Park Ridge President Steve Menzel. (Metro Wire photo)

Letter: Park Ridge president apologizes for village property tax increase

To the Editor-

I would like to address some of the questions expressed recently regarding the property tax bills that were mailed to Park Ridge Village property owners last month.

As you may recall, in the referendum passed last April, residents overwhelmingly voted to allow the Village to exceed the State-mandated levy limit for its share of the property tax. Specifically, the referendum allowed for a total levy increase of $130,000, or 55.77%, which takes effect on the current 2023 property tax bills mailed in December. An overview and justification for the referendum can be viewed at: https://vi.parkridge.wi.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Referendum.overview-February2023.pdf

Like me, you may have noticed that your tax bill shows the increase in the village’s share of property taxes to be considerably higher than the 55.77% increase specified in the referendum (the increase on my tax bill is 78.5%).

So why the discrepancy?

For some property owners, one factor could be that their property may have increased in assessed value due to recent improvements or a higher valuation. However, for the vast majority of village property owners, the primary factor for the increase beyond the 55.77% is the addition of debt service to the village budget.

For municipalities, payments for debt retirement are calculated separately from the allowable tax levy. The discrepancy this year is due mainly to debt service on a 10-year $200,000 loan the village needed to take in December 2022 to ensure it could remain solvent for the next several years in case the April 2023 Referendum failed to pass. The first payment on that debt ($29,000) is due in February. In addition, the village has also been making annual debt payments of $8,250 for the Linwood Avenue resurfacing project that was completed a few years ago.

The budget revenue needed to make these debt payments is in addition to the standard tax levy, which is why the village’s share of your tax bill increased more than the 55.77% allowed by the referendum.

Thankfully the referendum passed and the increased tax revenues will cover our budget needs for the time being. Regarding the $200,000 loan, it will be refinanced as long-term debt (perhaps a 20-year term) when the village begins addressing infrastructure needs identified in its Strategic Plan (adopted fall 2022) and the Capital Improvement Plan (adopted in November). Initial infrastructure priorities are street reconstruction and new fire hydrants on Hillcrest Drive, Ridgewood Drive and Greenbriar Avenue, projects for which the village has recently submitted two state DOT grant applications. If successful, these grants could pay 50% or more of the street reconstruction portion of each project.

On behalf of the Village Board of Trustees, I apologize for any confusion regarding the additional increase on your tax bill. As fellow residents and property owners, none of us wish to see our taxes go up, but we are committed to keeping the village’s reputation as one of the best places to live in Portage County while maintaining a reasonable and prudent tax burden. Thank you for your trust and understanding.

Steve Menzel