Huntley keeps property tax levy flat for third year

HUNTLEY – The Village Board recently agreed to hold its property tax levy flat for the third consecutive year, a move that still inches property tax bills higher for an average Huntley homeowner.

But a near majority of trustees during a meeting last week pushed for a larger levy increase to better address escalating police pension payments that have begun to take village property tax dollars away from general services, like maintenance projects.

Village President Chuck Sass ultimately broke the stalemate among members. He, along with three other trustees, endorsed a flat, $3.8 million property tax levy.

"It's the right thing to do," Sass said. "Times are tough."

Since 2010, the village has kept its levy at $3.8 million amid declining property values throughout the village in both McHenry and Kane counties.

Even with another flat levy, an average Huntley homeowner, who owns a $225,000 valued home, is expected to pay roughly $13 more on next year's property tax bills to Huntley. The total bill increases from $400 to $413, according to village estimates.

But trustees Nick Hanson, Harry Leopold and JR Westberg all endorsed a $4 million levy that would have raised an average homeowner's bill to $429 total.

The marginal increase, they said, would help the village's finances, as it sees more property tax dollars go toward police pensions.

"I would rather see the pension funded to ensure we don't have any shortfalls in the future," Hanson said.

Huntley has lost more than $343,000 in property taxes from the general fund since 2010. The loss initially resulted from flat property tax levies and declining property values, said Jennifer Chernak, finance and human resources director.

Officials this year saw police pension contributions, paid through property taxes, jump dramatically from $354,105 last year to $462,843 in 2013. The village's general operations consequently dropped by $108,738 to $3.03 million.

Huntley's police pension contributions only will increase in the future, as the young fund matures and requirements increase, said Dave Richardson, a Huntley Police Pension Board trustee.

"As your fund ages, you are going to see the levy requirements go up ... A larger portion of your levy is going to go toward your pension fund in the future," Richardson told village trustees.

The village will begin to see less revenue for future and expanded services, primarily infrastructure projects, with continued flat levies and increasing pension costs, Chernak said.

"There will come a point where we will have to find new revenue sources," she said. "Our resources for capital projects are drying up."

Huntley trustees will officially approve the flat levy on Dec. 12, when they meet to finalize the 2014 budget.

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