City Council Raises Tax Levy
In a 4-3 vote, the Highland Park City Council narrowly passed a two percent tax hike.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering cast the deciding vote that will increase property taxes by two percent at the City Council meeting on Monday.
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After a lengthy conversation, City Councilmen Sally Higginson, Tony Blumberg, Jim Kirsch and Mayor Rotering voted in favor of the tax hike in order to help reduce the city's long-term pension obligations.
"What we are talking about tonight is making an investment in paying down some of our commitments," Kirsch said during the discussion.
Councilmen Paul Frank, David Naftzger and Danile Kaufman voted against the tax increase.
"I think raising the property tax should be our last resort," Nafztger said. "I think we have a lot more work to do before I can even consider a levy increase."
The debate about whether or not to approve the tax hike seemed to revolve around the necessity of taking on Highland Park's financial obligations versus the economic hardships faced by residents currently.
"We are still at a very challenging time in our economy," Kaufman said. "If we raise the levy it's another thing coming at [residents]."
Rotering asked city staff how the levy would affect property tax bills, and was told that there would be a $34 incease on a $10,000 property tax bill.
City Manager David Knapp spoke in favor of the levy increase, explaining that incremental steps to take care of Highland Park's pension commitments would be better than larger steps down the road.
"Raising the levy does recognize the fact that you do have some rising costs," Knapp said. "We should take those small steps."
In addition to helping take care of pension costs, a small percentage of the property tax increase will also go towards financing the library's renovations.
Blumberg advised the City Council to pass the levy, concerned that not doing so could cause the city to dip into its reserve funds down the road.
"If we don't raise the levy," Blumberg said, "We face the possibility of having to go into our reserves."
Naftzger suggested the possibility of finding the money elsewhere, such as outsourcing city services and condsolidating departments.
"We still have a number of things we could be doing to alleviate some of our long term obligations," Naftzger said.
Editor's note: This article originally stated that the tax levy would lead to a $64 increase on a $10,000 property tax bill. According to Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, that amount is $34. Patch apologizes for the error.