The village of Brookfield is proposing to extend its 2020 tax levy for village operation and pension contributions by about 5.4 percent, but when the dust settles next summer Cook County will limit that increase to something close to 3 percent, according to Doug Cooper, the village’s finance director.

Cooper introduced the proposed 2020 levy to village trustees on Oct. 26, with the village board expected to pass the final levy, which will include the tax levy for the Brookfield Public Library, at its meeting in December.

The annual tax levy for non-home rule communities like Brookfield is capped by the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, better known as the state’s tax caps, at 5 percent or the consumer price index, whichever is lower.

For 2020, the consumer price index is 2.3 percent, but state law also allows municipalities the ability to levy taxes on new development at the full amount. Exactly how much the county will assess the value of that new development won’t be known until mid-2021. 

So, in order to collect as much of that revenue as possible, local governments add a few percentage points onto the CPI in their tax levies in order to make sure they get it.

“We always want to make sure we capture that growth,” said Cooper, who estimates that growth by combing through building permits issued during the year.

Estimating new growth is not an exact science, and when the county calculates the final tax levy next year, the amount Brookfield has asked for will be reduced to something closer to the CPI.

In 2019, for example, Brookfield extended its levy for operations and pensions by 3.8 percent, a total of just under $9 million. The county’s final 2019 tax levy allowed Brookfield to collect about $8.6 million in 2020.

For the purposes of creating the 2021 fiscal year operating budget, said Cooper, he used 3 percent as his projection for property tax revenues. 

The 2020 proposed tax levy to fund day-to-day village operations is roughly $9 million. More than three-quarters of that levy is being earmarked for expenses related to public safety.

About $4.1 million is being levied for police and fire protection and another nearly $3.3 million is being levied to pay the village’s police and fire pension obligations.

Pension costs grew by about $285,000 year over year, said Cooper, due to a change in the way the state calculates benefits for Tier 2 employees, that is, police officers and firefighters hired after Jan. 1, 2011.

Taken by themselves, pension obligations account for more than one-third of the village’s total tax levy for operations, a number that has grown dramatically through the years.

In 2015, Brookfield levied about $2.4 million for pension obligations, while its levies for general operations and public safety since that time have stayed mostly flat.

Brookfield levies additional, uncapped taxes to pay down debt it has issued, something residents have been feeling in recent years as the village has issued three rounds of 10-year bonds to fund street improvements totaling $22 million.

Prior to 2016, the village didn’t levy anything for debt service. But with the first rounds of bonds sold that year, Brookfield levied about $1 million to pay the debt.

In 2020, the village sold its third and final round of bonds, and the debt service levy this year is about $2 million.

“It’s at the full level now,” said Cooper of the debt service levy due to the street bond issuances.

The first round of bonds will mature in 2026 after which taxpayers will see the street bond debt service burden begin to ease in stages, through 2030.