The city of Geneva's Committee of the Whole faced up to a number of big issues Monday night, voting to recommend increasing the city's tax levy and paying more than a half-million dollars for a new, citywide computer software system.
The COW voted 6-1 to recommend approval of the levy and 5-2 to recommend approval of the new computer software system. The full City Council has the final vote, but since the COW is made up of the same group of aldermen as the City Council, the recommendations usually stand.
First Ward Alderman Sam Hill voted against both agenda items. On the computer software issue, he was joined by 2nd Ward Alderman Richard Marks.
If approved by the full council, the city's total levy will go up from $6,261,929 in 2010 to $6,421,027 in 2011. That's an increase of 2.4 percent.
The problem facing all taxing bodies is that the Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) of properties in Geneva are dropping, which means the city has to raise the levy and the tax rate if it is to maintain the same level of services.
"Our charge is to provide the best economic value, not the cheapest," 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra said. "The responsible thing to do is to look at the big picture and ask ourselves, 'How do we continue to provide the level of services people have come to expect?' "
Maladra noted that the tax increase for the average home would be about $11.
"I think an increase of any amount in these economic conditions is contrary to what should be happening," he said.
Meanwhile, council members recommended the purchase of a $515,000 citywide software system that would replace software that's more than two decades old and becoming obsolete.
The new software also would be a big upgrade for Geneva customers as well as city staff, allowing residents to pay bills online, search for data about their billing history and have easier access to city documentation and forms. For the staff, it will decrease duplication of efforts and help communication between departments.
Marks said he had no argument that the old system needed to be replaced but wondered whether the city might have been able to find a software package for less money.
"I just find it hard to believe it’s going to take a half-million-dolar piece of software to do what we need it to do," he said.