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Sycamore plans public hearing on tax levy

Published: Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – Sycamore City Council members will hold a public hearing Monday on several options for changing the city’s property tax levy.

Council members are deciding between five options for setting the amount the city will seek to collect in property taxes. The city uses property taxes to fund the general operations of city departments and fulfill its pension obligations. The public hearing will be held at the next City Council meeting at 7 p.m. 

City Manager Brian Gregory has recommended city officials consider an option to freeze the levy at about $2.6 million for the fifth year in a row. Under this option, residents would have to pay about 76 cents per $100 of the equalized assessed property value. The equalized assessed value of all property in the city is estimated to be 7.15 percent lower this year at about $345 million. 

It’s an option 1st Ward Alderman Alan Bauer said is good because it continues the city’s commitment not to raise property taxes. 

“With the economy being so difficult, I think a lot of governments would start raising taxes to a higher level than we have,” Bauer said. “I’m proud we’ve been able to hold the line on that.”

The city would be able to maintain funds available for general operations and the city’s share of local tax bills would be roughly the same as last year. Decreasing property values, however, could lead to an increase in tax rates.

City officials also are considering the levy for the Sycamore Public Library. Library officials are requesting a levy of about $971,000, which is a 3 percent increase above last year. The proposed levy would result in the average homeowner paying between $1.34 and $6.85 more in property taxes next year. 

Last year, the average homeowner owed the city about $424 and the city’s tax rate was about 70 cents per $100. This year, the DeKalb Area Association of Realtors found the average price of homes sold is $179,945.

Generally, about $1.3 million of the levy goes toward fulfilling the city’s pension obligations for police and fire departments, along with Social Security, Medicare and other retirement funds. With the option to freeze the levy, the city would also pull about $24,000 from an alternative fund to support the pensions. 

Property values in Sycamore peaked in 2009 at about $458 million and have been decreasing since then. According to city records, city officials noted that despite signs of economic momentum, property values have yet to recover or stabilize. The city has cut costs, shifted expenses and dipped into reserves to maintain operations. 

The options for the city’s tax levy examine the impact on city operations and homeowners if the levy were increased or decreased. Third Ward Alderman Steve Braser said he’s still deciding which of the tax levy options he thinks is best. He said Gregory’s recommendation to freeze the levy seems like one the public would be happy with. 

Fourth Ward Alderman Rick Kramer said while he is considering which option might be best, he also thinks freezing the levy at $2.6 million is a good idea because property values are decreasing while taxes keep going up. 

“I think we held that line for the last five years… personally, I think it’s awesome we can hold the line,” he said. 

If you go

What: Sycamore City Council public hearing on tax levyWhen: 7 p.m. MondayWhere: Sycamore Center, 308 W. State St., Sycamore.

For information, call 815-895-4515.

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