Park Ridge City Council gives nod to property-tax increase
Updated: December 3, 2012 8:59PM
PARK RIDGE — Park Ridge officials are inching closer to finalizing a levy request that represents the lowest increase in property taxes in the past six years.
The City Council, meeting as a Committee of the Whole Monday, voted unanimously for a 2.15-percent bump in levied funds for the 2012 tax year.
The levy is expected to go before the City Council for a formal vote on Dec. 3 and must be filed with the Cook County Clerk’s Office by Dec. 24.
The pared-down, tentatively approved levy is $1.49 million less than what the city had projected in March it would need to balance several funds within the 2013-14 budget. At that time the increase proposed was 11.15 percent.
In early November officials discussed a $1.25 million, or 7.49 percent, rise in taxes.
Further cost-cutting, included reducing the library’s allocation and delaying parking lot repairs, resulted in a $20.95 million levy that is $364,829 more than the previous year.
Additionally the Committee of the Whole approved property-tax abatements for debt services totaling approximately $3.58 million.
A proposal by 5th Ward Alderman Dan Knight to reduce the library’s fund balance from six months to five months, or $160,000, prompted a plea from library representatives to reconsider the cut. Park Ridge Public Library President Margaret Harrison, reciting a letter on behalf of the Board of Trustees, said the needs of the aging library facility may not be addressed if levied funds are further reduced.
“Deferring needed repairs does nothing else but put off things so it becomes the problems of the future board and council,” Harrison said.
She asked for stronger communication between the library and City Council to discuss the institution’s financial needs.
Knight said that while the Library Board and staff are doing an “admirable” job of caring for facilities, the city is coping with a difficult financial situation.
“Things aren’t getting any better,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent on the city as a whole, in which I include the library, to be extraordinarily prudent.”
Knight said Park Ridge is in “a year of transition” and that a study on the Uptown Tax Increment Financing District would provide guidance for moving forward.
The results from a professional review of the debt-laden TIF District are expected to available by January. Until then, Knight said, it would be premature for the city to commit to more than it could afford.
“These are very trying times,” he said. “We can’t un-spend money.”
City Finance Director Allison Stutts, who is resigning from her post at the end of December, encouraged officials to look at the “big picture” during the next budgeting process and make trade-offs where necessary so as to not further put off capital projects.
“That’s the balance the city has to maintain in order to make sure there is sufficient cash on hand to cover the expenses of the city,” Stutts said.
Mayor David Schmidt called on aldermen to once again reconsider an alternative plan for providing more space for the Police Department that doesn’t involve paying for the construction of a new building.
Schmidt on Nov. 19 had vetoed the City Council’s approval of a $290,170 contract to design and construct a 1,500-square-foot building for evidence storage and create a new parking lot and an enclosed bike corral on property at 229 Courtland Ave.
Schmidt said agreeing to a new plan or deferring the project for another year would further bring down the levy to the lowest possible amount.
“I think we owe it to the taxpayers of the City of Park Ridge to get to as close to (a) zero (percent increase) as we can,” he said.