BLOOMINGTON — The city of Bloomington and its public library are looking for tax levy increases of around 3 percent, but officials say growth in the city's tax base will mean individual property owners would see virtually no change in Bloomington's share of their tax bills.
The Bloomington City Council vote 8-1 to approve a preliminary 2016 levy of $20.06 million with a $545,000 (2.79 percent) increase from the 2015 levy, which was for taxes paid this year. For Bloomington Public Library, the council voted 6-3 for a $4.68 million levy proposal, up from $4.54 million (about 3 percent).
City Manager David Hales recommended using the extra money in the city levy to improve emergency medical response times by adding six firefighter/paramedics to staff a second ambulance at the fire department's downtown headquarters.
"These two items are not tied together," said Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Lower, who cast the only dissenting vote on the city's levy. "We can find many different ways to fund many of these things.
"I am not going to take the heat for denying the fire department what they need to reduce their (response) times. But that's not what this is about. It's about a property tax increase."
Even though the increased levy is not expected to add to most property owners' tax bills, Lower said increasing taxes overall discourages economic growth.
"Even though it is a flat tax (rate) if we allow the economy to grow it will multiply in itself and grow our base," Lower said. "We need some small-business growth here in this community."
Ward 4 Alderman Amelia Buragas noted the city added about $42 million in new residential and commercial construction last year.
"I think if we were not to keep our tax rate more or less flat and capture some of this growth, we would be missing an opportunity," she said.
Aldermen Lower, David Sage of Ward 2 and Mboka Mwilambwe of Ward 3 voted against the 3 percent increase in the library tax levy.
"I'm generally supportive of the library," said Mwilambwe. "However, the (library) levy increase, although it amounts to about 3 cents more per person ... I think that in the past couple of years some of the increases that we've seen either in taxes or fees, after a while it starts to add up for some people. I am pretty sensitive to that."
"We can't continue to go forward and grow government and expect it to take care of everything. It's not going to happen," said Lower.
The council must approve a final tax levy ordinance by Dec. 29 and could vote on it Dec. 12.
For the owner of a home with a market value of $165,000, the city's property tax bill likely would decrease $1.02 for the city and increase 3 cents for the library, going from $731 to $730, said city Finance Director Patti-Lynn Silva.
Combined, the two estimated property tax levies total $24.74 million, up from $24.06 million for this year.
The combined tax rate for the library and city is expected to total $1.3264 per $100 equalized assessed valuation, compared to $1.3283 per $100 EAV for taxes that were payable this year.
The 2016 preliminary EAV, which is one-third of the market value of all taxable properties in the city, is expected to be $1.865 billion.