Patch gathered questions from readers, for Mayor Paul Braun. Now, Patch will regularly air a series of video responses to the questions readers voted as most pressing.
In this edition, Braun responds to the question: What is the village doing to help reduce the burden of property taxes on homeowners?
That’s a really important question. That affects all of us here in Flossmoor. We are concerned about the burden our residents have with property taxes. To put it in some perspective, the village’s share of the property tax bill is 15.2 percent. So, what that means is about 80 percent of the property tax bill—that’s paid for local schools and the township and Cook County—the village has no control over. So, to answer the questions directly—what has the village done to try and lower or control the cost for that 15.2 percent of the tax bill—and we’ve done some things in about three different areas. We’ve tried to maintain costs, hold down costs as best we can, but another statistic here is that 93 percent of Flossmoor’s budget is for labor or personnel cost, and those are related to providing our core services to our residents for police protection, fire and emergency services and public works. So, 93 percent of our budget is fixed in terms of labor and if we make any substantial cuts, the result if reduction in service to our residents. That’s not something that the board wants to do. We’ve been able to maintain service for our residents on our core services through the recession. I, personally, have not heard anybody that has told us that they would like less police, less fire and emergency management, less public works, so those are fixed costs that are very difficult to reduce unless you’re looking to cut back on core services. Having said that, we have not had any new full-time positions created in Flossmoor for almost ten years now. The last full-time position was in 2001 when we added a police officer. So we have held the line in terms of creating any new positions. Staff is working very hard with the same level of staff from ten years ago. We’ve also tried to maximize other revenues where we can, such as—we instituted the local adjudication court system in Flossmoor which has allowed us to keep all of the fines and funds that come in through building code, property maintenance, parking tickets—as opposed to the past when we were under the Cook County system, we had to share some of those funds with the county. So, local adjudication now allows the village to keep all of those funds. We have, as residents know, instituted some other fees here primarily to tap folks outside of Flossmoor that use Flossmoor services. You may have heard what … one of the local TV stations referred to as the “Flossmoor Crash Tax,” which is where people that use emergency services from out of town will get billed back from the fire department for those. We instituted a tow fee for criminals if they are arrested and their car has to be towed, and this is a fee that almost every community charges to try and maximize revenues and not add additional burdens to the property tax bill. And the third area is, of course, economic development. We’re trying to expand the tax base by bringing commercial development into town. And we’ve had some success in the face of the recession. Children World of America, the Alliance Medical Center, the CVS development and Ingall’s expansion has added to the past three years about 72,000 of additional commercial square feet to the village tax base. And, again, we will continue with trying to attract economic development to expand that tax base and alleviate the burden on residents. It’s really tough. I cringe, because we have all lost approximately 30 to 50 percent of our home values in the past three years, but meanwhile, real estate taxes have not gone down. So we are trying to hold the line here on village costs, we’re trying to maximize revenues that don’t necessarily affect residents, as best we can, and also, through economic development, (we’re) trying to maintain or lower the tax burden on that 15.2 percent of the tax bill.
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