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Local

DeKalb aldermen give initial OK to increase property taxes

DeKALB – Amid promises the actual tax increase will be lower, DeKalb aldermen Monday narrowly gave initial approval to increasing property taxes by nearly 10 percent.

By requesting slightly less than $7.1 million in property taxes, the city would raise the average homeowner’s property tax bill by close to $50 next year. City staff floated a property tax increase as a way to phase in fully funding its pension obligations through property taxes instead of the general fund.

The idea didn’t win over all aldermen. On first approval during the DeKalb City Council meeting, 1st Ward Ald. David Jacobson, 6th Ward Ald. Dave Baker and 7th Ward Ald. Monica O’Leary voted against the increase. Third Ward Ald. Kristen Lash was absent.

“It’s got to come from somewhere else than going after the few remaining property owners that are are trying to hold their value,” Baker said.

City staff want to move away from the current practice of using the general fund to pay for pension obligations property tax revenues don’t cover. Finance Director Cathy Haley explained property taxes currently fully fund police and fire pension obligations and 97 percent of Social Security and Medicare costs. But only 26 percent of the city’s costs for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund comes from property taxes, leaving the general fund to cover more than $720,000.

A 10 percent increase would bring in an additional $495,000, fully fund Social Security and phase in fully funding IMRF obligations through property taxes, Haley said.

It projects property values in DeKalb dropping by 4 percent.

Fifth Ward Ald. Ron Naylor, cast a “yes” vote Monday, although he prefaced it by saying the city should continue using a mix of general fund and property tax revenue to pay pension costs.

“If we have to cut in the general fund, then I guess maybe that’s what it has to be,” Naylor said. “But I presently can’t support the increase here.”

Monday’s meeting was not the final vote on the levy, but the council’s time to set a ceiling, Haley added. Aldermen will meet with the city’s Finance Advisory Committee to discuss the levy Thursday. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 24, with final approval coming Dec. 8.

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