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Downers Grove to Reduce Property Tax Levy with New Stormwater Fee

The village council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt its 2013 budget, which implements the new stormwater utility and includes a $1.98 million reduction to the property tax levy.

For the second straight year, Downers Grove officials are expected to approve a reduction in the annual tax levy—a result of the village's newly adopted stormwater utility.

The village council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the 2012-13 municipal budget, as well as an estimated levy. The budget implements a new village-wide stormwater fee, includes a $1.98 million reduction to the property tax levy and presents a balanced budget for general fund.

The FY13 budget is the fourth annual budget prepared using the recommendations of the Long Range Financial Plan (LRFP), and includes a specific action plan for the general fund budget, officials said.

While the village's general fund is balanced at $41.6 million, the total budget projects $124.6 million in expenses and $104.7 million in revenues across all funds. The imbalance accounts for the village's investment of proceeds from recent bond issuances in street, water and stormwater infrastructure improvements, officials said.

The 2013 budget allots $27.24 million for infrastructure improvements, including $14.51 million for streets, $6.37 million for the water system, $2.68 million for stormwater infrastructure and $1.24 million for sidewalks.

The estimated levy approved by the council Tuesday—which generally accounts for 10 percent of the total tax bill—was $16,215,187, which includes the levy for the village, special service areas and the public library. The village portion after abatements is about $11 million—a $1.98 million reduction from the 2012 levy.

The reduction, officials said, reflects the shift in funding for the village's stormwater fund from property taxes to stormwater fees. The levy for all stormwater-related activities—including operations, maintenance, capital projects and debt service payments on the 2008 stormwater bonds—has been removed from the tax levy, resulting in a reduction of $2.47 million.

The Downers Grove village council voted 5-2 in August to adopt the stormwater utility system, which has been in the works since 2003. Commissioners William Waldack and Bob Barnett both voted against the ordinance, citing several concerns about moving away from the property tax system, such as the loss of tax deductions and the creation of more bureaucracy.

The monthly fee will be determined by how much stormwater runoff each property generates, which officials say is more equitable and will create a stable source of funding for much-needed repairs and maintenance to the village’s stormwater infrastructure. 

Under the utility, fees will be calculated based equivalent runoff units (ERU), or the area on each property that cannot absorb water, such as a roof or driveway. One ERU equals 3,300 square feet.

Single-family homes fall into three tiers of payment, depending on their size:

  • 1-2,500 square feet: $6.30 per ERU
  • 2,501-4,000 square feet: $8.40. per ERU
  • 4,001-7,000 square feet: $12.60 per ERU

All stormwater fees will be collected on a common utility bill from the village. Residents on the south side of Downers Grove will receive their first bill Jan. 2, 2013, and residents on the north side will be billed Feb. 1.

The utility is expected to generate $3.5 million in revenue for the village next year, officials said.

The tax levy will be formally approved at the Dec. 11 meeting of the Downers Grove village council.

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Martin Tully November 20, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Kent is correct, the increment comes from the fact that there are more payers under the fee-based system than the old property tax-based system, thus generating more revenue overall. This is good for most residents because the burden of stormwater maintenance and infrastructure is more equitable shared by more of those who contribute to the run-off that much be managed in compliance with federal law. Under the old system, residential properties only contributed about 45% of the stormwater run-off but were shouldering about 75% of the cost to do so. That just did not seem very fair.
Amanda Luevano November 20, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Dan and Mayor Tully, The lack of details was certainly not intentional. I included this sentence, "The imbalance accounts for the village's investment of proceeds from recent bond issuances in street, water and stormwater infrastructure improvements" though I understand if perhaps that was confusing. I apologize. I am happy to follow up and clarify if necessary. It's always a challenge to write about municipal budgets in a way that is both clear and concise for readers, but I'm always willing to add to a story if it will help readers better understand the topic at hand.
Jeffrey Crane November 20, 2012 at 11:56 PM
The clarification is correct, but that doesn't lessen the burden on already overburdened taxpayers. Can you quantify the property tax levy reduction for the last two years?
Helen G. December 09, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Fee calculation is really goofy. Some households with limited income and low home value might be paying more just because of long driveway.Who will calculate how much water is being absorbed ALONG that driveway? Did anyone notice 11 % fee increase per year for the next 10 years? I can bet our taxes will keep going up too. I predict all Village of Downers Grove boses getting 100% credits for educating us while we will be paying more and more and it will never be enough. 300$ incentive for permeable pavement is laughable- do they REALLY know how much it cost?!!
Helen G. December 09, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Tricked by people we voted for

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