Fee, tax increases, passed along with village's '05 budget

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The Oak Park village board last week voted 5-2 to approve next year's budget, which, as expected, includes a modest property tax hike and a handful of fee increases.

Trustees Robert Milstein and Galen Gockel voted against the budget, saying the village could have made a stronger effort to cut expenditures.

"This is a close call. In the face of some required increases, I'm not satisfied with the belt tightening on the expense side," Gockel said. "The question was which of your goals is paramount. I'm afraid limiting payment from tax payers fell to the bottom of the list."

"It's a good budget, but there are probably areas where we could have been tighter. I'm not sure where," Milstein said.

The village will not raise property taxes to cover operating costs. However, a 3.16 percent hike?#34;less than an earlier projection of 3.9 percent?#34;will fund increased pension costs, as well as costs tied to the Barrie Park neighborhood investment program, and a subsidy to School District 97.

The increase only applies to the village's portion of the tax bill, and will cost the owner of a $400,000 home on average less than $50. The village is estimating its tax rate to be $1.22 per $100 in Equalized Assessed Value (EAV).

Village staff did make cuts in "non-core" areas, and also included money in the budget for $19 million in capital improvements, the free shuttle, and planning for the North Avenue business corridor, among other projects.

The majority of the village board showed support for the level of spending in this year's budget.

"We're expanding programs and doing more with less," said Trustee Ray Johnson.

"There are several ways in which we tightened our belts. I think the taxpayer is well served by the village," said Village President Joanne Trapani.

?#34;Katharine Grayson


Four fee and tax increases were approved by the village board last week. Other proposed increases, which have not been voted on, include business licenses, overdue parking ticket fines, which would increase from $10 to double the cost of the original citation, and creating a rental car tax.

The four officially approved include:

? Raising the village's gas tax from 1 cent to 3 cents per gallon.

? The water rate will increase by 4 percent starting next year. The increase is a "pass through" from the City of Chicago.

? Ambulance fees for residents in need of basic life support will increase from $175 to $300, and to $400 for non-residents. For "advanced" life support, the fee will be raised from $275 to $400 for residents, and to $500 for non-residents.

? The penalty for purchasing a village vehicle sticker past the June 30 deadline will now be double the original fee, $90 for a passenger car.

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