Park Forest To See Lowest Tax Levy Increase In 25 Years

budget revenues, property taxes, vopf
Property taxes in Park Forest currently fund a full 59% of the Village Budget. (VOPF)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The Village Board in December adopted the smallest tax levy increase in the past 25 years. The 1.1% increase equates to roughly $254,875 in new revenue. Prior to this, the lowest increase was 1.4% in 2014.

Cook County adds a loss factor to the original levy to allow for uncollected taxes. The increase represents the increase to the extended levy. This is the “Truth in Taxation” Statutory requirement, the Village reports.

The 2017 tax levy will fund the 2018/2019 Budget. The tax levy consits of six separate categories: General Corporate, Bonds & Interest, IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, FICA, the Police Pension, and the Fire Pension. Of these six categories, FICA and IMRF will require no increase. With respect to Bonds & Interest, there is an increase of $254, 875, $215,404 less than last year’s increase in this category, largely because Village is able to abate a total of $1,162,570 in the bond and interest levy.

General Corporate will require $710,000 additional funds for operations. Salaries will require a 2.5% increase and health insurance will see a full 10% increase. The Village will utilize a portion of the reserve funds to reduce this increase to $327,000. Utilizing $383,000 will leave 3.2 months in reserve funds.

“The levy amount for the Police and Fire pensions are actuarially determined,” the Village reports. The police pension will see a $49,319 increase, fire an $82,266 increase. The police pension will be 44.58% funded, fire 45.60% funded.

In a separate ordinance, the Village is able to abate $ 1,162,570 in debt service.

“Total Debt Service minus the proposed abatement equals a levy amount of $254,875,” Mark A. Pries, Finance Director/Deputy Village Manager said in a memo to the board. “This amount does not include the $1,534,469 in debt service associated with the IEPA loans funded
through water rates. By receiving tax increment, the Village is able to abate the entire portion of the TIF debt. This abatement is at $1,159,495. (By abating these taxes, the Village Board saves residents a 7.2% additional levy.)”

At the December 4 meeting of the Village Board, Trustee Jon Vanderbilt cited the more than $600,000 in a fund set aside for sound mitigation relating the Canadian National Railroad, asking if these funds could be used to further abate the tax levy. Mayor John Ostenburg responded that such a recommendation would have properly belonged during the budget review process, and removing more than $600,000 from the current 2017/2018 Budget might well leave other areas unfunded. The abatement proposals in the current levy are consistent with the 2017/2018 budget under which the Village currently operates.

Mayor Ostenburg expressed concern that Trustee Vanderbilt’s recommendation was introduced “literally at the eleventh hour, without consideration of what the impact might be.”

Finance Director Pries presented a similar argument, stressing that “fiscal conservatism” necessitated having money in the budget for operations, and removing money from the current budget could negatively impact future tax levies.

The tax levy passed 6-1 at the December 11 meeting of the Village Board, with Trustee Jon Vanderbilt voting against.

Residents can expect to see a $30 to $53 increase in an annual tax bill related to Village services, according to documentation provided by the Mr. Pries.

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