Tie-breaking vote cast for lower levy
Final vote set for next meeting would give property taxpayers same rate as last year
CHAMPAIGN — As expected, city council member Will Kyles cast the tie-breaking vote in a city council decision on property taxes Tuesday night after his absence two weeks ago left the question hanging.
Kyles opted for the lower of two options, which means residents will pay the same city property-tax rate next year as this year. It also means the city will collect a little less tax revenue as Champaign's taxable property values are expected to drop about 0.88 percent.
The difference is expected to be about $257,882 on the $19,697,750 in property taxes the city will collect next year. That amount would set the rate the same as what homeowners paid this year: $1.3152 per $100 of equalized assessed value.
The difference is about $8.60 on a $150,000 home. Champaign's property tax is about 15 percent of a homeowner's total bill.
It is the first change in the city property-tax levy in four years. Champaign had been collecting $19,955,632 from property owners during that run, which meant that the tax rate slowly crept up as property values dropped, even though taxpayers were not actually paying more.
Kyles said he thinks the city will be able to get past that drop-off in revenue despite its ongoing budget woes. He said the city will need to address structural budget issues in the long run.
"We are going to have to tackle pension and rising health care costs responsibly," Kyles said. "This is a small relief to the taxpayers, and it's the right thing."
Tuesday's poll is not final. City council members will have to finalize their decision at their next meeting.
Because the poll was a second attempt of a 4-4 tie vote that had been taken two weeks ago, Tuesday's vote happened with no public comment and no discussion among council members, in accordance with city council rules.
The city council voted twice Tuesday night. Kyles' key vote actually came during the first poll in the form of a "no" against adopting the same tax levy as last year, which would have resulted in a higher property-tax rate. Kyles joined with Mayor Don Gerard and council members Karen Foster, Deborah Frank Feinen and Paul Faraci to provide the five "no" votes.
In the second poll, council members voted 7-2 for the lower property-tax levy, resulting in the same rate as homeowners paid this year. Council members Tom Bruno and Marci Dodds were in the minority on that vote.
Earlier in the night, council members approved a 2.53 percent increase in pay for each of the next two years for Champaign firefighters. That will cost the city an extra $211,383 next year and $220,777 the year after that.
Bruno voted for the pay raise and said the collective bargaining agreement is fair. But in a preamble to the property-tax vote, he held it up as an example of how running a city gets incrementally more expensive.
"This next two years is going to cost us more than the last two years," Bruno said. "That's the reality."