The Bury administration is touting its reduction of the property tax levy. Unfortunately, the cut is so small that it doesn’t make up for the utility tax increase earlier in the year.
The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the 2016 municipal budget which includes a $311,000 reduction in the property tax levy compared to the previous year. With approximately 22,000 residential properties in Oak Lawn comprising 74.1% of all property value, that means each property owner will be saving an average of $10.48 on their Village property tax.
Tax Levy Savings × Residential Property Value Percentage ÷ Households = Savings Per Household
$311,000 × 0.741 ÷ 22,000 = $10.48
As previously reported by the Leaf, in May, the Board of Trustees voted 5-1 to increase the tax on electric and natural gas utilities. That increase was estimated to raise about $2.5 million per year, according to Village documents. That was an increase of more than $70 per single-family home.
So, while Mayor Sandra Bury and her allies on the Board tout that they’ve saved residents on average $25 in property taxes, the facts don’t back them up. With less than $11 of savings in the levy, plus more than $71 increase in utility taxes, the Bury administration actually raised taxes.
In 2012, Trustee Tom Phelan called the utility tax increase proposal “a recipe for disaster”. Phelan said, “We are not paying higher property taxes, but we are raising three other things. That is like selling your car to pay your mortgage. That’s not just irresponsible, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Trustees Robert Streit and Alex Olejniczak opposed the idea in 2012. Streit was the lone dissenting vote in 2015, while Olejniczak argued in favor of the tax increase. Olejniczak rationalized his change in position by stating that the board did not want to raise property taxes.
Streit said that the “property tax excuse” was ridiculous. Streit explained that taxing electricity and heating bills is still a tax increase that’s paid for by the people of Oak Lawn. Streit called the utility tax “a hidden tax” that unfairly burdens those on a fixed income.
Senior citizens can apply for a property tax freeze. No such freeze is available for Village utility taxes.
All told, residents are now paying more than $1 million in additional taxes thanks to the Bury administration’s budget decisions in 2015.
Below: Village documents showing property values and utility tax increase data.