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Lindenhurst looks for budget trims to avoid breaking tax cap

Lindenhurst Village's preliminary budget draft increases taxes 11.8

Lindenhurst Village's preliminary budget draft increases taxes 11.8 percent, well over the state tax cap of 0.73 percent. Much of the proposed increased spending comes from a fire department maintenance request. Credit: Steve Pfost

Lindenhurst Village officials are taking another look at their 2016-2017 budget after a preliminary draft shattered the tax cap with an 11.8 percent tax increase.

The proposed $12.8 million budget would increase spending by $734,000 and would increase the tax rate from $16.16 to $18.07 per $100 of assessed valuation. For the average home assessed at $4,000, residents could expect to pay an additional $76 in taxes. The sanitation costs for a single-family house would remain the same at $202.

Village Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Cullinane said insurance costs and salaries rose while mortgage tax revenue continues to decline.

But the largest chunk of increased spending came from the fire department, which requested $490,510 more over last year’s fire and rescue protection budget, rising from $1,856,510 to $2,347,020. The largest part of that increase is $287,400 for vehicle repair and maintenance, up nearly 87 percent from the previous year.

Lindenhurst Fire Chief Mike DeGregorio declined to comment on the budget.

Before the village board could bring the budget to a vote last week, Mayor Tom Brennan announced that they were rejecting the proposal.

“We will not entertain this budget,” he said. “I feel it’s way too high.”

He said village officials would meet with the fire department to see where cuts could be made.

“I understand they need equipment,” the mayor said. “But they’re just out of hand. We need to chisel it down a lot.”

Trustee Maryann Weckerle praised the fire department, saying they are “trying to do the best job they can do” but adding that “we need to reach a middle ground.”

Even if concessions are made, Cullinane said, with the village’s other increased costs, the budget will still pierce the state tax cap, which is 0.73 percent. The lowest the tax increase would be is 3.5 percent, he said.

Cullinane said staying under the tax cap is impossible due to unfunded mandates that he said municipalities were promised help with when the tax cap was signed into law in 2011.

“It’s just more and more regulations being put upon us, locally, who do all the work,” he said. “We’re the ones out there fixing the roads, picking up the garbage, providing the services and yet these other agencies — state, county and so forth — are putting more and more burden on local governments.”

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Village Hall, 430 S. Wellwood Ave.

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