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DeKalb gives first approval to property tax levy

DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council gave initial approval Monday for setting its property tax levy request at $9.67 million, meaning that a property owner would pay 79 cents for each $100 for their property’s equalized assessed value.

Residents paid 72 cents per $100 on their 2011 bills, which were paid in 2012.

Only Fifth Ward Alderman Ronald Naylor disagreed with raising property taxes above the amount the council set last year. Sixth Ward Alderman Dave Baker was not present at the meeting.

“I’d like the levy to stay where it was, so we can truly say we’re not raising taxes,” Naylor said.

Monday night’s vote was not the final action. The council will vote on the issue again at its Dec. 10 meeting. The council is required by law to file its ordinance with the city clerk by the last Tuesday in December.

The aldermen had previously set the ceiling for a property tax levy at $9.67 million, and were given two options by city staff to set the request at either $9.67 million or $9.63 million – the amount the city levied last year.

Although the 2012 levy is $40,000 higher, the increase is needed to capture revenue from new construction in the city, Second Ward Alderman Tom Teresinski said.

“That new construction is being incentivized by us and we never capture it,” Teresinski said, referring to past council decision to keep the rate flat.

Laura Pisarcik, the city’s finance director, said by capturing revenue from new construction, most of which is commercial, the council is not putting a lot of the burden on homeowners. On average, property values in the city have fallen 8 percent, but residential property values have fallen 11 percent, Pisarcik said.

The city uses property tax revenue to fund pensions of city staff, police officers and firefighters. The $9.67 million request would be able to fund all the police and fire pensions, and 45 percent of the pensions of city staff. The other 55 percent will have to be made up from one of the city’s other funds, she said.

Jim Kayes, president of the DeKalb Police Pension Board, served as a warning siren for incoming higher pensions costs during Monday’s public hearing. However, the city can soften the blow by paying more in the present than in the future.

“If you don’t pay for it in the front end, you’re going to pay for it in the back end,” Kayes said. “I want to encourage you to continue the direction you’re going in because it is an improvement.”

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