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Fox Lake joins state collections program

FOX LAKE – Fox Lake may turn to residents’ state income-tax returns as a last resort to collect delinquent bills.

The Village Board on Tuesday approved an agreement with the Illinois Comptroller’s Office to participate in the state’s local debt recovery program, which was created this year.

The program will be the village’s “last ditch effort” to collect, Acting Treasurer Walter Korpan said.

“[People not paying] is always a problem,” he said. “We’ve reduced that because we’re doing our due diligence as far as utility billing is concerned. We’re writing letters and doing the things we have to do. That being said, we do have people that do not pay their bills.”

Korpan did not have an estimate of how much the village is owed.

The village will continue to offer payment plans and other options, he said. Then it will turn to a collection agency. Going to the state will be the final step.

A collection agency keeps about 37 percent of what it collects and will get its share when it pursues collection through the state program.

The state recovery program is available to all local governments, school districts, public colleges and universities, and circuit courts.

For each transaction it handles, the state will charge $15, which also be taken out of a nonpayer’s tax return.

Revenue continues to be a concern for the village, which is part of the reason village staff recommended a 5 percent increase in its property tax levy. The Village Board approved the recommendation, a levy of $3.45 million, at its Tuesday meeting.

“I can ensure you that you will not get that,” Korpan told the board.

A tax cap enacted in 1991 limits the amount governments can levy without voter approval, tying revenue increases to the rate of inflation plus new growth.

Of the approved 5 percent increase, 3 percent will come from current taxpayers. Korpan estimated the village will collect an additional 0.048 percent from growth. But to make sure the village gets everything it can, he said he erred on the high side and recommended the 5 percent increase.

“It should be noted that nothing says that municipalities must perpetually levy for more money,” Korpan wrote in a letter to the board. “They could cut costs and levy for less money. This would reduce property taxes.”

However, the board has decided it does not want to reduce services, he said.

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