Oak Forest residents will have to shell out more of their hard-earned cash in taxes, after aldermen approved the 2012 tax levy. Residents in Oak Forest will pay about an additional $27 to the city in real estate tax due to the levy.
The levy, which totals $8 million, is 3.08 percent—or $240,031—higher than last year's levy, said city Finance Director Colleen Julian. The city arrived at that number after several meetings and by taking into account factors such as a deficiency in the general fund balance, city employee wages and other issues.
“The 3 percent presented today will sustain the 117 full-time employees that are currently in the budget,” Julian said. “It has a $500,000 surplus that is intended to go into reserves, to build our reserves, so that we show fiscal soundness for our credit rating agencies.”
The $500,000 addition to the surplus would leave a resulting fund balance of $2.4 million by the end of the 2014 fiscal year. Julian said the goal is to have the fund balance at $3.5 million by fiscal year 2016.
Though the city council approved the levy, it was with some disappointment, as Alderman Dan Ensing voiced his displeasure with not being able to lower the number.
“The only thing that disappoints me, is that after four meetings we didn't move anywhere on this,” he said. “We're setting aside 50 percent of the 1 percent sales tax that we raised for operating expenses and we're not using that at this point.”
He added that he hoped the city would be able to use that money to help out homeowners and reduce taxes. Alderman Rich Simon echoed Ensing's statements to the council.
“Now we passed the sales tax last year, which I thought was going to be used towards the levy, in order not to have a tax increase again this year,” Simon said. “I would very much have preferred a 2-percent increase and by using some of the sales tax we could have gotten down close to that.”
Julian said that her hope was that once the city reaches its financial reserves, the city will not have to levy the $500,000. She said the money could then be used for capital improvements and the city could issue a bond for debt service.
“That's my longterm goal,” Julian said.
Alderman Chuck Toland pointed out that the 3.08 percent increase only covers the 'status quo' within the city and nothing extra, calling it the fiscally responsible thing to do.
“It's not covering any extra bells and whistles,” he said. “The department heads wanted other stuff, but at this time it's the fiscally responsible thing to do, instead of pushing it off.”
He added that once the city reaches its reserve goal, the $500,000 could be a funding source for the city.
Aldermen passed the levy 4-to-2; Aldermen Simon and Ensing were the dissenting votes.
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