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Vote on property tax levy renewal slated

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Village voters will see a renewal of the Village property tax levy on the March 15 primary ballot.

The five-year 8.4 mills levy renewal, which does not raise taxes, provides about 20 percent of the Village general fund, or about $743,000 yearly. The general fund pays for most human services, including parks and recreation, streets and the library; traditionally, the fiscal health of a municipality is judged by the health of its general fund.

Villagers pay about $239 per $100,000 valuation of property for the Village levy, or about $478 yearly for a home valued at $200,000, according to Assistant Village Manager Melissa Vanzant this week.

The levy renewal is necessary to maintain a healthy general fund, Council President Karen Wintrow wrote in an email last week, stating that Village staff has kept the budget under control by cost cutting within departments, finding alternative funding sources, extending equipment life or putting projects on hold.

“We receive financial reports monthly and Council believes that our fiscal management is the best it has been in years with the help of Melissa [Assistant Manager Vanzant] and Patti [Village Manager Bates],” Wintrow wrote.

The 8.4 mills property tax levy was initially passed in 2006, championed by then Manager Eric Swanson. At the time the general fund was running a deficit of about $368,000 following the loss of several major industries in town, which resulted in a decrease of Village income tax revenues. The general fund at the time had expenses of about $2.7 million, with revenues falling short at $2.4 million. While the levy passed by the slimmest of margins (one vote) that year, voters gave the 2011 levy renewal robust approval, passing the levy with about 65 percent of the vote.

In the past 10 years, local income tax has made a slow but steady comeback, with the expansion of YSI/Xylem and reopening of Antioch College, but operational expenses continue to rise. This year, general fund revenue is estimated to be about $3.07 million, but expenses come in at about $3.3 million, with a deficit of about $235,703, according to the 2016 Village budget.

The general fund also has a balance, or surplus, of about $1.8 million. According to Assistant Manager Vanzant this week, it’s considered best practice to keep two months of operating expenses, or 16 percent of the general fund, as a surplus, although she prefers to keep four months, or 33 percent as surplus.

The current balance is slightly more than 50 percent of the general fund.

Without the $743,000 annual income from the levy, the general fund deficit would be deeper into the red, according to Wintrow.

“Our expenses have increased as have capital projects and we haven’t seen an appreciable increase in income, which is why we continue in deficit spending,” Wintrow wrote in the email.

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