Tax levy hearings are usually pretty routine affairs. Few people show up. Fewer ever have anything to say.

That wasn’t the case, however, at the village of Brookfield’s tax levy hearing on Dec. 10. Prior to the village board voting unanimously to approve the levy request, residents for an hour peppered the village board with questions, with one person asking trustees to give homeowners relief from ever-rising property taxes.

“We’re already taxed to the hilt by other taxing bodies,” said Dan Grigoletti, a resident of the village’s Hollywood section, where, it seemed, most of those who showed up at the hearing live.

“What I’m asking is, why don’t you consider reducing our taxes?” Grigoletti asked.

The village is asking Cook County to extend Brookfield’s tax levy by about 5.4 percent next year. That request is broken into two parts: taxes levied to help pay for village operations and taxes levied for the operation of the Brookfield Public Library.

In the case of the 2012 tax levy, which is for the collection of taxes in the year 2013, the village of Brookfield asked to extend its levy by 4.9 percent. The library asked to extend its levy by 6.8 percent. Combined, the total tax levy request is about 5.4 percent more than last year’s request.

The village is obliged to hold a public hearing on the tax levy if it is asking for an increase of 5 percent or more. Tax cap laws in Illinois limit how much non-home-rule communities like Brookfield can increase property taxes annually. The most a non-home-rule community can ask for is 5 percent or the level of the consumer price index (CPI), whichever is less.

While Brookfield has asked for a 5.4-percent increase, what they are likely to get will be less than that. The CPI for this tax levy is 3 percent, which means the eventual tax levy extension for Brookfield that is approved by the county will be closer to 3 percent.

However, the ability to levy taxes on new development (commercial or residential) is not limited by tax caps for the first year after such development is completed. That’s why municipalities and other non-home-rule government agencies, such as school districts, will ask for more than 5 percent in a given year — to capture that uncapped revenue.

If an agency fails to levy the full amount for new development, it will lose the ability to do so in subsequent years, unless the taxing body goes to voters with a referendum.

Village President Michael Garvey’s response to Grigoletti’s plea to reduce taxes was to explain that the revenue collected by the tax levy pays for less than 60 percent of the costs to operate the village. The rest comes from sales taxes, state income taxes and local fees.

Garvey said the village in recent years has made cuts in staffing and services. Still, the tax levy — the village is asking for about $8.2 million in property taxes for 2013 — doesn’t pay for everything the village provides. The 2013 village budget predicts expenditures in the general operating fund, which pays for day-to-day services, of $14.4 million.

That’s 6.5 percent more than the estimated total expenditures in 2012, according to the 2013 budget document passed by the village board on Dec. 10.

“This is being levied to pay for police, fire, public works,” Garvey said of the tax levy. “We are trying to provide basic government services.”

Others, like Anthony Tabb and Bernie Clarke, urged the village board to decrease the tax levy asked for by the Brookfield Public Library, which is seeking to levy $2.16 million in property taxes.

“Does the village give any pushback on that?” asked Clarke. “It doesn’t seem right.”

However, while the library’s levy is included in the village’s overall levy request, the village board does not have the authority to alter that request. The library board, which is separately elected, has the lone authority to levy funds for library operations.

In 2008, when village officials mistakenly levied only half of the funds requested by the library, the village board was forced to make up the difference out of the village’s general operating fund.

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