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City Council Raises Tax Levy

In a 4-3 vote, the Highland Park City Council narrowly passed a two percent tax hike.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering cast the deciding vote that will increase property taxes by two percent at the City Council meeting on Monday.

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After a lengthy conversation, City Councilmen Sally Higginson, Tony Blumberg, Jim Kirsch and Mayor Rotering voted in favor of the tax hike in order to help reduce the city's long-term pension obligations.

"What we are talking about tonight is making an investment in paying down some of our commitments," Kirsch said during the discussion.

Councilmen Paul Frank, David Naftzger and Danile Kaufman voted against the tax increase.

"I think raising the property tax should be our last resort," Nafztger said. "I think we have a lot more work to do before I can even consider a levy increase."

The debate about whether or not to approve the tax hike seemed to revolve around the necessity of taking on Highland Park's financial obligations versus the economic hardships faced by residents currently.

"We are still at a very challenging time in our economy," Kaufman said. "If we raise the levy it's another thing coming at [residents]."

Rotering asked city staff how the levy would affect property tax bills, and was told that there would be a $34 incease on a $10,000 property tax bill.

City Manager David Knapp spoke in favor of the levy increase, explaining that incremental steps to take care of Highland Park's pension commitments would be better than larger steps down the road.

"Raising the levy does recognize the fact that you do have some rising costs," Knapp said. "We should take those small steps."

In addition to helping take care of pension costs, a small percentage of the property tax increase will also go towards financing the library's renovations.

Blumberg advised the City Council to pass the levy, concerned that not doing so could cause the city to dip into its reserve funds down the road.

"If we don't raise the levy," Blumberg said, "We face the possibility of having to go into our reserves."

Naftzger suggested the possibility of finding the money elsewhere, such as outsourcing city services and condsolidating departments.

"We still have a number of things we could be doing to alleviate some of our long term obligations," Naftzger said.

Editor's note: This article originally stated that the tax levy would lead to a $64 increase on a $10,000 property tax bill. According to Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, that amount is $34. Patch apologizes for the error.

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Carl Lambrecht December 12, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Highland Park/Deerfield High School District 113 raised the tax levy 5%(really 4.98%). In addition they are considering a referendum (more taxes). They have 4 bond issues which are not paid off. With a referendum it will be the 5th bond. Highland Park High School Principal Brad cost is about $220,000 a year. Yet Highland Park is a failing school for about the last 5 years. Think what his pension will be. His mother in law Linda was superintendent just a few years ago. Her pension cost the state over a million dollars for the short time she has been retired. Yes the city is raising taxes. They are not alone. Frame of reference Governor cost about $177,000, Regional Superintendent of Schools coat about $120,000. They are looking for new people to get on the School Board. Call Carl Lambrecht for information. 847 432 8255 or email lambrecht@laurelindustries.com
R.G. December 13, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Forest: I'm not sure about other public workers, but teachers pay over 9% of their salaries into the pension system in lieu of social security. So actually the system to which you refer, where the "public servant" contributes a significant portion to their pension already exists.
Jack Straw December 13, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Stuart you’re the first one to see this, but keep looking. Look at some of the parks in H.P. The use of LLC Company’s using 1099 employees is rampant in cities across this country. When you hear the word outsource from a politician it usually ends up with the hiring of undocumented workers. In Highland Park we might have companies that are doing massive work yet only show 2 employs on their workers comp filings.
David Greenberg December 13, 2012 at 06:11 AM
I was at the meeting the other night - and this was certainly a lively discussion by all involved. Everyone here likely knows that I'm no fan of tax increases. However in this case, the Pension Obligations are pegged to go up exponentially. If we don't fund them, then we're going to be in the same boat as the geniuses down in Springfield. Personally, I'm opposed to defined benefit plans. If someone wants a pension, let them fund it themselves (and yes, I know teachers often do this themselves - it varies by District). If we want to relieve ourselves of this burden, the only way to do it is to stop offering pensions to new employees, then get rid of all the existing employees who receive pensions, and hire new employees. Or we can simply not fund it, wait for the obligations to exceed our revenues, declare bankruptcy and discharge all the pensions to the loving care of the Federal Government (this has happened in some California cities already). What's the best solution? Both stink. But download the Council Packet from the City's website, and take a look at the projections - that ever-increasing burden is simply unsustainable. It's going to take a bite out of the City budget and limit services while continuing to increase taxes. That stinks too.
Jack Straw December 13, 2012 at 06:32 AM
Thanks David, well said..

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