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Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007 02:51 pm

Calm before the storm

Mayor warns of future tax needs

Untitled Document For now the Springfield forecast is bright and sunny, but there may be dark clouds looming ahead. In a special session held on Monday, Mayor Tim Davlin told aldermen that the fiscal year 2009 budget will closely resemble the current year’s $97.6 million budget, plus an additional $3.1 million in salaries and health benefits — but, he warned, it’s the future they need to prepare for as mandated pension contributions continue to rise. Because of changes in state pension law and guidelines, the city estimates that fiscal 2009 police and fire pensions will increase by $785,000 — a figure that Davlin predicts will continue to climb and maybe even triple by 2017. “Unfunded state mandates are absolutely killing us,” Davlin said. “So much of our $97 million budget is not controlled by any of the 11 of us — it’s controlled by just down the street at Second and Capitol.”
According to city data, pension payments currently total $11.5 million, or 63 percent, of the $18.27 million in property taxes levied by the city. Lincoln Library is also funded by the property tax levy, and as the pension payments increase, the mayor said, library monies will dissipate. Springfield’s property-tax rate has not been raised since 1984; instead, it was decreased from $1 per $100 in assessed valuation to $0.9385 in 2006. Davlin has said the levy rate would need to be nearly $1.62 to accommodate the changes but refused to stand by that recommendation Monday. Asked about Davlin’s remarks, Ward 6 Ald. Mark Mahoney said aldermen will need to seriously consider an increase in the property-tax rate and will need the leadership of the mayor. “Nobody has the political courage to say that it needs to be raised, because nobody likes to hear that,” says Mahoney, chairman of the council’s finance committee. “The mayor basically made the case that it needs to be raised, but the administration doesn’t have a recommendation.  “That’s unfortunate.”
A property-tax increase for fiscal 2009 would need to be approved by the council by Dec. 18, a move that Mahoney says is unlikely because of the timing.
Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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