STERLING – The City Council on Monday approved the 2013 tax levy for submission to the county, and took steps to prepare for the use of the city’s state grant for green infrastructure on the riverfront.
The levy estimate was approved at $3,488,065, a 4.99 percent increase from the 2012 extension of $3,322,141. The 2012 EAV rate is 2.2051, compared to 2.0543 in 2011.
This year, the assessor’s estimated equalized assessed value for the city was 2.18 percent less than the previous year.
The IMRF, police and fire pensions accounted for more than 40 percent of the city’s property tax levy.
Alderman Barry Cox asked what the breakdown was on the pensions. City Manager Scott Shumard told him police made up 18 percent, fire 17 percent, and IMRF about 6 percent.
Mayor Skip Lee said some individual levies were already set at the maximum allowed by the state. That means the city will see a decrease in property tax for the general fund and library.
“The pension funding is higher than the actuary’s recommendation,” Lee said. “The recommendation came before additional retirements in the fire department.”
The actuary suggested an 11.8 percent increase for fire pensions. The city approved an increase of 22.68 percent for the fire department. The police pension increase comes in at 6.83 percent, and IMRF is up 8.97 percent.
The pensions are still suffering from the hit fund investments took in 2008, Shumard said.
The council also voted to authorize Shumard to sign the financial assistance agreement with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for its $1.3 million Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant. The city will use the grant to fund the first two phases of its green riverfront revitalization project.
The IEPA financial assistance agreement sets the project costs at $2,181,735. The pact stipulates that the grant pays $1,330,272, while the city will contribute $851,463.
Sterling’s grant is the largest IEPA green space award ever given to a municipality. Governor Pat Quinn came to Sterling in September to announce that the city was one of 13 communities to receive funds through the program.
The agreement calls for the final operation and maintenance plans for the first phase to be submitted to the IEPA by May 1, 2015, and for the second phase by Sept. 15, 2016.
Attorney Greg Hummel of Bryan Cave LLP said more of the matching funds are devoted to the first phase of the project.
“We’re front-loading the first phase, because there are more possibilities for funding the National properties later,” Hummel said. He cited the possibilities of a brownfield revolving loan, two TIF districts, federal and state historic tax credits, and Kilgore Park tax credits.
The council also agreed to give Shumard authorization to sign an agreement with Cardno for design, engineering and management services related to the green infrastructure work. The international company with a Chicago base would also coordinate the Mud to Parks grant work. The fee, only for the first phase, would be $280,000. The fee for the second phase would be negotiated later. Cardno would be paid with grant money.
Hummel said it made sense to use Cardno, because of their reputation and the fact the company did much of the grant application work.
“We’ve have a good experience with them,” Hummel said, “I think this is a good business deal with a recognized contractor that specializes in environmental projects like this.”
Phase 2 will be negotiated later, because the timetable for that portion of the project is contingent on the Stanley remediation process.
The Sterling City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 6 at City Hall, 212 Third Ave., on the first floor in the Council Chambers.
Go to www.ci.sterling.il.us/ or call City Hall at 815-632-6621 for an agenda or more information.