The Village of Oak Lawn unanimously passed its 2016 budget providing a small property tax levy reduction but failing to address pension underfunding and public safety staffing issues that have plagued the village.
Each year, by law, all municipalities must pass a tax levy. The levy is the official request for certain tax money to be allocated among all property owners within the jurisdiction. Oak Lawn has steadily held the line or reduced the levy since 2005, under former Mayor Dave Heilmann and current Mayor Sandra Bury. For 2016, the Village will levy $13.9 million dollars, which represents a decrease of $311,000.
Property taxes are allocated across all residential and commercial property owners based on the value of the property. In Oak Lawn, residential property owners comprise 74% of the assessed value, while commercial, industrial and railroad property combine for the remainder. According to Finance Director Brian Hanigan, this will result in a decrease of $25 per homeowner.
According to figures analyzed by the Oak Lawn Leaf, the average savings per residential property tax payer is about $11. However, that figure may be slightly higher or lower for individual homeowners based on the individual’s assessed home value. It is also possible that taxpayers will not see any reduction in their taxes due to higher assessments or increases from other taxing bodies.
The Village is paying about $6 million dollars toward the pensions for firefighters and police officers. However, this number is less than the actuarial recommended amount which has in the past caused the former Oak Lawn Treasurer and various Trustees to claim the village has been “kicking the can” down the road on pensions.
Overall, the budget calls for spending of $54.4 million dollars but it does not include any new hiring for police officers, despite an increase in violent crime last year. Also left out of the spending plans was any expenditures for additional firefighters. The village and firefighters’ union have battled over staffing for the department for years, resulting in over 20 legal battles and a regular overtime expenditure of $2 million dollars per year for firefighters.
As detailed previously, the budget does not include any funding for the senior citizen complex promised by Mayor Sandra Bury prior to the last municipal elections.
The village relies on various sources of revenue including sales taxes, property taxes, its share of state income tax revenue, gaming revenue, fines, and a utility tax that was dramatically increased by a 5-1 vote by this board. By law the budget must be balanced.