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What's New Item On Your Property Tax Bill?

Property tax bills now list each taxing bodies' spending, debt, and to what percentage they have funded pensions they're required to pay employees. The village of Niles wants residents to know a few things.

 

You may have noticed something new on the property tax bill which arrived in your mailbox recently (and is due March 1). 

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas has listed financial information for each taxing body which will receive money from the check you write. According to chicago.cbslocal.com, she has "outed" towns and governments on how much they owe. 

Video: Cook County Treasurer's office walks you through the info 

At a Niles village board "Informal Considerations" meeting Tuesday, Finance Director Scot Neukirch and Mayor Robert Callero expressed concern that residents might get the wrong impression when they read the numbers for the Village of Niles.

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According to the Cook County Treasurer's office, the bills contain the following information:

1. Total Debts and Liabilities: The amount of monies owed by the taxing district. (The bill says Niles owes $44.5 million).

2. Gross Operating Budget: The annual spending a taxing ditrict approves for a fiscal year. (The bill says it's $40.8 million for Niles.)

3. Total Pension Liability: The total a taxing district is obligated to pay retirees and beneficiaries. (Niles is listed at $161.4 million.)

4. Total Unfunded Pension Liability: The total a taxing district does not have in its pension fund to pay retirees and beneficiaries. (Niles is listed at $80.9 million.)

5. Pension Funded Ratio: The calculation of the amount of pension assets divided by pension liabilities. (Niles is at 49.8 percent.)

Neukirch read a statement, which emphasized some of the following points:

  • Of all the money Niles residents pay in property taxes, only five percent goes to the village of Niles. (The rest goes to other taxing districts, such as schools and the county.)
  • Niles has other sources of income in addition to property taxes. These include sales taxes.
  • Niles' outstanding debt is low compared to other communities. 
  • The Niles village board is concerned about the pension debt, has been paying more toward pensions in recent years and has a plan to be 90 percent funded by 2040.
  • The village's pension investments would normally have grown in recent years, but due to a weak stock market, they did not grow as much as anticipated.

 

Here is Neukirch's full statement: 

On the most recent property tax bills, Cook County included additional financial information on the various taxing bodies.  Although this information is useful to know, it must be taken in the correct context as it relates to your tax bill.

Regarding the $44.5 million listed for Total Debts and Liabilities on the Village of Niles taxing district line, the majority of this number is made up of the Village’s non-current liabilities related to net pension obligation with ongoing post employment benefits and debt service outstanding.  Of the $44.5 million, $18.8 million is for debt service outstanding.  Of that $18.8 million, only $425,000 per year is collected from the Village’s regular property tax levy.  Furthermore, in FY 2012 the Village made $5 million of debt service payments and only $425,000 (8.5%) was paid directly by revenue received from the Village’s regular property tax levy.  The remainder of this debt service was paid by TIF increment, sales tax and water billing revenue.  It should be noted that the Village’s outstanding debt is very low compared to other communities.

The Village’s gross operating budget (General Fund) is reported as $40.8 million as of FY 2013 on the tax bill.  The total Village property tax levy applicable to FY 2013 was $4.9 million.  A total of $3.1 million was dedicated to the General Fund to be contributed to the Police and Fire Pensions, $425,000 went to pay debt service and the remaining $1.4 million went to help pay for municipal waste removal.  Only $3.1 million went to support the $40.8 million budget listed on the tax bill.  All of that $3.1 million received by the General Fund went to fund the Police and Fire pensions. 

The final 3 columns provide additional information regarding the Village’s 3 pension plans.  The Village Board and staff have spent many hours discussing and working on developing a plan to address pension funding.  The Village has a pension funding plan in place that is being implemented to address the State requirement of being 90% funded by 2040.  When it comes to funding Police and Fire pensions in FY 2013, property tax revenue makes up only 66% of the revenue dedicated.  The Village’s Police and Fire Pension funding plan includes sales tax, post office rental tax and contributions from Village reserves as well as property tax contributions.  IMRF, the Village’s 3rd pension plan, is funded entirely by other revenue sources other than property tax.

The current Village Board and staff agree on the need to address the pension funding problem in a way that minimizes the burden on residents.  As a matter of fact, the Village has contributed more to the Police and Fire Pension plans in the last three years than it did the previous nine years combined.  However, the pension liability has grown in large part from influences outside the Village’s control such as benefit enhancements and poor investment returns due to the downturn in the investment market. 

In conclusion, your property tax bill is impacted by the items listed on the recent tax bill.  But it is very important to understand that your tax bill does not solely fund the total liabilities and debt, Village operations or pension obligations listed on the bill.  The Village of Niles is doing everything it can to keep property taxes low while also meeting all of its required obligations and providing all of its important services.  Of your total tax bill only about 5% goes to the Village of Niles.

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Bob G February 14, 2013 at 05:28 PM
While I understand the poor investment returns , I do not understand the benefit enhancements that were "out of our control" . Who's control were they in ? For the life of me I cannot understand the reasoning for continually kicking this can down the road year after year until it becomes a monster. These employees paid in to the fund every paycheck without fail so why as a government don't we pay in to keep the books balanced ? Taxpayers paid every year too so their share should have been covered. Bad market conditions is one thing but poor planning is another.

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