Streator council passes tax levy decreasing rate amid questions from council members

Council member said he would have liked to have discussed levy more

Streator City Hall

The Streator City Council finalized a tax levy Wednesday that should result in about $7.20 in savings on its portion of the tax bill for a $100,000 property.

While the city requested $212,000 more in property tax dollars in 2022 or 4.99% more than what was received in 2021, city staff are anticipating 5.19% of growth in taxable property values, effectively lowering the rate, because taxable values are outpacing what the city is requesting.

The levy vote passed 4-1, with Council member Brian Crouch opposing the request and Council member Jacob Darby asking questions before giving a yes vote.

Crouch said the council didn’t discuss the levy in a manner to his liking. He said a discussion should have taken place on where council members stood on the tax levy.

During the Nov. 11 committee of the whole meeting, Stephen Litko, with Lauterbach and Amen LLC, which handles Streator’s finances, gave a presentation on the tax levy. He recommended an increase to the levy since city expenses also are expected to increase with inflation. He told council members during that meeting the levy request will result in a $125,000 increase in the general fund from tax revenue and still decrease the tax rate slightly since property value growth figures to outgain the requested increase to the levy. The details of the levy request had not changed since November.

None of the council members asked questions of the levy or commented about it at that time.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Streator Mayor Tara Bedei noted the presentation at November’s committee of the whole meeting and said the levy information had been presented in at least two City Council meeting packets in the past month, along with details of the city’s projected budget for 2023. She said a newspaper article was written about the November meeting reciting the details of the levy. Further discussion was not requested by council members, she said.

“I don’t know how he can say the levy hasn’t been discussed,” she said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Darby initially asked if he could abstain from voting on the tax levy, saying he was surprised to see the memo to the council worded the way it was with a 4.99% increase. That figure referred not to the tax rate, but the percentage increase in requested total tax dollars.

City Attorney Sheryl Churney told Darby the council will need to vote on the levy prior to the end of the year if it wants to collect property tax dollars. She said to Darby while the city is asking for more tax dollars, it is projecting a tax rate decrease, because of a predicted growth in property values. After hearing the explanation, Darby said he would vote in favor of it.