Highland News Leader

Highland City Council approves $3.6 million property tax levy

The Highland City Council approved an estimated tax levy for the upcoming fiscal year of $3,653,068. The projected levy would be a 1.3 percent increase over the current year.

Approving an estimated levy is a requirement before the actual tax levy can be adopted on Dec. 19. Rates will be open for discussion at the council’s Dec. 5 meeting.

Planners are assuming no change is the city’s assessed valuation, the value given to land and buildings within the corporate limits to which property taxes can be charges. The city’s assessed valuation was $177.61 million for 2015, which was a .12 percent decrease from the previous year.

“This is the most conservative method and follows what has been occurring the past few years and has been based on recommendation from City Staff,” Kelly Korte, the city’s director of finance said in a memo to council members. “This follows our budgeting policies and allows us to meet our critical measures with reductions in operating expenses if needed.”

That means the estimated tax rate would have to climb slightly, 1.44 percent, from $1.8614 per $100 in assessed value to $1.8882.

Property taxes make up only small part of the city’s overall revenue. The city’s latest budget, passed in April, called for $48.3 million in spending.

Individual tax rates

The city sets many individual property tax levies, which are earmarked by statute for specific purposes. All the tax rates are per $100 of assessed valuation. The city’s estimated levies/rates and an explanation of each follows:

▪ GENERAL TAX: The city has levied a rate of .333, which provides approximately $591,449 for the general administration. With a referendum, the city could tax at a rate of $.4375.

▪ POLICE PROTECTION: The city’s statutory limit (without any referendum) of $.075 should generate approximately $133,209 this year. This doesn’t begin to cover the $2.5 million police department budget.

▪ FIRE PROTECTION: The city’s statutory limit (without any referendum) for fire is also $.075 and should generate approximately $133,209 this year.

▪ COMMUNITY BUILDING & GYMNASIUMS: This gives the community buildings and gymnasiums, such as the Weinheimer, $133,209 per year with a tax rate at the statutory limit of $.075.

▪ PLAYGROUND AND RECREATION: Set by referendum at $.09, this levy generates $159,851 annually for the Playground and Recreation Fund. These funds are used for the operation of the city’s playground and recreation programs.

▪ COMFORT STATION TAX: This tax was started in 2007 and is used to upgrade existing restrooms and build additional restrooms in the various parks around Highland. Each building costs from $24,000 to $40,000. This levy will generate $15,000 for the upkeep of those facilities.

▪ MUNICIPAL BAND: The rate of $.0259,which could be increased to $.04, generates $46,000 for the municipal band programs on the Square, as well as the Peanut Butter and Jam entertainment during the summer.

▪ POLICE PENSION FUND: This tax is levied at a rate necessary to produce a sum sufficient to meet the city’s contributions as required by the Illinois Department of Insurance-Police Pension Division. Levied “to meet needs” at $.3106, it should generate $551,691 next year. This amount is estimated until the final amount is determined by the Department of Insurance and an independent actuary hired by the Police Pension Board. These reports will be available by Nov. 30 and the final amount will then be included in the actual tax levy request.

▪ SOCIAL SECURITY: The city’s Social Security needs for the general funds (non-enterprise) are met by this $.2534 levy, generating $450,000.

▪ MUNICIPAL AUDITING: This tax is levied at whatever rate is necessary to produce a sum sufficient to meet the general funds’ portion of the cost of the required audit. The city enterprise funds (electric, FTTP, water, and sewer) will also help pay for the audit. Levied “to meets needs,” a tax rate of $.0090 would generate $16,000 for the Audit Fund.

▪ ILL. MUNICIPAL RETIREMENT FUND: Another “to meet needs” levy of $.2534 pays $450,000 toward the city’s contribution for employee retirement. This figure includes Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund payments for the general funds only and is based on the city contribution rate of 10.98 percent. Enterprise funds pay their own IMRF.

▪ LIABILITY & TORTS: Levied to meet anticipated insurance costs and to pay judgments or settlements, a rate of $.1239 will generate $220,000 for liability and workers’ compensation insurance. The city must levy to cover its anticipated costs, plus maintain a three-month reserve of cash required by the city’s financial policy.

▪ SCHOOL CROSSING GUARD: This money is used to hire part-time school crossing guards. The city needs to levy $.0056 to generate $10,000 for school crossing guards this year.

▪ AMBULANCE: With this levy, Highland would contribute $444,031 to help cover the full-time ambulance service, with a projected tax rate at $.2500. Highland-Pierron, Grantfork, St. Jacob, St. Rose,and Marine fire districts all levy their own taxes to cover their share of ambulance coverage expenses.

▪ LIBRARY: The library has a liability and tort levy to address safety issues at the library. The library has used this tax money to replace carpet that was held together with duct tape, along with other safety upgrades. The tax, levied at $.0186, will provide $33,000 for the library as work continues to complete needed improvements.

The is also a general library, which is the only library revenue source the mayor and City Council control. It is levied at $.15 and should generate $266,419. The Library Board is given the responsibility for administering the operation of the library.

▪ BOND DEBT: The city has sufficient revenue from other sources to meet the payment requirements for several bonds, including streets, the Korte Recreation Center, tax increment financing (TIF) districts, and sewer system. Therefore, taxes levied were abated at recent council meetings.

Other Council Action

Agreement approved with auditor

The city will use the auditing services of Scheffel Boyle for the next three years. The council approved a new agreement with the accounting firm Monday.

City buys more “smart” meters

The council approved waiving normal bidding procedures to purchase 492 “smart” electric meters from the company Anixter for $57,710, as well as a $40,440 for 492 meter communication modules. When the city began replacing it old meters with the new smart meters, it selected the company Tantalus/ITRON as its provider. That company has defined service territories, with Anixter being the company in charge of the Highland area. Therefore, no other company would be able to bid, making the normal process moot.

Loan approved for street sweeper

The council approved getting a loan from Bradford National Bank in order to purchase a new street sweeper. The 2017 Johnston VT651 sweeper will be purchased form Wm. Nobbe & Co. in Waterloo for $221,000. Bradford National Bank came in with the lowest interest rate, 2.24 percent for a five-year note. Other bids were also received from FCB, First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust, and U.S. Bank.

Bids sought for street lights

The council approved seeking bids for street lights along Sportsman Road. The road was recently upgraded from Frank Watson Parkway to Plaza Drive, including new pavement, storm drainage, and moving utilities from overhead to below ground. Lights are projected cost is around $30,000.

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