Village approves levy increase

The amount levied increased 2 percent year over year

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By Robert J. Lifka

Contributing Reporter

Forest Park officials will have $115,419 more in property tax revenue next fiscal year following adoption of the village's annual tax levy Dec. 17. 

The Village Council voted 4-0 to adopt the ordinance calling for $5,611,538 to be raised through property taxes for fiscal year 2018-19. That's an increase of approximately 2 percent over the FY2017-18 levy of $5,502,948. Commissioner Rachel Entler did not attend the meeting.

The fiscal year began May 1, 2018, and will end April 30, 2019.

The 2017-18 levy was $239,0000 higher than the 2016-17 levy of $5,263,243, but almost half of that increase was due to the termination of the Roosevelt Road tax increment financing (TIF) district. Still, the increase is higher than it had been in prior years, when it averaged less than $50,000, according to village officials. 

Leticia Olmstead, village finance director, explained that the levy is limited by the consumer price index (CPI). This year's CPI is 2.1, the same as it was last year but higher than in previous years, when it averaged less than 1.0.

The property tax levy covers approximately 23 percent of the village's appropriation with the remaining revenue coming from sales taxes, fees and grants, according to Olmstead.

In the past, village officials have noted that the village portion of the average village homeowner's property tax bill is not as significant as portions for education, specifically Forest Park Elementary School District 91 and Proviso High School District 209.

Olmsted noted that pension obligations have a major impact on the levy. Of the $115,419 increase, $40,000 will go toward pensions, she said. She added that approximately half of the money raised through property taxes goes toward pensions, including Social Security and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. 

The council also approved the annual tax levy for the Forest Park Public Library, which falls under the auspices of the village but is governed separately. The library levy for 2018-19 is $1,920,547, a 4.9 percent increase from the $1,830,836 levied the year prior.

The council also passed two additional levy-related ordinances on Dec. 17, one directing the Cook County clerk to calculate separate limiting rates for the village and for the library and the other directing the Cook County clerk to reduce the corporate fund portion of the village's levy if the overall amount requested needs to be reduced.

The village and the library are both subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, which limits property tax levy increases to 5 percent or the CPI, whichever is lower. 

Olmstead said the police department pensions are funded at 46 percent and the fire department at 58 percent of the Illinois statutory minimum contributions. The Illinois Pension Code calls for pensions to be funded at 90 percent by 2040.

The corporate fund levy increased by 16 percent while all other fund levies decreased slightly. Olmstead explained that new revenue in the levy, except for the pension contributions, has been directed to the corporate fund "due to the depletion of the general fund reserves and revenue deficit."

Of the village's levy request, $1,059,858 is for the Office of Public Affairs, which includes $900,000 for the Police Department, and $3,470,000 is for the Office of Accounts and Finances, which includes $960,000 for the Fire Department.

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