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H-F Park District loses nearly 15 percent of tax revenue over five years

A dramatic 43 percent decline in property assessments over the past five years has resulted in a nearly 15 percent drop in tax revenues for the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District.

Park board commissioners say the red ink is startling, and they are grateful to staff for helping meet the challenges faced by losing more than  $2.3 million over that period. The past year, the district lost $828,000 from its tax levy.

The park district’s 2016-17 fiscal year budget is approximately $15 million, with $4.95 million coming from property tax revenues.  The park district balances its budget with user fees, rentals, memberships and other income.

“What we’re trying to do is tighten our belts without eliminating programs,” said Bob Haderlein, board president.  “The staff recognizes what we can and can’t do” because of the budget squeeze.

Haderlein said staff has been open to trying new things, but they and the board are cognizant of the budget limitations.

The South Suburbs were hit hard by the 2008 recession and the decline in property values has been having serious impacts on all taxing bodies, including the park district.

Renae Ross, superintendent of finance and administration, said over the past 10 years, the H-F area’s highest property assessments were in 2010 when the tax increment financing (TIF) district along Homewood’s Halsted Street corridor expired.

The TIF allowed Homewood to collect the increased portion of the taxes over the life of the TIF to pay for improvements along Halsted Street. During that period other taxing bodies, including the park district, had its tax rate on those Halsted properties frozen.

The expiration of the TIF allowed the park district to increase new property added to the equalized assessed valuation (EAV) that could then be taxed.

With Halsted Street properties then paying a higher share in taxes to the park district, an additional $511,000, or a 9.53 percent increase in revenues, was recorded. Property assessments rose 8.3 percent.

But in years 2011 through 2015, the recession caused a serious dip, Ross said. Property assessments dropped 19 percent in 2011. They’ve continued dropping over the next four years, but Ross believes there will be a leveling off now as home sales are increasing.

“Remember, you pay your property taxes for the previous year,” Ross said, noting that although the recession began in 2008, in Cook County the decline really didn’t show up until 2010 or 2011.

“In Cook County (taxing bodies) are at such a disadvantage because you’re levying and you don’t even know what your (equalizer) number is, where other counties coordinate that.  It’s so difficult,” Ross added.

Illinois taxing bodies are under a 1995 state imposed tax cap that limits tax collections to 5 percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less. In June 2016, the 12-month CPI was 1 percent.

“We’re trying to maintain and at some point we won’t be able to do that,” Ross said.

“We’re all facing the same challenge,” Haderlein said of the villages, schools and park district that all depend on property tax revenues. 

“How do you give the community what it wants with less money?  Here (at the park district) we’re just finding ways to make it work, and so far we are,” he said.


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