NORMAL — Normal homeowners can expect another tax increase next year.

Taxes are set to rise $44 for the owner of a home valued at $165,000 — again due to pensions, said a memo from Finance Director Andrew Huhn.

"Primarily to support funding police and fire pensions, the proposal involves a 6.38 percent increase in the tax rate," Huhn wrote. "The town has no control over the cost of police and fire pensions. Pension plan funding levels are mandated by the state, and the town is obligated to provide (the money)."

The town's rate is set to jump from $1.4115 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation to $1.5015 per $100 EAV, its biggest hike since 2013, and the property tax levy from $12.2 million to $13 million. The tax rate has increased each year since 2006.

Those increases are separate from the town's general fund, which has a $1.2 million-plus deficit that officials are addressing through early retirement and other spending cuts. The general fund pays for most operating expenses.

The town prefers not to raise property taxes to fund operations, and that's unlikely to change, said City Manager Mark Peterson — though pension costs are likely to keep rising.

Within the overall tax rate, the town's general fund tax rate is set to fall from 18.55 cents per $100 EAV to 18.46 cents per $100 EAV. Its library rate, which funds Normal Public Library operations, is set to fall as well, from 45.26 cents per $100 EAV to 45.03 cents per $100 EAV.

Five of 18 eligible employees opted for early retirement, said Peterson, including street sweeper Dave Locke, who's retired since the program started.

Peterson declined to identify the other retiring employees. The Pantagraph filed a Freedom of Information Act request for details Friday afternoon.

"Our goal is to absorb all five positions and not have to replace them. I believe we can do that," said Peterson.

Despite those cuts, officials continue to consider spending cuts, said Peterson. Those will be presented publicly when the City Council receives the town's fiscal 2019 budget, which begins April 1, 2018, in January.

The council will consider the levy during its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday on the fourth floor Uptown Station.

"We're certainly going to try to reduce the workforce through attrition. Where we do have positions that come vacant, we'll try to absorb them," said Peterson. "It remains to be seen whether we're going to have to do any involuntary staffing reductions. ... That always is a last resort."

The town needs to replace $1.2 million lost when the city of Bloomington ended the Metro Zone revenue-sharing agreement for west-side commercial and industrial properties, and officials are also figuring out how to handle a new sales tax collection fee imposed by the state.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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Staff Writer

Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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