Plainfield officials are mulling what village staff called a “status quo” budget that would keep the tax levy the same as last year.
But with assessed property values projected to drop villagewide, Director of Management Services Traci Pleckham said the village’s tax rate would have to increase to generate the proposed $5.1 million in property taxes.
“It will change the homeowners’ rate, but the dollar amount [of the levy] will stay the same,” Pleckham said.
The tax levy is the amount of property taxes a governing body asks the Will County treasurer to collect on its behalf to fund its operating expenses.
The current rate is about 43 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation (EAV), up from 40 cents the previous year.
“[The tax rate] will depend on what the final assessments are for the village,” Village Administrator Brian Murphy said. “The overall picture is that we won’t bring in any more money than we’re collecting now.”
According to estimates from Will County, EAV is expected to fall an average of 5 percent, Pleckham said.
Some homeowners — namely those whose home’s assessed value drops more than the average — won’t see the village’s portion of their tax bill increase or could even see a decrease, Murphy said.
But those whose property assessment value has stayed the same or gone up will see a slight increase.
“Some might see an uptick if their valuation increases or their [property value] decrease was lower than the average,” he said.
Murphy said the typical Plainfield homeowner paid about $600 in property taxes to the village this year. If there was no decrease in property value for that home, “your biggest scenario would be a $30 increase,” he noted.
‘Heavy lifting to do’
At a Monday night Committee of the Whole meeting, Pleckham outlined a projected $20.9 million general fund budget for fiscal year 2013-14.
That includes a projected $11.16 million in funding for the Plainfield Police Department, an amount Pleckham said represents a 2.6 percent increase over last year.
“Just like every department in the village, just like every community in America, we’ve been asked to do more with less,” Police Chief John Konopek said, adding that in recent years, the department has reduced staff, worked to extend the life of police vehicles and consolidated services to save money. “We’re not looking at any major increases at all.”
He cited figures showing that Plainfield, with 51 officers, has 1.27 sworn officers per 1,000 residents — the second lowest in the state compared to communities of similar size. He said the Illinois State Police recommend 1.8 sworn officers per 1,000 residents.
Konopek said police have also used revenue generated by asset forfeiture to purchase equipment.
Murphy noted that while there is still “heavy lifting to do,” the village is in better financial shape than it was just a few years ago.
“If you recall, we found ourselves in some very different financial situations about three, four years ago,” he said. In 2009, the village struggled with a $3.8 million deficit.
Last year, the board voted to approve new gas and sales taxes to help offset a projected deficit. This time around, the proposed budget shows a $62,986 surplus.
Trustee Garrett Peck applauded staff's work on the proposal.
"It's great news that the villlage will not be raising property taxes," he said.
Peck and fellow trustee Dan Rippy did offer some feedback in the form of a proposal that the village drop an amusement tax imposed on businesses that offer recreation or entertainment like billiards or bowling.
The tax, which amounts to 1 percent of gross receipts, is passed on to customers by businesses and generates only a few thousands dollars for the village. Last year's budget showed $4,000 in amusement tax revenues.
Rippy called it "problematic" for businesses to have to calculate and pay the tax.
"It's not a lot of money we're collecting," he said.
Peck said abolishing the tax would make Plainfield more business friendly.
Before voting to approve the tax levy, the board must hold a public hearing. Pleckham said that's tentatively scheduled to happen at the first board meeting in December, set for Dec. 3.
The board must approve the tax levy before the end of the year, meaning trustees must take action by its last scheduled 2012 meeting on Dec. 17.