Park Ridge mayor, challenger spar over taxes
Updated: March 15, 2013 12:17PM
PARK RIDGE — Though they have not yet faced each other publicly, a debate of the electronic kind has already taken place between Park Ridge’s mayoral candidates.
Through emails to supporters and website postings, newcomer Larry Ryles and incumbent David Schmidt have waged a debate on the city’s annual property-tax levy and the percentage that taxes were raised during Schmidt’s time as mayor.
The debate began when Ryles’ campaign website listed an 11.11 percent hike in December 2012 as one of the “tax-levy increases placed on your property-tax bill by the city of Park Ridge.” Ryles then took Schmidt to task for the combined percentage of city tax-levy hikes over the last four years which he said added up to 22 percent.
In actuality, the City Council did not approve a 11.11 percent property-tax hike for 2012; the amount was 2.15 percent, though earlier in the year the city’s finance director had said the city could potentially require a tax hike of as much as 11.11 percent to meet its expenses.
In a Jan. 29 email to supporters and citizens, Schmidt called the posting on Ryles’ website “flat-out false,” pointing out that aldermen approved a levy increase of 2.15 percent.
Ryles responded with his own email to residents later that day, denying that his website claimed the approved levy for 2012 was 11.11 percent.
“My campaign tax levy issue used the term ‘proposed’ because at the time, Mr. Schmidt was proposing an 11.11 percent tax levy,” Ryles wrote in his e-mail. “Yes, he did lower it to 2.15 percent by moving 9 percent to next year.”
An earlier copy of the page from the website, rylesforparkridge.com/issue1taxincreases.html, does not include the word “proposed” next to the 11.11 percent. A January screen capture of the same site shows the word “planned” added next to the 11.11 percent.
The website has since been changed, reflecting the approved 2.15 percent levy hike approved in December 2012.
During a candidate forum he hosted on Feb. 7, Schmidt addressed Ryles’ comment by stating that the tentative levy hike of 11.11 percent was presented by city staff last spring, not something he had proposed. Budget cuts and increases in some revenue sources allowed the City Council to lower the levy increase to 2.15 percent, he said.
Schmidt had inquired about the timetable for vetoing the 2012 levy, stating, “I’d like to see it at zero,” but ultimately a veto did not occur.
Though Ryles, who did not attend the candidate forum, said the city has “moved” a 9-percent levy hike to 2013, City Finance Director Kent Oliven told the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate that it is too soon to determine what the levy might be. The levy is approved annually in December.
In their emails, both mayoral candidates accused the other of trying to “mislead” voters.
Ryles’ website currently states that during Schmidt’s tenure as mayor, levy increases exceeded the rate of inflation, based on numbers from the Illinois Department of Revenue.
Ryles contends that if elected mayor he will keep levy increases under the rate of inflation.
The City Council approved a tax-levy hike of 3.2 percent in 2009, 5 percent in 2010, 3.4 percent in 2011 and 2.15 percent in 2012.