River Hills passes levy, tax rate increases
About half goes to dispatch increase; the other to pay down debt
River Hills — For the first time in five years, River Hills residents will see an increase in the village tax levy, and as a result, an increase in the tax rate.
In each of the last four years, the Village Board has kept the village tax levy flat at about $2.9 million. The levy approved by the Village Board last week breaks the $3 million mark, and is about $81,000, or $2.7 percent, more than the 2013 levy. The increase amounts to a 13 cent increase to the tax rate for a total of $6.23 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Overall spending is budgeted to increase by about $142,000, or 4 percent, a majority of which will go toward increased debt payments.
For the average River Hills resident with a $738,400 home, that means a village bill of $4,600 for 2014 — about $128 more than last year, when the average home value was estimated at about $733,000.
About half of the $80,000 levy increase will go toward an increase in village costs for police and fire dispatch services provided by Bayside, Village Manager Chris Lear said. The other half will be used for an increase in property insurance.
Guiding the board's decision to increase the levy was the desire to curb the village's debt load. When reviewing a preliminary budget in October, the board decided to use the levy increase to eliminate planned borrowing for capital projects and a projected budget deficit. The 2014 budget increases debt payments by about $100,000, to a total of about $600,000, to increase the rate at which the village pays down its outstanding debt.
"The debt component was a big factor in our consensus opinion to increase the tax levy," Trustee Bill Walker said of the board's earlier decision.
The village has about $650,000 in unspent loan reserves as a result of capital projects coming in under budget in recent years, and about $33,000 of those reserves will be used in 2014 to help prevent the village from taking on any new debt. One big-ticket capital project, a reconstruction of the Range Line Road bridge, is anticipated to cost about $250,000.
Lear referred to the rest of the budget as "a lot of little adjustments — a thousand here, a thousand there."
As was the case in October, Village President Bob Brunner voted against the tax increase. He provided an alternate 2014 budget which would have left two police department positions unfilled following retirements and eliminated about $6,000 in budgeted contingency funding.
Brunner's budget would have cut about $77,000 and kept the tax rate flat at $6.10.
"It's not a crime to keep a flat tax rate," Brunner said when other trustees questioned how he would fund the positions if the board decides to fill them.
The board passsed the 2014 budget without Brunner's proposed amendments.
No residents spoke during the public hearing preceding the board's consideration of the budget and levy.
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