Whether or not it’s for increased pension obligations forced upon us by Springfield, it’s the largest tax increase in the Village of Downers Grove in years. And, we believe there are alternatives that will reduce or eliminate the burden on our residents without affecting the delivery of top quality municipal services.
It’s been said that budgets are statements of priorities and values. Our residents face higher taxes, higher living costs and stagnated wages. More than one-third of the households in our community are recipients of Social Security, who will receive no cost of living increase in 2016. The average monthly Social Security check is under $1,300. For many, an 8 percent increase in village property taxes is enormous.
Budgeting is about managing competing interests. It is also about compromise and balance. By reconsidering the following list of items, we believe there is a reasonable mix of cost reductions, which would allow the village to hold the line on property taxes in 2016:
$400,000 savings: postpone public works parking lot paving project;
$100,000 savings: postpone the Ogden Avenue sidewalk activity outside of the TIF;
$100,000 reduction in general fund balance; and
$300,000 Savings; eliminate property tax transfer into storm water fund.
There is no doubt the parking lot needs paving and our long-term plan is to complete Ogden Avenue sidewalks. But both of those issues are less than immediate needs and budgets often demand compromise.
A $100,000 reduction in general fund balance will not affect the safety and fiscal strength of the village and still allow us to maintain a reserve within our stated reserve policy. For years, part of the village policy/plan for managing Springfield uncertainty has been to utilize general fund balances for short term reactions.
The large tax increase that is proposed for this year is in direct reaction to a change in the guidelines driving actuarial efforts with respect to pension systems. The 2016 pension fund increase is more than 50 percent larger than we’ve experienced in recent history. Yet, future contribution increases are anticipated at hundreds of thousands less.
Finally, we believe moving $300,000 of property taxes into the stormwater fund – when we have a stormwater utility – is simply wrong. These changes don’t cover all the possibilities. There may be additional cost reductions. There may be additional non-property tax revenue opportunities. But making the above changes will get us past this structural pension adjustment without dramatically raising the burden on our residents.
Bob Barnett, Greg Hose
Village of Downers Grove