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Spring Grove looks to hold line on levy

Despite a 15 percent drop in the value of their home, Richmond residents Gary and Debbie Tiritilli saw their property taxes go up $500 this year.

“I just thought it was outrageous,” Gary Tiritilli said, so he decided to take the matter to the two school districts that cover Richmond and Spring Grove. The districts receive the bulk of the Tiritillis’ property taxes – about two-thirds, he said.

With the economy still weak and foreclosures high, now is not the time to be increasing the levy, Tiritilli told the boards in September and again in October.

Some area taxing bodies seem to agree.

Some board members for both Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157 and Nippersink School District 2 advocated keeping the levy steady and, perhaps, offering an abatement. A proposed levy will be presented to the boards in November with a vote likely in early December.

McHenry County has proposed keeping its levy flat, rejecting an increase to which it is entitled under the tax cap. The levy will be voted on at the Nov. 20 meeting.

That puts other taxing bodies in a tight spot, Spring Grove Village Trustee Pat Mazzanti said at the board’s Tuesday meeting.

“Everyone else is doing it,” Trustee Ron Kopke said. “We’ll be more under the microscope if we don’t.”

Still, the village of Spring Grove hasn’t levied the full amount it is allowed under the tax cap, Mazzanti said.

The Spring Grove finance committee decided Tuesday evening to recommend a flat levy for 2013 when it couldn’t get a second to go ahead with a proposed levy that, while not generating all of the money to which the village is entitled under the tax cap, would have brought in $23,000 more than last year – an increase, on average, of about $12.64 per household.

The village board will vote on the flat levy at its next meeting.

The village can afford to keep the levy level because it has enough in savings to run a deficit budget, meaning it spends more than it takes in, Village President Mark Eisenberg said.

But, he added, it’s not something the village can do forever.

Spring Grove budgets about $3.8 million worth of expenses each year and has about $2.5 million in savings, Eisenberg said.

“I believe we all agree there is not much, if anything, to cut,” Eisenberg said. “Without a huge turnaround in our local economy, we are headed in a bad direction.”

He asked the board to brainstorm ways to kick-start the local economy and housing market, such as waiving or temporarily reducing fees and allowing developers to redivide subdivisions into smaller plots.

His working budget for the next fiscal year includes an extra $40,000 going to the underfunded police pension fund, 2.5 percent in raises for all village employees and an increase of 18 percent in health insurance costs. The budget has no increases for things such as street maintenance, which the village continues to fall behind on, Eisenberg wrote in a letter to the finance committee. The committee is made up of village trustees.

Even if the village had gone with a levy to increase revenues by $23,000 for the year, the budget would have run a deficit, according to the letter.

When the $23,000 increase was on the table and one board member suggested doing without it, Police Chief Tom Sanders protested.

“With all due respect, my budget’s gone down the last few years,” he said. “You’re talking about cutting because you don’t want to raise taxes, but, you know what, sometimes you have to do that.”

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