WHEATON – The Wheaton City Council on Dec. 19 voted to approve a 1.6-percent increase in the city's 2016 property tax levy.
Voting "no" were councilman Phil Suess and councilwoman Suzanne Fitch.
"We must be in a position to live within the dollars that we receive," Suess said, in voting against the levy increase. "It is simply not sustainable to each year be going to our residents to increase their taxes."
He said the city doesn't have to increase the levy.
"The city of Wheaton, at the end of October, sits on cash and investments in excess of $70 million," Suess said. "We can absorb this increase without passing it on to our residents."
Councilman John Prendiville, however, said the average homeowner would not see an increase in their taxes. And in looking at his own taxes, Prendiville said his city taxes went up by $1 in 2013 and went down in 2014 and 2015.
"That indicates that the city is generating economic development; we're increasing our tax base through the development that has occurred through new projects and through things coming back onto the tax rolls," Prendiville said. "If we can increase our tax levy without raising taxes and in many cases, lowering the city's portion of the property taxes, I think that is extremely sustainable."
Fitch also expressed concerns about increasing the levy.
"The next step is for all local government [bodies] to work together and find ways to reduce the property tax burden," Fitch said. "If you look at the pie graph of what we pay in our property taxes, the city is only at 13 percent, but the other two big players are the school district and the park district. I would like to see all local governments get together [and] work together to find ways to reduce the property tax burden. I think we can do that."
The $19.8 million levy is an increase of $311,004, or 1.6 percent, from the previous year. Assuming the assessed value of one's property has a base growth increase of 1.4 percent, the increase would not result in an increase in city taxes for property owners, city officials said.
The approved levy would capture new growth by extending a property tax on the increases in assessed valuation related to the city's TIF District 1 ($17.6 million) and new construction ($12.5 million). The levy also includes an increase of $125,000 for the library.
The City Council had looked at four different alternatives for the levy.