Lockport property tax rate to decrease again

As values of Lockport homes increased for the fifth-consecutive year, residents will again see a reduction on the city’s portion of their tax bill.

The city is expected to approve a property tax levy of about $6.7 million for 2019 – based on an estimated tax rate of about 0.8201. That’s down from the actual rate of 0.8638 for 2018, Finance Director Lisa Heglund said Wednesday.

Heglund presented the expected tax levy at the Committee of the Whole meeting portion of the City Council meeting Wednesday night. The levy will be formally approved at the council’s meeting on Dec. 4.

The estimated tax levy is projected to capture new growth as well as inflation. New growth in the city is estimated at about $8.7 million, and property values in the city increased by about $64 million, Heglund said.

The percentage the tax levy makes up of the city’s general fund has been decreasing since 2014, as the city has also seen an increase in building permits, she said. The 2019 property tax levy will make up 38% of the general fund, compared to 41% in 2014.

“So, we’re trending down, which is a really good thing,” Heglund said. “That’s what our public is looking for from us. Development is what’s helping us keep our property taxes down.”

Homeowners whose houses were valued at $250,000 in 2018 should see those values increase by $7,500 and their tax bill decrease by $13.29, Heglund said. For houses valued at $150,000 in 2018, owners should see a decrease of $6.93 on their tax bill.

Alderman Darren Deskin said he was “encouraged” by the trend. “It tells me that everybody who sat here for the past six years, we’ve done a pretty darn good job … with new commercial and retail growth,” he said.

There also was a public hearing at the City Council meeting on the city's 2020 budget.

The city expects to take in about $44.7 million in fiscal 2020 and spend about $59.1 million. About $14.8 million of the expenses will come from excess reserves, which include 2018 bond proceeds and a transfer from the general fund’s excess reserves.

“From an operating perspective, the entire budget is balanced,” Heglund said.

Included in the budget is about $20 million in capital improvement projects. These include construction of a new water well and the new Veteran Memorial Trail bike path along Interstate 355. The council will vote on the budget at its Dec. 4 meeting.

Separately, the City Council is considering three people for the city’s new Video Gaming Commission, which has been formed as part of the city’s push to better regulate requests from local business owners to install video gaming terminals.

The City Council in September approved new rules for video gaming in the city, which included forming the commission and a cap on the number of establishments that can have video gambling.

Mayor Steven Streit nominated former Alderman Pete Colarelli and newcomers Laura Rogers and Jonathan Pughand to the three-person commission.

Streit recommended staggered terms for the three commissioners, which would be decided by drawing lots. The appointments are expected to be approved at the council’s Nov. 20 meeting.

Finally, the City Council approved increases to the city’s parking and traffic violation fines, which will be effective starting Jan. 1. Fines have not increased since 2004.

Parking violation fines will increase from $20 to $30. Fire lane violations will increase from $25 to $35, and equipment violations will increase from $35 to $50. The fine for overweight vehicles on a nondesignated street will go from $500 to $600.