The cost of government in Elmwood Park
Updated: April 2, 2012 9:32AM
The village of Elmwood Park’s water rates and tax levy have received a lot of attention in the past few weeks, and I am certain that many residents are now confused. This is unfortunate, so in the effort to clarify both issues, here is a further explanation.
I can’t emphasize enough that the real issue when it comes to water rates is Chicago’s 25 percent increase this year, followed by an additional 15 percent for each of the following three years. No one is asking how Chicago can justify these rate hikes, which it has passed on to all of the suburbs that receive their water from the city.
Some people may have gotten the false notion that the village of Elmwood Park charges the same rate for water that the city charges the village, and no more. If that were the case, there would be no money to pay for the cost of getting the water from the city to residents’ showers and kitchen faucets. The cost of distribution is the difference between Chicago’s rate and what the village charges.
The Elmwood Park water fund is a completely separate fund and gets no money from property taxes. It has to be self-sufficient and must rely on user fees. Yes, there is a surplus in the water fund, but those dollars are designed to pay for maintaining the water mains, sewers, capital improvements of the water system and any water emergencies.
If the village had passed along only the city’s increase, we would have fallen behind in our distribution fund. The result would be fewer dollars available to make future repairs and pay for the increasing costs associated with our water department.
No one wants to pay more for water, but it’s important to emphasize that the Elmwood Park water rate is very much in line with other cities and towns. We are considering all options with the city’s increases. We will either fight back legislatively or in court.
Next, I will address the tax levy. The village’s total spending appropriation is $44,813,884. Of that, property taxes account for roughly a third at $12,266,486. The state of Illinois requires all municipalities to exclude debt service (the amount we owe on long-term bonds) from the formula used to determine the state’s cap on property taxes. The result is that we have to report two levy amounts. One is the truth in taxation calculation (without debt service), which currently is 1.9 percent and the second is for the full levy increase of 4 percent.
Let’s see how this affects a typical homeowner. The village of Elmwood Park and library account for 22 percent of a resident’s total property tax bill. If that bill is, say, $6,000, the village and library portion is $1,320. Therefore, a 4 percent increase amounts to $52.80 for the entire year. That breaks down to a little more than $4 per month, even less for a property tax bill under $6,000.
Due to the property tax bill structure, however, not everyone would realize a property tax increase and some may even get a decrease. The amount of the overall tax is based on the equalized assessed valuation of each property, and the village has nothing to do with the assessment process.
There’s no question that the cost of government, like anything else, is going up. Insurance costs to the village, specifically for health care and workers’ compensation, have skyrocketed. Despite all of these ongoing challenges, Elmwood Park has made it a priority to be less reliant on property taxes.
All of the village budget information is online at www.elmwoodpark.org.