WHEATON – Most residents will not see an increase in the city's portion of their property taxes even though the Wheaton City Council last month approved a tax levy that is slightly higher than the previous year's levy.
At their Dec. 18, 2017, meeting, councilmembers unanimously approved a 2017 property tax levy in the amount of $20.1 million, an increase of 0.6 percent, or $117,672, from the previous year's levy.
The financial impact of the levy for property owners depends on the change in the assessed value of their property from 2016 to 2017. Assuming the assessed value of all properties has a base growth increase of 4.4 percent, there would be no change in the city’s portion of their tax bill.
For example, the owner of a home valued at $300,00 who paid $996 in city taxes in 2016 would see no increase in the amount he or she pays this year.
Councilman John Prendiville noted that while the 0.6 levy increase "funds our increases to our pensions, police and fire, as well as an increase to our library budget, we need to think farther ahead because we can't just kick the can down the road as the city of Chicago and state of Illinois do."
He said the city has a number of needs that must be addressed.
"Making cuts to our budget is extremely difficult because we run a very lean operation here," Prendiville said. "Residents of Wheaton are very happy with the services we provide, and I don't think they want to see those services diminished. So we're going to have to take a very careful look at what we are doing going ahead. We need to look at alternative revenue sources. We have a local sales tax that we can use, but we can't go too far with that. We can add charges to our water bills. We could add a stormwater fee, but those are as regressive if not more regressive than a property tax because we all need water, we all need the sewer system."
Councilwoman Suzanne Fitch said the city needs to expand its tax base and find more businesses that pay property taxes and, in some cases, sales taxes.
"It's a heavy burden on our residents when we don't have enough businesses that pay taxes in Wheaton," Fitch said. "We have a tax base in which so much of our property is held by tax-exempt entities. Whether it's government property, like the DuPage County Fairgrounds, the DuPage County complex, Wheaton College, schools and parks, or property that's held by not-for-profits, we have an extraordinary amount of property in which the owner is not paying any property taxes at all. That means that they are not contributing to police and the fire and some of the other basic services. Now, they're of course paying their water bill and they're paying in other ways, but they're not paying for some of those other core services."
Councilman Todd Scalzo noted Wheaton residents expect a certain amount of services.
"Everyone who wants to hold taxes or reduce taxes also wants an increase in services," he said. "Just as we don't ever hear anyone say, 'Please raise my taxes,' we almost never hear someone say, 'Cut a service that I personally benefit from.' So we have to take all this in and it's our job to balance what's the right level of service we can provide to fulfill our mission, without imposing too high of [a] burden on taxpayers."