Champaign to raise property tax

By Patrick Wade

The Champaign City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to raise the 2007 property tax rate.

After some resistance from residents who spoke at the meeting, the Council agreed on a target rate of $1.2954 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation, nearly 3 cents higher than the 2006 rate. This means a $47 increase for an individual who owns a property assessed at $150,000, said Champaign Finance Director Richard Schnuer.

The rate is the result of a compromise among the Council, said Dist. 2 Council member Michael La Due. In an Oct. 23 study session, the Council considered keeping last year’s 1.2659 rate or going back to the 2005 rate of 1.312.

The higher 2007 rate is actually the same amount the Council approved last year. The 2006 rate dropped to 1.2642, however, after Champaign’s assessed value turned out to be higher than city staff expected.

Schnuer said it is “unlikely” the same situation will occur again.

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“(Last year), the direction Council gave was to limit the tax increase, but it really wasn’t targeting a certain rate, so we weren’t focused on that,” Schnuer said. “This year, Council has said ‘let’s get this rate.'”

The total 2007 property tax levy is $19,062,300. That money will be used to fund police and fire pensions, the library and various capital improvements. The levy also provides $831,000 for unspecified capital improvements, according to a report from city staff to the Council.

“In this day and time, looking at increasing the rate just so we have extra money isn’t acceptable to me as a taxpayer,” said Champaign resident Debby Auble.

La Due said, however, that to have no contingency fund is “irresponsible.”

“I’m fairly comfortable with a 1.29 (rate) because we need it,” La Due said.

Some who spoke at the meeting expressed concerns that their property assessment was too high. The Council agreed to try holding a meeting with the Champaign County assessor to address these concerns.

“Assessment is not something the city has jurisdiction over,” Schnuer said.

At the end of the meeting, Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart said the state is responsible for some of the blame, as many funds Illinois allocates go north of Interstate 80.