Cicero abates $8.2 million to hold down property taxes
By Ray Hanania
The Town of Cicero Board approved the abatement of $8.2 million in an action recently to help hold down property taxes for Cicero property owners.
Had the abatement not been approved, property taxes would have increased $8.2 million.
Since his election as Town President in 2005, Larry Dominick has made it his priority to hold the line on municipal property tax increases through sound financial management that has been recognized by national and regional financial associations.
President Dominick and the Town of Cicero Board have not issued any requests for borrowing, which creates property tax increases. Instead, President Dominick and the Town of Cicero Board have worked to pay off the existing debt, which was approved just prior to his election, and they have renegotiated the interest rate on the outstanding borrowing to further reduce the burden on taxpayers.
The impact of the Town’s actions have reduced the tax burden but do not reflect increases imposed by the many other government agencies such as the Water Reclamation District, Cicero officials noted.
“Some residents have seen their property tax bills increase but that is mainly because of increases imposed by other taxing bodies including the county and government agencies such as the Water Reclamation District,” said Town Spokesman Ray Hanania.
“We cannot control the taxes imposed by others but President Dominick has made it his priority to increase and maintain the highest level of public services without increasing property taxes. That includes abating taxes and reducing interest rates paid on outstanding borrowings imposed on us by prior administrations.”
Dominick’s sound financial management has been recognized by many regional and national associations that monitor municipal finance.
In recent weeks, Cicero was notified by Standard & Poors that its Credit Rating remains at a strong A-Plus (A+) rating, and it has received three top national honors for its professional and transparent financial reporting procedures.
The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA), a professional association with over 17,500 members, whose purpose is to enhance and promote the professional management of governments for the public benefit by identifying and developing financial policies and best practices and promoting their use through education, training, facilitation of member networking, and leadership, has bestowed upon Cicero its three major awards in budgeting and financial reporting: The Distinguished Budget Presentation Award; The Award for Excellence in Financial Reporting; and, The Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting.
Cicero Finance Director Donald Schultz said that the series of announcements have not only highlighted the strength of Cicero’s financial management on a national scale, but most recently contributed to the Town’s strong credit rating, which helped Cicero achieve a taxpayer savings of $1.5 million on its most recent bond offering.
“The Town of Cicero has the distinction of being one of only a handful of municipalities in the State of Illinois to receive all three national awards of recognition from the Government Finance Officers Association,” Schultz noted.
“The rating from Standard and Poors determines what interest rate municipalities and governments must pay in order to borrow money,” Schultz explained at a recent board meeting.
Schultz pointed out that at the time Larry Dominick was elected the Town President of Cicero, prior administrations had strapped the town with major debt borrowing in excess of $148 million, which has been reduced to $94 million, or 36.5% during Dominick’s first two terms, with no additional long term debt financings.
“It was a terrible debt to unload on Cicero taxpayers, but President Dominick immediately moved to address Cicero’s financial challenges and those efforts have been repeatedly recognized by the financial associations that matter,” Schultz said.
“By maintaining a strong credit rating, President Dominick has been able to renegotiate the loans on four separate occasions to significantly reduce interest rate charges saving taxpayers more than $5.4 million in interest debt payments.”
Schultz said that the reduction is money the taxpayers would have been forced to pay since borrowings are guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the Town through real estate taxes.
The recognition from the Government Finance Officers Association only reinforces Cicero’s attention to careful long-term financial planning and its successful efforts to eliminate debt and reduce the burden on taxpayers.
Of the 485 Illinois cities and counties that are current GFOA members, only six local governments, including the Town of Cicero, have received all three awards, representing only 1.4% of eligible local units of government.
Reflected in the Town’s national recognition is the Award for Distinguished Budget Presentation for the Town’s Annual Budget for the Fiscal Year Beginning January 1, 2013. In its presentation, GFOA states that the Award “reflects the commitment of the governing body and its staff to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting. In order to receive the budget award, the entity had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well an entity’s budget serves as (a) a policy document; (b) a financial plan; (c) an operations guide; and (d) a communications device.” Cicero’s budget was rated proficient in all areas by an independent panel of GFOA national reviewers.
Following its presentation of the highly coveted Award For Distinguished Budget Presentation, GFOA presented the Town of Cicero with its Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial reporting for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the
Fiscal Year Beginning January 1, 2012. “The Certificate of Achievement,” states the announcement, “is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.”
The third Award presented to the Town of Cicero by GFOA was an Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting for the Town’s Popular Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2012. “The Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting,” states GFOA’s award announcement, “is a prestigious national award that recognizes conformance with the highest standards for preparation of state and local government popular reports.”
“These Awards,” announced Schultz, are strong indicators of the Town’s commitment to sound financial management, long-term planning, and transparency in the reporting of the administrations goals, achievements, and results of its financial operations.
Hanania covered Chicago political beats including Chicago City Hall while at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and later for the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.
The recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, Hanania was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hananiaalso received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
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