DeKalb city staff have come up with a proposal to raise the city’s property tax levy by 10%. Daily Chronicle reports that the council gave initial approval on Monday.

Here’s how the city is presenting the recommendation:

City staff want to move away from the current practice of using the general fund to pay for pension obligations property tax revenues don’t cover. Finance Director Cathy Haley explained property taxes currently fully fund police and fire pension obligations and 97 percent of Social Security and Medicare costs. But only 26 percent of the city’s costs for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund comes from property taxes, leaving the general fund to cover more than $720,000.

A 10 percent increase would bring in an additional $495,000, fully fund Social Security and phase in fully funding IMRF obligations through property taxes, Haley said.

Council will furthermore consider the recommended hike in a joint meeting with the Financial Advisory Committee tonight.

The most important thing to understand is that the discussion is not just about setting the levy for the upcoming tax year, but about committing to a significant policy change in how the city chooses to fund its pensions — possibly for years to come. Read the rest of this entry

I am loving the budget talks, mostly. They make me feel like the city is in much better hands than it used to be.

For example, in response to a question from a Financial Advisory Committee member last Saturday, the city manager confirmed: Revenues that for the previous year had been spent out of (off-budget) balance sheet accounts have all been returned to the budget.

We probably dodged a bullet, and by that I mean city administrators have reversed a corrupt trend that eventually could have rendered meaningless the annual DeKalb budget.

But we still have the same council.

Fifth Ward Alderman Ron Naylor and 3rd Ward Alderwoman Kristen Lash contended the city has held the line on property taxes because the dollar amount the city collects has not changed much in previous years.

“When I look at it from year to year and see that I’m paying the same amount from year to year, that’s not an increase,” Lash said. “I’m paying the same amount.”

David Jacobson, 1st Ward alderman, contended “holding the line” could be seen as a tax increase considering the drop in property values.

Jacobson is right, but in my opinion he is not going far enough. We should figure out how much the conscientious underfunding of the pensions during the past decade has cost us.

You see, every dollar we short the pension funds is a dollar that can’t be invested. I don’t know about you, but my assets have performed very well the past few years — it’s a shame that our pension funds couldn’t have maximized their earnings in this market.

That’s not to say that underfunding is the only problem with the public pensions. It’s not. But a council truly serious about “holding the line” for our sake would be doing a bit less self-pleasuring and a lot more work toward a solution.

Related:

Painting a Picture of DeKalb’s Pensions

First, let’s update our pension percentage-funded chart with the FY2013 numbers. These are from Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs).

dyerware.com


City of DeKalb is quick to tout its balanced budgets and its growing “reserves.” But if DeKalb is doing so well, why isn’t it making up the pension-funding ground it lost during the past two recessions? Read the rest of this entry

I’ve added FY2012 numbers to the set of charts you’ll find in DeKalb’s Pension Funding Progress. They come from the latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

dyerware.com


Read the rest of this entry

Putting together DeKalb’s pension picture has been like a forestry hide-and-seek. Facts are the trees and while facts have been examined, there’s often an underlying feeling that the ecosystem has not yet been adequately described. So I keep going back in.

One “specimen” whose significance I failed to fully appreciate earlier is the shortfall between what is collected in city property taxes and the annual required contributions to the three pension funds. Unlike the State of Illinois, DeKalb faithfully makes yearly contributions; and if the property taxes don’t cover them, the city must free up additional revenues from the General Fund.

So far, such shortages appear to have fallen exclusively on IMRF and below is a piece of that picture.

Fiscal
Year
Required
Annual IMRF
Contribution
Amount
Levied
for IMRF
Contribution
Shortage
200154,083350,012N/A
2002370,094192,002178,092
200360,914383,786N/A
2004572,051538,62133,430
2005766,714687,94078,774
2006995,369704,053291,318
20071,072,905795,624277,281
20081,106,440615,952490,488
2009985,603277,142708,461
20101,054,391479,245575,146
20111,214,941668,365546,576

Read the rest of this entry

Pensions & TIF in DeKalb

Except in the case of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, DeKalb’s property taxes go toward pensions and FICA almost exclusively, and its share of your annual property tax bill is about 7%. Using these facts along with TIF revenue data, I set out to estimate how much city property tax flows into TIF funds that might otherwise have gone to city pensions.

Tax
Year
Property taxes
collected for
the TIF funds
DeKalb's share
of the TIF take
(7%)
20118,534,686597,428
20108,623,696603,658
20099,009,434630,660
20088,975,821628,307
20078,020,188561,413
20066,613,284462,930
20055,626,939393,885
20044,614,715323,030
20034,254,124297,788
20023,931,059275,174
20013,549,132248,439
20003,460,446242,231
Total$75,213,524$5,264,943

Read the rest of this entry

In “DeKalb Gives First Approval to Property Tax Levy,” we get this:

The aldermen had previously set the ceiling for a property tax levy at $9.67 million, and were given two options by city staff to set the request at either $9.67 million or $9.63 million – the amount the city levied last year.

According to the Chronicle, the city council appears to support the higher levy, and the rate would go up, too, to about 79 cents. Anything else?

The city uses property tax revenue to fund pensions of city staff, police officers and firefighters. The $9.67 million request would be able to fund all the police and fire pensions, and 45 percent of the pensions of city staff. The other 55 percent will have to be made up from one of the city’s other funds, she said.

Let us summarize (using both today’s Chronicle story and Monday’s CB post.)

  • As a rule, city property tax collected ONLY goes to city pensions.

  • The property tax levy will probably go up for tax year 2012.

  • As the levy goes up, the rate will go up, too — about 7 cents.

  • A 7-cent hike would probably set a record.

  • Despite a probable record hike — and the investment gains we showed you Monday — it’s said we still need to put more money up front to cover rising costs.

Read the rest of this entry

The agendas for the council meetings tonight include a public hearing about setting the city’s property tax levy, which they must think will be controversial because you must wade through 112 pages of the PDF file to get to the related items (also see page 114).

I was surprised to find out that the levy request is the same as last year, because it said in the newspaper that the rate was once again expected to go up significantly. Having to raise the rates repeatedly to keep the take the same is bad news. It reminds me of the utility tax problem. Some communities are beginning to recover, but not DeKalb, it seems.

Here’s one area where we ARE bouncing back, though:

dyerware.com


Read the rest of this entry

Chronicle staff should live in this county for awhile before commenting on certain issues, such as what one can find today in “Our View: Falling home values a trying trend in county“.

When the housing market was healthy and new homes and businesses were built at a healthy clip, the opposite was true. Property values grew faster than the rate of inflation, property tax rates fell, and along with them, the tax cap led to decreases in annual tax property tax bills.

The person who has seen her property taxes rise on a modest home since 1993, some years by HUNDREDS more, is somewhat irritated to hear the Chronicle try to tell her otherwise.

Still, let’s stick to the facts. Here are the property tax rates and levies for the City of DeKalb* for each tax year since 2000:

2000 – 0.50490, $1,892,659
2001 – 0.52989, $2,121,088
2002 – 0.60566, $2,514,566
2003 – 0.59666, $2,600,088
2004 – 0.60000, $2,738,052
2005 – 0.59302, $3,022,165
2006 – 0.59672, $3,400,147
2007 – 0.60000, $3,742,937
2008 – 0.60000, $3,875,130
2009 – 0.65000, $4,185,457
2010 – 0.68990, $4,196,889
2011 – 0.72052, $4,197,062

Rates never fell during this period. Why? Because tax caps don’t apply to Home Rule communities.

Let’s do another one. Read the rest of this entry

The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) includes a table called “Schedule of Funding Progress” for each pension fund that the city is responsible for. An actuary determines the fund assets and liability, and from these are calculated the percentage that the fund is funded as well as the unfunded liability in dollars. I’ve pulled numbers from three or so CAFRs to bring you 12 years’ worth* of these calculations in graphic form.

dyerware.com



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