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Sycamore to mull property tax options

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – Sycamore City Council members are considering several options for its property tax levy, including freezing it for the fifth year in a row. 

At Monday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Brian Gregory outlined several paths city officials could take with its property tax levy by the end of the year. The city uses property taxes to fund the general operations of its departments and also to meet pension obligations. 

Out of several options suggesting increases or decreases in the levy, Gregory recommended freezing it at about $2.6 million, which is where it has been since 2009. According to city records, city officials are finding property values have yet to stabilize despite economic momentum. The levy is divided by the city’s overall assessed property value to determine its tax rate.

Since 2008, city officials have cut costs, shifted expenses and drawn from city reserves to maintain operations. 

“We’re still feeling some of the pain as [a city] and understand our community as well,” Gregory said. “We’ve taken a protective stance to cut costs.” 

The assessed property value for the entire city is estimated to decrease at 7.15 percent this year to about $345 million. Last year, overall assessed property value for the city was about $371 million. 

By freezing the levy, the city would maintain the funds it has available for general operations. About $1.3 million of the levy would go toward the city’s police and fire pension, Gregory said. They would also go to covering the city’s Social Security and Medicare obligations. 

More than $24,000 from the city’s sales tax distributive fund reserves or an alternative fund source would also be used to meet the city’s pension obligations, Gregory said. 

City officials will have a public hearing on the levy Dec. 2 during the City Council meeting. Council members likely will vote on it Dec. 16.

Gregory said council members seemed generally in favor of freezing the levy. 

First Ward Alderman Curt Lang is one of them. He said even though the city is recovering from the economic downturn of 2008, it hasn’t fully recovered. 

“I think that’s pretty wonderful the city is able to maintain [itself] in this economic time the same tax levy,” he said. 

By the numbers

Overall equalized assessed value in Sycamore

2013 : $344,604,957 (estimated)

2012: $371,153,227

2011: $410,684,047

2010: $435,237,682

2009: $458,665,816

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