Waterloo OKs tax levy increase

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The Waterloo City Council approved a tax levy for the current fiscal year on Monday night, but the vote to do so was not unanimous.

The tax levy request is something the council considers every fiscal year. This one, seeking $1,505,750, is for the current fiscal year ending April 30, 2022.

Waterloo Budget Director Shawn Kennedy explained that this tax levy request represents an increase of 3.36 percent, or $48,940 from last year’s actual tax levy of $1,461,400. 

“Since the city is under PTELL, our levy request was reduced to $1,456,810 to comply with PTELL,” Kennedy added.

The Property Tax Extension Limitation Law is a local option property tax limitation intended to limit increases in property tax extensions for non-home-rule taxing districts.

“The tax levy request is prepared using estimated assessed valuations,” Kennedy said. “The tax rate is calculated by dividing the tax levy request by the assessed valuations.”  

Of the $1,505,750 requested as part of this current tax levy, $654,000 is for the city’s police pension fund and $435,000 is for the library.

“The library requests the maximum levy amount each year per state statute and an actuary study determines the police pension levy request,” Kennedy said.  

Those increases account for $20,849 and $1,000 of the total increase of $48,940, respectively. 

The balance of the increase in tax levy request is for city corporate purposes and IMRF and social security incurred by both the city and library. This accounts for $17,126 and $9,965, respectively, of the tax levy increase.  

Kennedy went on to explain that each year, new property is added to the total assessed valuations along with any re-assessments (higher or lower) as determined by the Monroe County Assessor’s Office.  

“My calculations (based on the EAV) indicate the tax rate will decrease slightly from the prior year,” Kennedy said. “If a homeowner had no increase or decrease in assessed valuation, then the property tax paid to the city would be less than the prior year.”

Prior to Monday’s vote on the tax levy request, Alderman Steve Notheisen said he would be voting in opposition. 

“I think we have sufficient funds in the city coffers, and to raise the tax above what we taxed them last year – cause we haven’t spent all the money from last year – I think it’s wrong philosophically,” Notheisen said. “I think we can do better.”

The city currently has more than $30 million in reserves, which includes invested funds and funds that are committed to certain departments or accounts per state statute.

In addition to Notheisen, Alderman Jim Hopkins also voted against the tax levy request. All other aldermen voted in favor.

When asked Tuesday about Notheisen’s comments at the meeting, Kennedy said she “really can’t speculate on his thought process.”

In other action from Monday night, the council voted to approve a one-year gas sales agreement between the city and Symmetry Energy Solutions, its natural gas supplier.

Notheisen explained that Symmetry is changing the way it bills municipalities. In the past, Symmetry would bill monthly based on the price set at the first of the month, regardless of quantity used.

“This year, they want us to be more flexible and pay based on what we have scheduled,” Notheisen said. “And if we use more, then we pay the daily price for more. If we use less, we get credit for the daily price less. It’s going to take some of the risk away from them and put the risk in our court.” 

Last month, the council  approved a confidential settlement and release agreement between the city and Symmetry regarding an exorbitant natural gas rate charged in February due to a major disruption of energy supply caused by Winter Storm Uri.

Waterloo residents paid their average February bill, with the city paying the remaining amount to Symmetry using emergency funds from its gas fund.

Also on Monday, the council approved renewals of group health insurance coverage with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois for 2022, and dental, life/AD&D and dependent life insurance with Delta Dental.

The council also approved an exterior building materials request for Fourth Street Bar & Grill at 301 S. Moore Street.

At its Oct. 18 meeting, the council approved a non-conforming use extension from Fourth Street Bar & Grill to build an addition for a gaming room and kitchen.

Aldermen Hopkins and Jim Trantham voted in opposition to this request.

A neighbor to the establishment, Diane Olszewski, voiced concerns that parking is already an issue at the tavern and it plays loud music.

At the council’s Nov. 1 meeting, alderman approved 4 percent managerial raises for Kennedy, public works director Tim Birk, community relations coordinator Sarah Deutch, police chief Jeff Prosise, deputy police chief Dane Luke and human resources manager Jessica Rucks.  This is the same percent salary increase contracted city employees received, per the city council agenda.

Also on Nov. 1, the council approved a special use permit from Uncle John’s RRR Bar at 141 S. Main Street to host a “New Year’s Eve Ball Drop” at the corner of Main and Third streets.

Alderman Trantham voted against this request.

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