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Thomas Clatterbuck

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Property taxes will be going up in Jacksonville next year. At their last meeting, the council voted 7-3 to increase the property tax levy by 3.5 percent. Pensions were the main driver of this increase. The city will need at least a 2.4 percent increase to make its mandatory pension contributions. The remaining 1.1 percent will go towards other city projects, including capital improvement projects. At the November 26th meeting, the council agreed on an extra 0.5 percent increase for capital projects, like improvements the golf course.

Not every alderman agreed that the taxes should go up by 3.5 percent. Alderman Steve Warmowski pointed out that the city’s share of property tax burden has been steadily growing for some time. He went on to make two unsuccessful motions for lower increases to cover just the pension costs. Warmowski was joined by Alderman Aaron Scott on both votes, and Mike Wankel on the second.

Despite having approved the extra increase for capital projects at the previous meeting, supporters of the 3.5 increase did not mention these projects in their debate with Warmowski. Instead, they talked about the longterm risks of underfunded pensions, and the impact of inflation on current revenue. There was no discussion of cutting expenses or any other budget alternatives other than raising the property tax levy.

Will taxes go up?

Supporters of the increase stated repeatedly that they were not raising property taxes. That is technically accurate due to how property taxes work.

Many organizations have the right to levy property taxes, including the school district, city, county, and the airport. These groups set a tax levy, which is a certain number of dollars. Once this value is set, the county collects it from all of the assessed properties in the taxing area. Property owners pay taxes based on their proportional share of the taxable property.

If there was a large amount of growth, an increase in the property tax levy would not lead to higher property taxes. The more properties that are being taxed, the lower each individual tax bill can be. Jacksonville did have some growth in the last year. That will reduce the increase a small amount.

The numerous taxing bodies also mean that the real increase from any one of the higher levies is lower than its stated value. Jacksonville’s municipal government only accounts for around a quarter of the total property tax bill residents receive. So the 3.5 percent increase is only an increase on one quarter of the total bill. But the other taxing bodies also had higher levies, so this benefit washes out in the end for taxpayers.

You can watch the full meeting in the player above, and the workshop in the player below. You can also watch the previous meeting’s discussion here.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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