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BLOOMINGTON - It costs less in the Twin Cities to shop and take out the garbage than in six other major Illinois cities. Property taxes levied by Normal and Bloomington also are the lowest compared to what other cities ask their citizens for.

On Monday, the Bloomington City Council got a chance to see how the city's taxes and fees compared to Normal, Champaign, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield and Urbana. All of the communities are home rule except Rockford.

Most cities tailor their taxes and fees to fit individual needs, so the rates vary, said City Manager Tom Hamilton.

The Twin Cities seem to be ahead of others when it comes to garbage fees. Bloomington and Normal charge $5 a month for a service that includes yard waste disposal, bulk waste and recycling. Normal has drop-off recycling; Bloomington has curbside pickup. Bloomington and Normal have their own departments to handle garbage collection.

"This is the craziest one of the bunch," said City Manager Tom Hamilton of the fees. "We, along with Normal, have the lowest cost with the highest level of service."

Most cities outsource the service or residents pay private companies. Fees range from $12.86 in Rockford to $21.99 in Decatur and Urbana. Peoria charges $6 a month but adds $3.25 a month for recycling.

City Finance Director Brian Barnes said the $5 fee is not enough to cover the cost of the program. To cover the total cost of the program, Barnes said the fee would need to be closer to $20 or $25 a month.

Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said his town also subsidizes garbage collection.

"The citizens in both communities get a tremendous level of service at a bargain," Peterson said. He added that general interest on the Normal City Council is to keep the garbage fees at the $5 rate.

When it comes to sales taxes and property taxes, Bloomington and Normal also are near the back of the pack.

The city and town both have a 7.50 percent sales tax. The lowest among the six other comparison cities is Rockford with 7.25 percent. Champaign, Urbana and Springfield have a 7.75 percent sale tax and Peoria and Decatur are at 8 percent.

For property taxes, the city levies about $1.27 per $100 of equalized assessed property value. Normal is about $1.09. Those rates include the levies for the libraries in the city and the town. In Bloomington, the total tax bill on a $200,000 house is about $5,050, with $847 going to the city. In Normal, the total tax bill on the same house is roughly $4,880 with $727 going to the town.

The property tax rate is about $2.17 in Champaign and Peoria and about $2.26 in Urbana. Those rates include a library rate, a park district rate and in some case a transit authority rate. In Decatur, where the levy is about $2.27, the park district levy includes money for its airport.

Not only are the city and the town's levies low in comparison, Peterson said, but the levies pay for more services than in other cities. The general levies for Bloomington and Normal pay for the parks departments in each community. The city and the town also contribute to the Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System.

The lowest levy in the group was Springfield at $1.43, which includes money for the library, park district and transit authority. Rockford has the highest levy rate, at $2.99, which includes library, park district and the city's share of the township road and bridge tax.

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