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Village Vision News

Village trustees vote down property tax levy increase

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Forsyth’s 2012 property tax levy will remain at its current level and will not be raised. An Oct. 15 Board decision ran counter to a staff recommendation, which was patterned after annual increases the past 14 years.

“This vote is a reflection that the trustees understand that times are not that good yet,” said trustee Eric Morr. Additionally, he said, the 4-1 vote showed the Board’s confidence in Village staff “…to move us forward while living within our means.”

Morr, a perennial advocate of local government not doing business as usual by raising the levy, gained new support this year from trustees Bob Rasho and Marilyn Johnson. Trustee Steve Hubbard admitted he was “on the fence about [the levy increase]” but ultimately remained as committed as last year and voted against an increase. Trustee Kerstin Trachtenberg was absent from the meeting. Morr reasoned “…the Village doesn’t need the few extra thousand dollars” generated from a 4.9 percent tax levy increase.

Trustee Larry Reed took the opposite position with his support of the increase.

“Some people say it’s not the right time to do anything; you could argue that both ways, and you can use that excuse on anything,” he said in explaining his vote, which he characterized as being largely in support of staff’s recommendation. He said even though the projected amount of a $21,996 from the increase is “not a lot of money,” he believes it remains as revenue that is lost forever and cannot be regained. “Over 20 years, it turns out to be more, and we can never make it up,” he concluded.

Village Treasurer Rhonda Stewart reported residents would pay an average estimate of $14.66 per property with the proposed increase. That figure was $12.18 in 2011 for the Village’s taxing district share. Village Administrator Mike Miller said a resident’s property tax bill could include 10 to 13 taxing districts. “Each one [district] evaluates and makes the decision for their own property tax levy,” Miller noted.

Miller said setting the following year’s tax levy is the first and most important step in the annual budgeting process. “Our residents told us the highest priority for us in the area of taxes was balancing our property and sales tax revenue,” he said. To that end staff’s recommendation for the levy increase was based on the Village’s flat revenue. Figures show that the Village has lost an average of $25,590 in revenue each of the last three fiscal years.

Mayor Hap Gilbert commented that he believes the Village needs to continue to grow the levy since the Village’s sales tax is an uncertain commodity that has “…dwindled over the last two to three years, and we need to have some balance.” Miller agreed with the mayor’s assessment that the property tax levy gives a certainty for managing the budget. In spite of the Board’s decision not to raise the tax levy this year, Miller feels confident that his staff will come up with a manageable budget for next year.

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