Wheatland residents may not believe their eyes when they see next year’s tax bill. Thanks to a 5-0 vote by the township board, the Wheatland portion of the bill will be a whopping $0.
The 100 percent tax abatement means a $0 levy, compared to the $978,868 levied last year. The tax break for homeowners is due to a large reserve that was once intended to be used to build a new, $1.5 million township building on 103rd Street.
“There was a significant surplus built up over the years to build the building that’s not going to be built,” Township Supervisor Chuck Kern said. “This is the most efficient way to refund the money [to taxpayers].”
Under previous supervisor Todd Morse, plans were in the works to build a new facility on a nearly two-acre parcel of land on 103rd Street. But voters balked at the proposal, and held a special meeting of electors in 2011. Residents voted overwhelmingly to scrap the plan, and ultimately directed the township board to sell the 103rd Street land.
Last year, building code violations at the old facility on 91st Street put an end to any hope of renovating that site. After essentially gutting the building, the township moved into rental space at a strip mall at 12337 S. Route 59 in Plainfield.
Over the summer, the newly elected township board secured voter approval to allow the township supervisor and assessor’s offices to move into the highway building, 4232 Tower Ct. in Naperville.
While the supervisor’s office has already moved, Kern said renovations are tentatively scheduled to start in February to get the property ready for the assessor’s office to move in. The project, slated to start in February, is estimated to cost about half a million dollars, he said.
Renovations at the highway department could be funded by the sale of the former township building, according to Kern, who said a buyer is currently under contract to purchase the 91st Street site for $440,000. The deal could close as soon as next week, he said.
Kern credited Highway Commissioner Mark Troyanowski for allowing the township offices to move into the highway building, saying the partnership will save the township $60,000 a year in rent payments.
One-year tax holiday
Kern said the 100 percent tax abatement — a first in Wheatland history – won’t impact how much the township will be able to levy in the future.
“Next year, the base will be the average of the last three years’ levy,” he said. “We’re allowed to [abate the taxes] one time — we can’t do it next year because then we’d have to stay at zero,” Kern said.
“This is the first time in history of the township that residents have not been taxed by the township board," he added, but noted that the township will be able to offer the same level of service for residents using reserve funds.
“This board ran for office in April on the principles of not building a new building, consolidating township properties, not taking a pension and abating property taxes for 2014,” Kern said. “We have accomplished all of these objectives in a short six months. We have shown that government can be effective and representative of the people.”