Nearly a month after proposing a 7.31 percent property tax hike, the Highland Park City Council approved a 4.85 percent bump for next year today in a 6-1 vote after a public hearing on the proposed real estate levy at City Hall.
City Councilman David Naftzger was the lone no vote with Mayor Nancy Rotering joining Council members Paul Frank, Kim Stone, Daniel Kauffman, Tony Blumberg and Alyssa Knobel voting for the change.
What started out as a measure which would cost the owner of a $500,000 house approximately $82 more in 2014 than the person paid this year will now require the same property owner to put out $49 next year, according to Finance Director Nikki Larson.
The total levy, including the amount for the Highland Park Public Library, is $16,092,860, 4.85 percent more than last year. The City’s projected revenue for 2014 is $81,580,486 making property taxes approximately 20 percent of income.
The primary reason for the tax increase was finding the money to meet pension obligations for this year as well as 2015. This plan to pay obligations two years away caused a disagreement between members and helped fuel the reduction since the initial proposal.
“It is prudent to consider additional, advanced funding for these (pension) obligations,” Rotering said. “Providing additional funding today will save the City money in the long run.”
Naftzger wanted to take a different route and articulated his reasoning before casting his vote. He would have used other funds rather than raising taxes as some members of the community continue to struggle in a difficult economy.
“I share these goals but wish we were going about it in a different way,” Naftzger said. “This is challenging for people with fixed or low incomes. We are sitting on ample reserves which could have funded this.”
While the State of Illinois passed pension reform last week, it was not enough to back Rotering and the Council majority off their position.
“While the state passed a pension reform bill last week, the impact will not be felt for years,” Rotering said. “In the meantime, we need to responsibly and consistently fund our pension obligations, and meet the state mandate to be fully funded by 2040.”