As the Highland Park City Council was passing its 2014 budget today at City Hall, Mayor Nancy Rotering let it slip the 7.31 percent bump in the real estate tax levy first proposed Nov. 12 was likely to settle at 5.2 percent.
“It will cost $1 a week,” Rotering said during a meeting of the Council’s Committee of the Whole preceding the legislative body’s formal gathering. The initial proposal would have required the owner of a $500,000 home to pay approximately $85 more in 2014 than expended this year. That number now looks like it will drop to $52.
Rotering initially led the charge for the larger increase as an opportunity to get ahead on the City’s long term pension obligations while Councilman David Naftzger pushed for little or no additional taxes. The decrease did not come at the expense of pension obligations.
“There are a lot of moving parts in the budget,” Rotering said. “We were able to winnow it down.” She made it clear the change had nothing to do with paying pension obligations for both 2014 and 2015 next year.
The final budget approved by the Council after an additional reduction of $619,784 made at the meeting, is $84,636,888, according to Finance Director Nikki Larson. Of the $3,056,402 shortfall, $2,661,500 is for capital improvements, according to Larson. That amount will come from City reserves.
Before passing the budget at its regular meeting, council members debated ways to narrow the proposed increase in the real estate tax levy and potentially find other sources to meet the 2015 pension obligations.
Naftzger expressed a desire to use some of the budget reductions subtracted today to ease the tax burden even more. Rotering disagreed. “Any levy increase is for pension liability,” she said.
“It is all fungible,” Naftzger said.
The Council will further discuss the proposed tax levy at 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at its Committee of the Whole meeting before a public hearing on the tax hike at 7:30 p.m. that day at City Hall.