EAST PEORIA — Any East Peoria property owner with a concern about an increase in next year's property tax bill should not complain to City Hall, advised one city commissioner at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
An increase cannot be blamed on city government. For the 19th consecutive year, the council agreed not to increase the city's portion of the tax levy.
"I'm encouraged by the fact that we are at this point," Commissioner John Kahl said as the council prepared to vote on a tax rate levy Tuesday. "But I can't stress enough, the city portion (of the tax bill) is one of 10 taxing bodies, and for (19) years the city portion has stayed flat. We have two school districts that account for 59 percent of (property) taxes. (Taxpayers) need to take a hard look and pay attention."
The council approved a plan that should keep the rate at about $1.21 per $100 of assessed property value, a level it has occupied for nearly two decades. Tazewell County calculates the actual rate based on the city's approved budget.
"It is the city's intention that whatever you paid last year is what you will pay this year," Commissioner Dan Decker said. "I'm not saying we don't have financial concerns, we do still need to be conservative and tight, but it is encouraging."
Part of the encouraging news is an uptick in sales tax revenues. Jeff Becker, the city's finance director, said sales tax revenues are up between 1 and 2 percent over projections, and that's before most of a new sales tax is factored into the equation. The council approved a 0.5 percent sales tax increase that took effect on July 1, although only two months of the higher tax has been returned to the city. In a full year, the additional sales tax is expected to add $2.5 million in revenue. That's particularly helpful, commissioners said, given the drastic reduction the city has collected in gaming revenues in the past several years.
"An increase in the sales tax is reassuring," Becker said. "It shows that the economy is in good shape."
The council rejected two other tax rate options that would have increased the rate by about the rate of inflation. The flat rate option passed 4-0. Commissioner Gary Densberger was absent.
"I'm proud of the city for what it has done for 17 years," Kahl said. "This year is no exception."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at email@example.com. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.