St. Charles attorney and mayoral candidate Jotham Stein on Tuesday said the tax levy the city is considering for 2012 is a tax increase that should be avoided in favor of recruiting more businesses to the city.
Stein, who listened to St. Charles Finance Director Chris Minick present the proposed 2012 tax levy during a public hearing in City Hall on Monday evening, takes issue with saying the levy does not increase taxes.
City officials froze the levy in 2009 at $12 million for the general fund. The levy is the amount of property tax revenue the governing body is seeking from taxpayers. Some communities, as St. Charles has been doing, freeze their tax levy in periods of economic decline to assure revenue levels are stable even as property values decline. In St. Charles case, property values dropped 5.2 percent this year, so the city is proposing a 5.2 percent increase in the property tax rate to ensure average homeowners pay the same amount of property taxes to the city in 2013 as they did in 2012.
“As I told you last night, I oppose raising property taxes in these difficult economic times, and for this reason, I oppose the 5.2 percent tax rate increase the St. Charles City Council seems ready to approve next month,” Stein wrote to St. Charles Patch in an email Tuesday. “Over the last four years, I have regularly opposed raising property taxes in St. Charles.
“In these difficult economic times, ‘holding the tax levy constant’ means raising the property tax rate so property owners pay more of the value of their homes in taxes, while at the same time, the values of our houses decline,” Stein wrote. “If the city and all the other taxing agencies (e.g., school board, Kane County, Forest Preserve, etc.) keep raising our property tax rates, all of us will be so heavily burdened by property taxes that it will be difficult for some to pay the taxes, and the value of our homes may go down even more because less people will want to buy homes with such high property tax rates.”
Stein argues that recruiting new businesses to St. Charles to fill up the vacant commercial, industrial and office spaces would generate enough tax revenue to avoid the need to increase the property tax rate and allow homeowners some real tax relief.
“Businesses bring in tax revenue that residents do not have to pay in property taxes,” he said. “From East Side to West Side to downtown St. Charles, there are empty retail, empty office and empty manufacturing spaces. If we fill just some of these empty spaces, St. Charles will have the tax revenue it needs not only to keep the property tax rate flat, but to lower property taxes.
Stein said that bringing new business to St. Charles would be his top priority as mayor. “I am a business lawyer and published author, and for more than 20 years, my job has been to give business and legal advice to companies of all sizes, and to those who manage them,” he said. “I want to bring the full weight of my experience to benefit our city. Instead of seeing businesses leave St. Charles or close altogether, as mayor, I will actively recruit new business investment to St. Charles, nurture start-up businesses, and help businesses that are here but struggling.
“These businesses will bring more vitality, more jobs and more revenue to our city, allowing the city not only to keep property tax rates flat, but to reduce them,” he said.