North Cook News

North Cook News

Thursday, November 21, 2019

$1.06M per fire isn’t quite enough for Rolling Meadows property taxpayers

Local Government

By North Cook News | Mar 17, 2017

Fire 13

Glen Ellyn, pop. 27,761, is home to three thousand more people than Rolling Meadows. 

It has $41 million less firefighter pension debt.

For Rolling Meadows homeowners, the difference adds up to about $4,600 per household just for those fire pensions, according to an analysis by Local Government Information Services (LGIS).

Rolling Meadows Alderman Len Prejna is running for Mayor. He supported a plan to expand thev city's fire department. | City of Rolling Meadows

Add in the city’s bonded borrowing, its police and city employee pensions, and the amount every homeowner owes for government debt nearly triples to just more than $12,000.

That’s all against a median Rolling Meadows home value that has fallen 39 percent over the past eight years, from $302,922 in 2007 to $186,000 in 2015, according to Zillow.

Call it a secret second mortgage — one that most property taxpayers didn’t even know they had.

Rolling Meadows Fire Department spending: up 47 percent

As they prepare to head to the polls Apr. 4 to select new leadership, Rolling Meadows taxpayers are fretting over plans to spend $9 million more on their fire department.

The current city council, including two candidates running for mayor, Mike Cannon and Len Prejna, approved a plan to relocate and rebuild both city fire stations.

Cannon voted for one expansion plan. Brejna, who spent 12 years on the Rolling Meadows Board of Police and Fire Commissioners supported another.

A third candidate, political newcomer David Whitney, hasn’t publicly supported either plan. But he said this week on Twitter that the $9 million plan would be “hard to stop.”

An LGIS analysis found Rolling Meadows spent $12.8 million on its fire department last year — $10.1 on current operations and another $2.7 million paying benefits to retired firefighters, who didn’t save enough when they were active employees.

That’s up 47 percent from 2008, when the city spent $8.7 million (inflation-adjusted) — $8.2 million on fire department operations and $471,000 on fire pensions.

The city's population hasn't substantively changed.

Rolling Meadows had a grand total of 12 structure fires in 2016 resulting in $403,850 in losses, according to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (ISFM). Taxpayers paid approximately $1.06 million per fire.

Glen Ellyn, which has a volunteer fire department, had 21 structure fires and saw total fire building losses of $735,240, about $35,011 per fire, versus $33,654 in Rolling Meadows.

Home values in Glen Ellyn fell 19 percent from 2007 to 2015, from $383,000 to $353,000, about half as much as Rolling Meadows from 2007 to 2015.

Rolling Meadows in 2023

The LGIS analysis projected that, if the next eight years are like the last eight years in Rolling Meadows, the median sale price of a home will be $130,551.

A 2015 Chicago Tribune analysis said Rolling Meadows’ effective property tax rate was 2.86 percent, or $5,320 on a median-valued home worth $186,000.

If property values continue to fall and property taxes remain at that level, the average homeowner in the city will have paid $85,114 in property taxes over the previous 16 years — or 65 percent of their 2023 home value.

Rolling Meadows pension debts have skyrocketed over the past 10 years, according to the Illinois Dept. of Insurance. Its police debt has risen 72 percent — to $31.4 million from $18.1 million and the debt for its fire department has risen 124 percent, more than doubling to $35.4 million from $15.7 million.

Of Rolling Meadows’ $107.99 million in public debt, 88 percent ($95.34 million) is from pensions.

The increases are driven by higher public employee salaries and insufficient employee contributions to Rolling Meadows’ public pension funds.

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City of Rolling Meadows City CouncilCity of Rolling Meadows

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