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Council will consider another tax increase

Proposed 4.99 percent bump same as last year's increase

ROCK FALLS – It appears that the city's fiscal year 2019 tax levy will look a lot like last year's version – including a tax hike.

The Rock Falls City Council on Tuesday will give a first reading to an ordinance that proposes a 4.99 percent increase in the city's portion of residents' tax bills.

The city's levy makes up about 17 percent of a resident's total tax bill. The largest percentage of the bill – about 55 percent – goes to the city's high school and grade school districts, while about 10 percent is levied by Whiteside County.

Last year's tax levy also gave the city a 4.99 percent increase, a number commonly seen as municipalities try to avoid a Truth in Taxation hearing that is triggered by a 5 percent hike.

As has been the case for several years, additional funds were needed for police and fire pensions. For fire, the total requested extension for pensions is $401,771, a 15.47 percent jump from last year. The requested police pension extension is $508,351, which is 8.5 percent more than last year.

Both of those requests come in below the actuarial recommendations. The actuaries issue reports that suggest what the cities should levy in order to meet pension obligations. The state mandates that municipal pensions be at least 90 percent funded by 2040, but many actuaries base their recommendations on full funding by that date.

Illinois has threatened to withhold local governments' share of income tax collected by the state if police and fire pension obligations aren't being met.

The property tax levies are beginning to stabilize after 2 years of double-digit increases – 15.32 percent for fiscal year 2017 and 10.09 percent for 2016.

The city instituted a 15.32 percent levy increase last year, and a 10.09 percent hike the year before.

Taxpayers will be helped a bit by a slight increase in property values. Equalized assessed property values – the taxable value of property, minus exemptions, is up nearly 2 percent, totaling an estimated $74,818,671.

Based on a $71,000 home, which is the median fair market value in Rock Falls, the city's portion of the bill would cost taxpayers an additional $14.58 in taxes payable in 2019.

In addition to fire and police pensions, other substantial increases were a 13.65 percent hike for the tort levy and a 13.64 percent bump for workers' compensation.

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