Next month the homeowners of North Riverside are going to get a Christmas present they haven’t received in more than two decades — a property tax increase courtesy of the village of North Riverside.
At their meeting on Nov. 17, members of the village’s board of trustees voted 5 to 0 to go ahead with a plan to extend the village’s 2014 tax levy by 4.5 percent in the face of what officials have termed a financial crisis tied to lower-than-expected sales tax revenues, the village’s falling credit rating and its growing firefighter and police pension obligations.
“I think it’s the responsible thing to do for the village,” said Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. “We used to take pride in saying we never raised property taxes, but times change.”
According to a memo from Finance Director Sue Scarpiniti to the village board’s finance committee earlier this month, the decision to raise the property tax levy this year is to capture the value of new commercial development in the village, specifically the new Costco store and construction on three of the four outlots at the site.
The estimated assessed value of the Costco site alone is $2.98 million, said Scarpiniti.
“The village’s new construction value for the 2014 tax year is estimated to be at its highest level since 2005 and could result in the village capturing additional dollars above the tax caps for the next several years,” said Scarpiniti.
In prior years, village officials have argued against raising the tax levy, saying it would result in an increase in revenue of between $5,000 and $7,000. However, accounting for new development — something village officials decided to ignore during the last quarter century — the 2014 tax levy is expected to bring $22,800 more than the 2013 tax levy.
“Because the village is primarily landlocked and any significant new construction values for tax purposes will result only from the Edward Don Redevelopment Project, the next several tax years will be extremely important to the village as they will provide us with a limited opportunity to alter our past property tax strategy by capturing additional dollars beyond the low tax cap environment created the last several years,” Scarpiniti said.
The impact of the levy increase on the average North Riverside homeowner is expected to be minimal. Because of the village’s policy to freeze taxes since 1989, the village portion of the average annual tax bill has fallen to just 2.2 percent, according to Scarpiniti. The average homeowner, according to data provided by the village, pays about $99 per year ($77 for senior citizens) for village services.
“For the last year and a half we’ve been trying to get our financial house in order,” Hermanek said. “We tried to sustain our economy based on retail sales, where it doesn’t affect the residents.”
The increased 2014 tax levy means that the same homeowner would pay an additional $12 in taxes to the village ($9 for senior citizens taking the senior exemption).
“I think the residents are smart enough to know that a $12 increase is a small change,” Hermanek said.
The last time raising the tax levy was floated by the village board was back in June 2011. Initially, the village board agreed to raise the tax levy by 5 percent. But by November, when it came time to passing that increase, the board decided against it, using a projected low increase in revenue as justification. The board didn’t address new construction that year, which included CVS and H.H. Gregg.
At the same time, the village in 2011 issued debt certificates to refinance a bank loan it couldn’t repay and pay for new water meters throughout the village. The new water meters, more accurate than the old ones, were also expected to bring more revenue to the village.
The North Riverside Village Board declined to raise the tax levy in 2012 and 2013 as well.
Village trustees will vote to officially approve the 2014 tax levy at their meeting scheduled for Dec. 15. Because the tax levy extension is less than 5 percent, the village is not required to hold a public hearing on the levy, though some villages do so as a courtesy.