The village of Forest Park is proposing to raise its property tax levy by 6%, but Finance Director Letitia Olmsted emphasized that they expect the actual increase to be smaller than that. 

As a non-home rule municipality, Forest Park falls under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), which limits tax levy increases to 5% or the level of the Consumer Price Index, whichever is smaller. 

The rate at which the individual properties are taxed is set based on a complex formula that takes into account the change in property values and the new properties that came onto the tax rolls.

The village’s levy also includes the amount it levies on behalf of the Forest Park Public Library. Olmsted told the Review that Forest Park is proposing to levy $465,392 more, a 6% increase, to account for the library portion. The library portion was set before the taxing bodies had the more up-to-date financial information, which was larger than what it will actually be able to levy under PTELL. 

The village council voted unanimously on Nov. 28 to accept the proposed levy. A public hearing will be held Dec. 19 at 6:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the start of the last village council meeting of 2022, where the council is expected to vote to approve the levy. 

While taxing bodies calculate the levies, they don’t have the final word on what the property owners actually pay. The Office of Cook County Clerk calculates the tax rates based on the data from the Office of Cook County Assessor. If a taxing body levies more than it’s entitled to, the clerk decreases the levy accordingly, but if a taxing body levies less than it’s entitled to, it gets stuck with the smaller amount. 

Normally, the clerk issues the levy report, which gives the taxing bodies a general idea of how much they can levy, in June. This year, the reports weren’t issued until November. The Forest Park Public Library Board of Trustees, which approved its levy in October, had to use a preliminary report, which projected a higher levy than the final report outlined. 

Because the library is subject to PTELL as well, its actual levy will be lower – but, for the time being, the village has to work with the levy that was approved.

According to Olmsted’s Nov. 21 memo to the village council, the proposed increase without the library portion would be $336,523, a 5% increase. The library portion will have a 6% increase, or $128,869 in new revenue. 

The memo explains that the levy would put $630,000 more toward pension obligations, while also reducing the revenue toward corporate fund, which covers general purpose spending, and the special revenue fund, by the total of $520,296. Olmsted wrote that this will be done to reduce pension liabilities amid increasing pension obligations.

Olmsted also noted that the Office of County Clerk isn’t excepted to release the tax rates until June 2023. Once the rates are released, she said, the actual amount may decrease – something which, she noted, happened to Forest Park last year.