The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 17, 2013

Property taxes to rise in Fulton

By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — FULTON, Ill. — Residents of Fulton will see a slight increase in their property taxes next year because of a $1.08 million loss in the city’s property valuation.

At a City Council meeting on Monday, leaders discussed the city’s ability to retain a low property tax for its citizens, something Mayor Larry Russell feels strongly about continuing, but city administrator Ed Cannon said that will be difficult to maintain.

According to Cannon, the city of Fulton’s equalized assessed valuation has slowly declined since 2010. With the EAV decline, the amount of funding available for municipal operations also decreases.

“There are several reasons that can cause the decline in the EAV’s,” Cannon said. “The biggest reason is probably the 2008 recession, which we’re still seeing the lingering effects of that, but property values have simply lost their value and they’re not recovering as quickly as we’d like.”

Other reasons for the EAV decline include the city’s continued loss in population and the slow recovery of the real-estate industry.

In his proposal, Cannon recommended the city increase its 2012 tax levy by 4.35 percent for next year to make up for the loss of EAV’s as well as prepare for the increase in specific property tax components.

“If you base your tax levy on the estimated EAV’s and if in the declining period, if those EAV’s drop between the estimate and the actual then you can actually lose property tax revenue,” Cannon said. “So, because of that I did a realignment of how we actually separate the property tax levy.”

Cannon’s realignment decreased the levy amount for both general corporate and police protection in the property tax levy to be added to the city’s tort insurance and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund because of their annual increase.

Tort insurance costs are expected to increase by 10.2 percent in 2014 and to avoid having to tap into the general fund and water and sewer fund in 2015, Cannon suggested levying more money to make up that difference.

First Ward alderwoman Barb Mask understood the need to increase and change the property tax allocations, but expressed her concern with how the citizens would react.

“How do we justify to the public the increase?” asked Mask.

The best way, according to Cannon, is explaining that when the tax base becomes smaller, the obligation to provide that levy becomes heavier on the remaining base.

“Part of our revenues that come in depend on our population,” Cannon said. “We’ve had a 12 percent decrease in population since 2000. So, at that rate the contribution from the state declines; the sales tax revenues, the income tax revenues, decline. That taxable base becomes smaller and if you hold property taxes steady then you’re going to run into a deficit.”

With the approval of Monday’s property tax levy proposal, property owners will now pay an additional 21 cents for every $1,000 of property value. Although there is an increase, Russell feels comfortable because the city will still be able to maintain a low tax base, averaging about $1 a day for the city offered services.

“I have no problem defending 4.35 percent at all,” Russell said. “Everybody’s in the same boat and valuation is critical these days.”