Last night, the Highland Park City Council held a public hearing concerning our proposed 2014 budget.  I wanted to give you a quick overview of how your tax dollars are being spent.

The proposed budget focuses on our core priorities: City infrastructure, public safety and long-term fiscal stability.  We have proposed a balanced operating budget for 2014 of approximately $85 million, remaining essentially flat from 2013, adjusted for this year’s costs of the water treatment plant upgrade. Take a look and you’ll see a City dedicated to efficiently providing high quality services to our vibrant community.

What we need to address, however, are mandated pension costs from the State of Illinois.  These costs, though set by the State, must be paid by the City.  In 2014, it will cost the City of Highland Park approximately $1,100,000 more to cover its pension costs than 2013.  We do not intend to “kick the can” down the road on our pension expenses.  In order to responsibly fund this pension expense, the City has proposed to increase its property tax rate the equivalent of $85 per average ($500,000) household.

We run our City to be sustainable both in the short-term and long-term, investing in our infrastructure and public safety, and maintaining a balanced budget.  Over the past few years, we have focused on more efficient City operations.  Our strong budget and fiscal reserves are reflected in Highland Park’s AAA bond rating.

When you see your property tax bill, you will note that the City portion represents only about 7% of the total. That fact often surprises residents.  The school districts represent a combined 67% and Lake County, the Park District and other bodies 26%.  We recognize that the overall property tax burden is high, but our schools and parks are important parts of what make Highland Park a desirable community in which to live, and we work closely with our sister governments to identify areas where we can share services to reduce the overall burden on our residents.

Thanks for this opportunity to keep you up-to-date. As always, I look forward to hearing from you about how we can do a better job.

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