Woodstock to vote next week on possible property tax levy increase

Officials estimate it would add about $46 onto a $200,000 home’s property tax bill if home saw no change in value

Woodstock City Hall as pictured March 3, 2022.

The city of Woodstock is gearing up to approve its newest property tax levy, which could add an estimated $46 to a $200,000 home’s tax bill.

That increase assumes the home saw no change in its value, City Manager Roscoe Stelford said. If the home were to increase in value, the bill would be higher, depending on the level of growth. An example provided by the city shows a $200,000 home seeing a 6.9% increase in value, would make the increase about $124.

If the levy is approved as proposed, it will be just the second time in more than a decade the Woodstock City Council has opted to increase its levy using inflation. Tax levy raises are based on inflation over the previous year, as well as new growth in the value of properties within the jurisdiction, but governmental bodies can opt against taking the increases.

Stelford said despite inflation making this year’s budget harder, he thinks the city has made a “reasonable” decision with its levy, which he said does not capture the entire amount the city is allowed to take.

The city is requesting about $10.7 million, about 4.91% over last year’s extension, most of which is tied to inflation.

“We’re not immune to the inflationary pressures that other communities, everyone is experiencing right now,” Stelford said.

Before last year, Woodstock had gone 11 years without increasing its levy using inflation, Stelford said. As a result, the city has forgone more than $13 million in possible tax revenue during that time.

“We went an extraordinary amount of time … to not apply [inflation],” Mayor Mike Turner said at the council’s Nov. 1 meeting. “We could have [increased the levy more], but we didn’t.”

In 2018, the council decided to lower the city’s levy by 10%, Stelford said. That was after the city obtained home rule status, which gave them the ability to pass a sales tax. The sales tax was used to reduce the property tax burden.

However, with the city making up about 16% of residents’ property tax bills, Finance Director Paul Christensen said the decrease was not very noticeable for residents.

Despite this year’s increase, Woodstock’s levy will remain under what it was before its reduction several years back, a point Turner noted, saying the increase is needed to help the city remain financially stable.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to take it next year,” Turner said. “We’re going to take it year by year.”

The increase was needed to help “catch up,” council member Gordie Tebo said at the Nov. 1 meeting.

“People have to understand still that we went that long without [inflation],” Tebo said.

Many municipalities across Illinois, specifically those classified as non-home rule, are limited to increasing their property tax levies by less than 5%, plus new growth, despite inflation this year totaling more than 7%. Those opting to go over that 5% must hold a public hearing.

Woodstock does not have to abide by that cap because it is home rule, but in 2016, the city passed a resolution that ties the city to the cap barring some financial emergency, according to city material.

The City Council approved the notice for the tax levy at its Nov. 1 meeting and is expected to approve it at its Dec. 6 meeting. The levy will then go to the McHenry County Clerk’s Office, which will calculate how much the city is allowed to collect.