BLOOMINGTON — The city's portion of a Bloomington property tax bill is not expected to increase next year, but the public library is seeking a slight hike for building costs.

The Bloomington City Council will consider the tax levy estimates at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

"The council was not sympathetic to raising the (city's) property tax this year," said interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen. "There just was no appetite for that. We will seek to balance the budget in other ways, but not by raising the tax levy."

"We will look at expenditures and try to make cuts, and we may look at fees that we charge for services to try and balance our budget," added Mayor Tari Renner.

"I do not believe that raising property taxes in the city has any traction among the council," said Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt. "Our discussion at our retreat (held Saturday) has focused on streamlining our budget and controlling costs. The uncertainties at the state level that may affect municipal finances underscore our need to be cautious."

In Bloomington, the 2017 tax levy for taxes payable in 2018 is proposed to remain at $20.06 million for the city. The library's levy is proposed to increase 3 percent, or $140,493 — from $4.68 million payable in 2017 to $4.82 million payable in 2018.

Together, the levies are expected to yield a total tax rate of $1.3442 per $100 EAV, producing a tax bill of $739 for a $165,000 house. That includes an increase of about $4.17 for the library.

The tax rate, excluding the library's rate, likely would stay at $1.0836 per $100 EAV. The estimated tax rate for the library levy would be $0.2606 per $100 of EAV.

To be conservative, the city estimated the preliminary EAV, which is based on the total taxable value of properties in the city, at this year's level of $1.851 billion.

"There's no real growth in the EAV," said Bloomington Finance Director Patti-Lynn Silva.

In fact, large tax appeals and new legislation allowing for greatly expanded exemptions for disabled veterans led to a $13 million decrease in EAV between the preliminary and final EAV last year, she added.

In prior years, new residential and commercial construction adding to the tax base have supported levy increases without increasing individual tax bills.

"Property taxes have gone up, but not because of the city of Bloomington," said Renner. "It's other taxing bodies that exclusively rely on property taxes, especially the schools, that have increased their levies. (The city) has stayed away from property tax increases since 2008, and we intend to continue that path."

The levy increase is "important for the library" because property taxes are essentially its major source of income, Renner added. 

The library's levy is proposed to increase 3 percent, or $140,493 — from $4.68 million payable in 2017 to $4.82 million payable in 2018.

If the council votes against the library's tax levy as proposed by the library's trustees, its proposed operating and maintenance budget of $5.59 million will come back to the library board for revision.

If approved, the $140,493 in additional revenue would be added to the library's capital fund balance of $2.43 million to be used as a "down payment" for the library's expansion or for $2 million in needed repairs to keep the library at its current facility at 205 E. Olive St.

A final tax levy ordinance must be passed no later than Dec. 18.

Silva estimated a deficit of about $1.5 million in the city's general fund because of stagnant retail sales tax and other revenue versus growing labor costs. That deficit is expected to increase to $3 million if the city includes the recommended annual commitment of $1.5 million in maintenance of city facilities in the budget.

If revenue does not increase and no action is taken, city officials have projected the annual deficit could grow to $8.5 million by 2022.

The Normal City Council signed off Monday on a preliminary 6.38 percent property tax increase next year to cost the owner of a home valued at $165,000 an extra $49 per year to cover employee pension costs.

The hike is needed, said Normal town officials, to meet funding goals for police and fire pensions.

The town expects the tax rate to rise from $1.4115 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation to $1.5015 per $100 EAV to accompany a $13 million tax levy as part of a fiscal 2019 budget to be adopted early next year. The new rate would bring the town's tax bill for a $165,000 house to about $826.

Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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