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home : free press advocate : free press advocate November 26, 2015

12/4/2012 8:53:00 PM
Park district asks for 29 percent more tax dollars
In an attempt to ensure it captures any tax dollars that may be due it, the Wilmington Island Park District is asking for about 29 percent more in property taxes next year than it received this year. The district's Board of Commissioners approved the annual levy request following a public hearing on Thursday, Nov. 29.

Taxing bodies under the tax cap typically ask for more money than they'll be allowed to collect because at the time they're doing levy calculations, the equalized assessed valuation of the property within their boundaries is not yet available, even though that number is a critical factor in the tax formula. When the bodies underestimate the value of the property, they don't receive all of the property tax they could have received. Under the tax cap, which limits levy increases to the lesser of 5 percent or the consumer price index, the revenue the taxing bodies lose is never recovered.

The Park District levies for corporate and special purposes, and debt service. The corporate and special purpose levy funds the administration, buildings and grounds, recreation, audit, liability insurance, paving and lighting, retirement, Social Security and special recreation association funds. The debt service portion of the levy has been used to make an annual payment on the district's outstanding debt.

The Park District seeks a 47 percent increase over what it received this year in corporate and special purpose property taxes, and has reduced its debt service levy request by 100 percent. The result is a levy request that is 29 percent higher than the $212,173 the district received in property taxes for all purposes this year.

The Island Park District received $185,947 in corporate and special purpose property taxes this year. It is asking for $86,860 more next year, in a total levy request of $272,807. Expenditures from the general corporate fund include salaries, utilities, repairs, professional services, health insurance, unemployment tax, office supplies, repairs and maintenance. Special purpose fund tax dollars pay for programming, liability insurance, lighting, capital improvements and the new special recreation expenditures.

The biggest line item increase in the corporate and special purpose levy request is the addition of a special recreation association (SRA) tax, which will help the district provide services to individuals with special needs through membership in the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association. The SRA fund accounts for more than $47,000 of the corporate and special purpose property tax increase.

The district is eliminating its bond debt this year. Wilmington Island Park District had been borrowing $125,000 every five years, and levying one-fifth of that amount, plus interest, each year to pay the bond back. The $26,228 in property taxes received this year is not being requested in next year's levy, which represents a decrease of 100 percent.

"The reason we did not do that is our equipment is in decent shape right now so we did not feel we needed to add anything else. So why put the burden on the taxpayers for funds that we really didn't have a place for? So we will look at it again next year, and if we need to we will then tackle that on next year's levy budget," Commission President Randy Hill commented.

"... We've taken well care of our vehicles and our maintenance issues and everything that we limited the amount of money that we needed for this fiscal year, which in turn makes everything look better. If we had to do that plus what we were trying to do with Lincolnway Special Rec., it would make it look really bad."

The Park District appropriated $375,810 for expenditures in fiscal year 2013, which runs from May 1, 2012 to April 30, 2012. The appropriation figures are generally higher than actual budgeted dollars to allow some flexibility in spending; the taxing body can spend more than anticipated in a line item and less in another without having to amend the appropriation ordinance on file with the county. The figures are not a true reflection of actual expenditures.

At $272,807, the district's total levy request is about $2,000 less than the $275,000 requested last year. The money levied is payable on the 2013 tax bills.

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