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Sycamore leaning toward property tax freeze?

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SYCAMORE – For the third year in a row, the Sycamore City Council could decide to freeze its property tax levy.

The City Council will discuss four different property tax options today, with City Manager Brian Gregory recommending the city hold its levy at $2,646,621 – the same amount Sycamore has operated on since 2009. The levy is the total amount of money the city is requesting in property tax revenue.

By holding the levy, the average homeowner would see a slight increase of $1.20 on his city portion of the property tax bill because of decreasing Equalized Assessed Value. EAV – which measures the total value of property in the city – is expected to drop from $410 million to $371 million. That is down from the all-time high of $458 million in 2009.

Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy said although it is not easy to hold the operation level for the city three years in a row, council members understand the financial difficulties residents face and will likely support the freeze.

“The intent here is to take into account the tough times people are having,” Mundy said. “It’s a regressive tax ... it’s not based on the ability to pay it.”

Two of the four options could drastically increase or decrease the property tax rate. One proposal would decrease the levy by the same percentage as the EAV, resulting in a $34 savings for the average homeowner and roughly $300,000 less for the city. The other option would increase the levy by the Consumer Price Index rate, resulting in a $12.40 increase for the average homeowner.

The Sycamore Public Library levy, which also must go through the council, is proposed to increase 3 percent, bumping the average homeowner’s share from $129 to $134. It would increase the library’s budget from $915,366 to $943,400.

No action other than a recommendation from the City Council will take place today because a public hearing is preliminarily set for Dec. 3.

The council will also consider joining a state program that would allow the city to collect unpaid debts such as parking tickets, water bills, ordinance violations and ambulance bills. Under the program, the Illinois Comptroller’s Office would withhold the amount owed from tax refunds, commercial payments, lottery winnings or payroll checks and forward it to the city.

Residents would receive a notice and have 60 days to protest.

Mundy said the program offers a fair way to collect what is owed and is another way the city can collect revenue without relying on property tax.

“We think its a valid plan for people who owe the city for whatever reason and do not intend to pay after reasonable efforts to reach them,” he said.

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