressure it would add to local homeowners, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet.
It’s time for this charade to end.
The village board has, in fact, sought greater revenue from its citizens and continues to find ways to do so. Beyond the annual increases in building permits fees, garbage and water rates and the implementation a few years ago of actual paid vehicle stickers, the village is also looking to get more revenue from residents and businesses by installing newer, more accurate water meters. The village is also looking at going after vehicle sticker scofflaws in order to gain additional revenue from residents. Compared to what an individual homeowner would have to pay as the result of a property tax levy increase, we’re sure most would rather take the property tax increase.
Village officials say that increasing the property tax levy, which is capped by law, would only bring in another $7,400 per year – that includes all properties, not just residential ones. Do the math; it’s a pittance per residential property owner.
Mayor Ken Krochmal asked, rhetorically, on Monday, “What are we going to do with $7,000?”
Just for the sake of argument, let’s say the village had increased its levy by $7,000 each year since 1989, when it began the freeze. That adds up to an additional $154,000.
In reality, the additional revenue would have been much higher. Not every year is capped at such a low rate (this year it’s just 1.5 percent), and not every property is capped each year.
The levy for new construction is uncapped, which means additional tax revenue for the government. How much new construction has happened in North Riverside since 1989? The mall food court. Two car dealerships. Best Buy was built and rebuilt. Chili’s. CVS. The First and Cermak strip mall. There’s more. North Riverside took a pass on levying taxes during a building boom.
And now North Riverside is scrambling to pay its debts, to pay its pension obligations and to fund village services. And still it refuses to abandon this unsustainable practice.