Population growth, record home sales allow Wilmette officials to gush about village’s financial state
“This is the strongest financial position the village has ever been in.”
Delivered with confidence and optimism, the statement from WIlmette Village Manager Mike Braiman crowned a flowery budget overview presented to the Village Board on Oct. 12.
Braiman said the circumstances include ample reserves and a growing community that welcomed in 2021 a record total of real-estate transactions, which will top 700 and provide the Village of Wilmette with about $1.8 million in tax dollars.
According to recently released data from the 2020 U.S. Census, Wilmette has a population of 28,170, an increase of about 4 percent, or 1,083 people, since the 2010 census.
The resident bump means more local spending and more state dollars to support Wilmette, said Braiman, who thanked residents for participating in the census.
“It’s an exciting time to be a village resident, business owner or employee,” Braiman told The Record in a followup call. “ … We are really able to mitigate the impact of our operations on our residents and taxpayers.”
The Village plans to propose a 2.46 percent tax levy, which would be the lowest such increase in 24 years, budget documents show. At that percentage, the average Wilmette family will pay about $50 more in property taxes to the Village of Wilmette in 2022. The levy was set at 3.97 percent for 2021.
Village officials are calling for a $40 increase — from $175 to $215 for the year — to residents’ stormwater utility fee. The 23 percent bump is actually $77 less than the increase first projected when the project was approved five years ago, Braiman said.
Future Village estimates show the stormwater fee staying the same in 2023 and rising to $230 in 2024.
No increases are planned to other resident fees, such as refuse, sewer, water and vehicle-sticker, according to village documents.
According to Braiman the added taxdollars from the levy increase will support a $400,000 increase in staffing and $125,000 in services, such as snow removal, tree trimming and landscaping.
In 2021, Wilmette plans to add three full-time employees — a temporary police officer to guide succession planning, a temporary business inspector and a financial analyst — and a part-time employee (business intern), as well as convert a code-enforcement officer of leaf blowers and tree protection to full-time.
The Village will also add contracted snow-clearing services to complement its in-house staff for “quicker turnaround” across Wilmette.
Sales-tax revenue in 2021 is another success story for the Village, with an assist from the State of Illinois, which now turns over 2 percent of local digital retail sales back to municipalities. Village documents show 2021 sales tax dollars increased 8 percent from the pandemic-affected 2020, and the 2022 budget is projecting an 11 percent increase from 2021.
Income tax is on the rise, too, netting the Village a projected $3.5 million in 2021. A number officials call “unprecedented.”
For Wilmette’s financial state, Braiman credits the Wilmette Village Board and village staff for strategies that have built fund reserves from $2.6 million in 2009 to nearly $15 million at the start of 2021.
One particular initiative he pointed out was the Village’s decision to consistently overcontribute to pension liabilities. Braiman said that paying more recently will save the village $40 million dollars over the next 20 years.
In 2022, the Village plans to use $500,000 from its reserves to contribute to its new pension-spending plan. The contribution fits with the Village’s reserve drawdown plan to pull funds from its coffers — $2.2 million in 2021 — to limit the burden on taxpayers. Braiman said the reserves will remain at or above 30 percent of budget, in line with a Aaa bond rating.
In all, the circumstances create a $10.37 million shortfall — $79.4 million in revenues vs. $89.77 million in spending — in the Village’s 2022 operating funds. That figure is explained, according to Braiman, by the $2.2 million in planned reserve spending and more than $8 million for the Neighborhood Storage Project that was “preborrowed” in 2021 to capture low interest rates.
The Village will spend that $8 million in 2022 as part of $28.5 million for the major project. In total, Wilmette is planning on $40.66 million in capital spending next year.
The overall budget — which includes pension and retirement contributions, debt service and more — contains $112.48 in expenditures to counter $107.84 in revenue.
An overview of the budget will again be presented at the Village Board’s meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 26, followed by a potential workshop on Nov. 2, budget consideration on Nov. 23 and the property-tax adoption measure on Dec. 7.
The Record is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community newsroom that relies on reader support to fuel its independent local journalism.
Subscribe to The Record to fund responsible news coverage for your community.
Already a subscriber? You can make a tax-deductible donation at any time.
Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319