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Council OKs tax levy challenged by pensions

City funding of police pensions up nearly 33 percent

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

ROCK FALLS – The City Council on Tuesday passed its tax levy ordinance with an increase of 4.99 percent, staying below the 5 percent mark that triggers the need for a public hearing.

The total levy came in at $1,102,681,85, up from last year’s total levy of $1,052,421.67.

City Administrator Robbin Blackert said the average Rock Falls homeowner will see about 17 percent of their property taxes go to the city.

Like many other municipalities, the Rock Falls levy increase is largely a story of funding pensions. About 47 percent of the levy is tied to police, fire and Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund pension contributions.

The most significant increase in city contributions was a 32.78 percent hike in police pension funding. The IMRF, which is for city and school district employees, will see an increase of 21.74 percent in city funding in 2014. Fire department contributions will jump 21.73 percent.

The fire pensions are fully funded, while the police department is funded at 80 percent. Blackert said that, although the city is holding its own in the pensions struggle, it probably won’t get any easier.

“This was the biggest challenge we faced with the levy this year, and it’s going to continue to be the biggest challenge in the future,” Blackert said.

The city met an important levy goal by keeping the increase under 5 percent.

“We were happy that we didn’t have to go over the Truth in Taxation number,” she said.

According to Illinois Truth in Taxation law, a notice must be published in a newspaper and a public hearing held, only if the proposed aggregate tax levy is more than 5 percent greater then the previous year’s tax extension.

In other action, the council approved a contract for the sale of renewable energy credits to Element Markets of Houston, a trading company of the credits. The tax credits are earned through the city’s operation of the hydroelectric generating facility, a renewable energy source. The green credits are used by companies to reduce tax liability, but because municipalities aren’t taxed on the sale of electrical energy, the credits are of no benefit to the city.

Rock Falls Police Commander Tammy Nelson presented a plaque to Sergeant Herb Hall, who is retiring after 11 years on the force.

“We will miss his leadership,” Nelson said. “You could always count on him to do anything.”

Next meeting

The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7, at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St. 

The agendas will be posted at www.rockfalls61071.com and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.

The City Council meeting also can be viewed live on Channel 5.

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