WASHINGTON — City Council members Monday voted 7-1 to approve a 7.5 percent increase in the city's property tax levy.

The hike will cost the average Washington homeowner about $12 a year.

Alderman Brett Adams cast the lone dissenting vote.

"It was not an easy decision," he said.

The city's portion of a Washington property owner's property tax bill is about 5 percent. School districts' property taxes represent 70 percent of a property tax bill, with an average of 37.4 percent from the property owner's grade school district and 32.6 percent from Washington Community High School, according to a property tax distribution chart compiled by the city.

The main reason for the city's levy increase is a $140,472, or 71 percent, increase in property tax dollars that will go into the city's general fund in an effort to build the general fund back to pre-tornado levels.

The general fund will receive $336,075, the most since $360,000 in the 2013 tornado-year levy. More than $195,000 went into the general fund from the 2017 levy.

Mayor Gary Manier and Alderman Brian Butler were critical of a television news report last week on a public hearing by the council on the proposed increase.

"Here we were talking about a possible $12 increase on a $3,000 property tax bill, while down the street the high school board was approving a levy that will raise taxes about $100 on the same bill," Manier said.

The mayor said city staff and the council have exhibited fiscal responsibility for years.

"We've gotten projects done and recovered from a disaster," he said. "Our employees provide unbelievable service to the community. Their work is especially impressive because we've grown 50 percent in population since 2000 and we haven't added extra city personnel."

Butler said he appreciated residents' comments last week and thanked them for expressing valid concerns, "but I don't know why this is a news story. If anything, it's a success story. Eighty percent of our levy goes to pensions the state isn't funding. The remaining 20 percent is discretionary with most going into the general fund."

The city will send $535,300 in 2018 property tax dollars to the police pension fund and $345,000 to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

The average annual Washington property tax bill — including all taxing bodies — is about $3,000. City officials estimate the following increases in the city's portion of a property tax bill, assuming no change in the property's equalized assessed valuation: $3.96 for a $1,000 tax bill, $7.93 for $2,000, $11.89 for $3,000, $15.86 for $4,000, $19.82 for $5,000, $29.73 for $7,500 and $39.64 for $10,000.

The city's 2018 property tax rate, which will be determined next year by Tazewell County, is estimated to be 47 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation. The 2017 tax rate was 44 cents.

The tax rate was 80 cents in 1997, when voters approved Washington becoming a home-rule community, but it had been as high as $1.26 in 1989.

The tax rate fell to 40 cents in 1997 and it has remained around that level since then.

Property taxes will account for 6.5 percent of the city's revenue for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to city officials.

Other revenue sources for the city include sales tax, income tax, telecommunications tax, motor fuel tax, water and sewer fees, loans, grants and fund surpluses.

 

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.