Mount Prospect residents will have to wait another year to get their steak from the village board.
On Tuesday, the board nearly passed a zero percent property tax increase, with the board's six members evenly split.
But with Mayor Arlene Juracek breaking the tie, the board passed a 1.92 percent increase over last year and will be asking taxpayers for a little more than $19 million. For the owner of a home valued at $350,000, who would pay $1,074 to the village, it amounts to an increase of $20.
Finance Director David Erb said it is the lowest percentage increase since 2009.
But for three of the trustees, it wasn't low enough.
Trustee Richard Rogers, who at a previous meeting said the $20 was the cost of a steak dinner, lobbied for a zero percent increase, which was the recommendation of the village's finance commission.
"I would really like to see us buy that steak dinner," he said. Although he agreed that the increase was small, he said, "It would be nice if you could set an example for other taxing bodies and go the zero percent."
Trustee William Grossi agreed and referred to the village's plans in the near future to transfer funds from reserves to abate the levies for police and fire pensions and ease their impact as something that possibly could offset the need for the tax increase.
"It is $20. But every time I hear the word $20, it is $20 for us and it is in perpetuity. Because then next year it becomes the base and then we add another 1.9 percent and it keeps going up," he said.
With the fund balance for emergencies above 30 percent, he added, it makes sense to save the taxpayers some money.
Trustee Michael Zadel, however, called the increase reasonable and said he had expected a need for a higher increase because of the increased cost of fire personnel hired through a SAFER grant.
"I was thrilled to see this year's incremental increase at less than 2 percent," he said. He also noted that the state could impose a property tax freeze.
Trustee Paul Hoefert, who also supported the increase, pointed out that a larger reserve keeps the bond rating higher, which lowers borrowing costs. He added that reserves "came in very handy back in 2008."
Erb said a flat levy would require taking $360,000 in reserves in addition to the commitment to use reserves to abate police and fire pension levies. The fund balance would drop below the 25 percent benchmark by 2020 due to the combined impact of the two moves, he said.
The village board abated more than $1.3 million in property taxes. Funding came from $630,000 in general fund reserves, an interest rate credit of $42,000 on bonds, $369,000 from home rule sales taxes and $297,000 from water and sewer revenues.