DeKalb Property Taxes & City Pensions


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:

[easychart type=”line” width=”420″ title=”Pension Fund Balances” groupnames=”Police, Fire” valuenames=”’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12” group1values=”20.7, 23.1, 22.4, 20.5, 22.5, 25.9, 28.1″ group2values=”15.7, 17.7, 17.6, 16.3, 18.1, 20.9, 22.5″ minaxis=”15.5″]

Yes, the police and fire pension funds are recovering. The improvements are mostly due to investment gains (maybe I’ll put up a table with those numbers later this week) and they echo what we saw in the post, “DeKalb’s Pension Funding Progress,” though our focus then was on the more alarming long-term trends.

But let’s bring this back around to the short term: our next property tax bill. The City of DeKalb has long stuck to an old decision to levy property taxes for pensions only.* The pension funds are growing again. Could it be that we’d do fine with a somewhat smaller levy this year? You know, something that could raise morale a little?
*The council self-imposed “pension-only” rule is not by any means absolute. In tax years 2000 and 2011, there were levies for corporate purposes of $150,000 and $148,410, respectively. In 2000, 2002 and 2004, about $75,000 was levied for the airport each of those years; and in 2002, $296,300 was levied for bonds and interest.

Tax year 2000 is the earliest year for which I can find records online.