Friday, November 15, 2013

Proposal to increase city property taxes 4.85% is scary and wrong

Update- the revised tax levy was just double tax cap at 4.85 %

During the 20 years I served on the city council (1993-2012) we had a budget policy that limited increases in our property tax levy at or below the Illinois Tax Cap percentage. Even though we were a home rule community that was not limited by tax cap, we chose to lead by example and keep our property tax increase at or many times below the Illinois Tax Cap. In recent years after the recession, the City Councils I served on choose to freeze the levy to help homeowners recover from great equity losses and income reductions. The proposition that our property values have decreased dramatically yet taxes continue to skyrocket has to be stopped. We do not live for our governments, they are suppose to support us with realistic taxation.

It is absurd for this Council to ask citizens to pony up 85 dollars more per 500k value. Instead of the current attitude of beginning with how much the government needs as business as usual we need to have compassion for the citizenry, understand their tax payment capacity, and provide services and government accordingly.

Instead of bragging about large increases in spending on infrastructure and public safety with no regard for cost, we need to start with a cap on spending and do whatever it takes to build a responsible budget that services the needs of our community, not the wants of a few.

To blame this all on the State is wrong. We can hire less people, negotiate less benefits, or even outsource if labor costs stay unreasonable. The City Councils I sat on had positioned ourselves to make significant progress in this realm and I was hopeful the future government would keep steering in this sustainable path. To throw your hands up, blame the State, and further burden our citizens is not the answer. Yes, there are hard choices to make for future operations of our governments, not just the City of Highland Park.

Step One - Protect the Taxpayers and Citizens.  Step Two - Live within our means and pull back spending. Step Three - Respect past commitments to our employees and create a new framework for future labor that is sustainable within the economy we have before us. It should not always be the Taxpayer footing the bill but rather employees too sharing in the pains of the downturned economy. This can be done in cooperation and a fair benefit package for our employees that respects the contributions of the citizenry.

Do not raise our taxes and pursue remedies that will reduce the escalating economic pressures on the residents of our communities.