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Cook County Publisheds Incorrect Analysis of Skokie Wage Increases and Property Taxes

Monday, July 02, 2012
Village of Skokie

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE In a special newspaper insert published on July 1, 2012, Cook County included erroneous and misleading information about Village of Skokie property taxes and wage data. For example, information about the wage increase percentage the Village of Skokie extended to non-union municipal employees over the past year was incorrect. While the report stated that Village employees received 5.5% annual wage adjustments, on May 1, 2012, non-union Village employees were given a 2% wage adjustment. "The Village of Skokie has been extremely prudent with wage increases since the economic downturn began," said Village Manager Albert J. Rigoni. "The 2% wage increase in 2012 for non-union employees follows a 1.5% wage adjustment on May 1, 2011, and a 1% wage adjustment on May 1, 2010. The Village is currently in negotiations with both the fire and police unions, and wage rate increases for union employees have yet to be determined. We are uncertain of the formula Cook County used to calculate the rate of wage increases to municipal employees, but the published figure is incorrect for all Village employees." Except for a few essential positions, vacant municipal jobs have been frozen in Skokie since fall 2008. A total of 22.5 positions remain frozen, for a total annual savings of $1.5 million. In 1990, the Skokie Village Board voted to freeze property taxes. Through austere budgeting, progressive economic development and careful financial planing, the property tax freeze has continued for 21 consecutive years. When the freeze was instituted, Skokie's annual $15.457 million property tax levy comprised 15.2% of an average property tax bill. The Village's 2011 property tax levy also was $15.457 million, which is about 7.08% of an average property tax bill. The Cook County report also contained misleading property tax data, as it included taxes levied by the Skokie Public Library which is a separate taxing district. Further, the property tax data does not reflect numerous property tax abatements adopted by the Village of Skokie. Another indicator of the Village's fiscal responsibility is Skokie's low debt-to-operating budget ration of 56.89% of $1,005 per capita, which, according to a 2010 Cook County report, is lower than more than 90% of other Cook County units of government, including municipalities, schools, park districts and other special taxing districts. According to Rigoni, the Village only issues debt for capital/construction projects, and never to supplement operating funds. "Last week, Fitch Ratings, a financial rating firm, affirmed Skokie's AAA rating on its outstanding general obligation bonds. Skokie's overall low debt rations, diverse revenue sources, successful commercial base and other factors were key to the rating affirmation. In addition, Fitch noted the recent announcement of a Super Walmart development, construction of Oberweis Dairy and renovation of Kaufman's Deli and, of course, the opening of the new Skokie Swift station that is expected to benefit the Illinois Science + Technology Park and spur further economic development in Downtown Skokie," said Rigoni. The Village of Skokie also carries a AAA rating from Moody's, another financial rating firm. Contact: Robert Nowak, Finance Director, 847/93-8247

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