Local News

Crystal Lake raising tax levy because of increased police, fire pension contributions

Amount city is asking for from taxpayers is increasing by a little less than 5%

Crystal Lake entry sign for Crystal Lake, Illinois

Crystal Lake is upping the amount of money it is levying from taxpayers to align with the city’s increased police and fire pension obligations.

This year’s tax levy is increasing just shy of 5%, going from $17,729,871 to $18,607,492. The city is maintaining a zero levy for the city’s general operations – including city administration, community development, public works activities and regular police operations – but money is needed for police and firefighters’ pension funds.

Crystal Lake’s obligation for the police pension fund last year was $2,930,915 and the fire pension was $2,023,977. This year, those numbers are $3,481,415 for police and $2,285,632 for fire.

“The rising cost of these pensions are a concern to most municipalities across Illinois, so we’re doing our best to stay responsible for our commitment to the pension funds,” said Jodie Hartman, Crystal Lake’s finance director. “The best thing we can do is stay on top of these contributions, as determined by the actuary, to honor those commitments.”

Hartman added that Crystal Lake is trying to be proactive in its communications with the state.

Contributing to these increased pension costs are a combination of demographic changes and investment returns. Crystal Lake’s independent enrolled actuary calculates the city’s pension obligation based on a number of different factors, Hartman said.

One of the main factors is the demographics of both the retired members of each pension fund and the active members of each pension fund.

“As the actuaries go through every single year, they evaluate all the changes. So, they look at who’s retiring, they look at who’s gotten married, what kind of obligations the fund would have to pay out in the future and they update those calculations every year,” Hartman said.

Almost $10 million of new property is coming into the city tax rolls, Hartman said, which helps to spread that cost out “and have a much smaller impact to each property holder within the city.”

The estimated increase the average Crystal Lake property owner with a house worth $300,000 would see on their city tax bill is $1.02 per month, Hartman said.

Crystal Lake’s property tax levy, which includes the library, is set for a public hearing on Dec. 7. Dollars collected from the 2021 tax levy will be received in fiscal year 2022-23.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the city is maintaining a zero levy for general operations and that the $1.02 increase taxpayers will see is per month.