By Meridith Jumisko
Zion-Benton News staff
Many years ago, Winthrop Harbor Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7448 created a war memorial at the Ninth Street entrance of Village Park. It has seen its share of vandalism over the years, including during the past month. At Tuesday’s regular village board meeting in Winthrop Harbor, Richard Coombe, Jr. with the VFW urged the board and police department to get the word out about the latest incident.
It’s estimated that $3,000 in damage was done: lights were smashed and the eternal flame was taken. It was discussed to add another security camera to the park; this one will focus on the memorial. The cost of the camera will be donated by the VFW, or a veteran who services security cameras. The message to be shared, according to Trustee Dana McCarthy, is to remind everyone this is a community memorial.
Among the services/ceremonies that take place for the public at the memorial are Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs. Residents have purchased bricks for the walkway in honor of or in memory of veterans. A proposed upcoming addition to the memorial – at no cost to the village – is a decommissioned M4 Sherman tank from Fort Sheridan.
Everyone should take pride in the memorial and what it stands for, be respectful of it, and also be vigilant. Report any suspicious activity to the police department.
The VFW gives a lot back to the community, including during Tuesday’s meeting. The new commander of the local VFW post, Dave Stewart, presented $500 checks for the local Toys 4 Our Tots program, the recreation department’s basketball program and the public works department.
On Dec. 17, the VFW will be holding its annual Sailors Christmas Party for 100-125 people from Naval Station Great Lakes, with another 40 food boxes sent back for those who can’t attend.
Meanwhile, trustees approved the 2016 Tax Levy Ordinance, with Buddy Hargett voting no and Robert Marabella absent. “The tax levy is an ordinance that provides revenue to the Village through the Property Taxes of the residents of the Village. The tax levy help fund areas including public safety such as our Police and Fire departments,” according to Lisa Shaw, Director of Finance and Human Resources for the village.
“Although the Village itself does not assess the taxes, which is the tax assessor’s job, the formula based on receiving revenue from property taxes are based on the total Village’s “EAV” or Equalized Assessed Value. In at least the last five years, the “EAV” has decreased significantly due to economic conditions,” Shaw explains. “However, people may not see their taxes go down, and wonder why if the value of their property has decreased, then why doesn’t their property taxes go down? This is a very valid question, and it is based on other taxing bodies besides the Village in which the tax rates have increased.”
“The Village portion of the individual property tax bill has been consistently 11 percent over all. For example, out of a $5,000 annual tax bill, the Village’s portion is only $550,” Shaw shares. “The 2015 tax rate for the Village portion was 1.605. The proposed rate will be 1.619, which is very insignificant. The actual numbers will not be approved until around April 2017 when the County is completed with the process.” The tax rate will then be reflected in the property tax bill that is due in June 2017.
Hargett later explained his vote. He feels the budget can absorb what money is needed and more can be done to increase the value of village properties so that residents aren’t taxed an additional amount.
In addition, permission was granted for a group of residents, including Trustee Kimberly D. Braden, to hold a large barbeque competition at Village Park next October and to waive all fees. The group is not asking for the village to pay for anything.
Also noteworthy, Braden pointed out that the village has recently lost two residents important to the community: Mary Harris and William Blagg Sr. Harris was married to the late S.A. "Jimmie" Harris, who was very involved in the community. Blagg served as fire chief in the early 1970s and built “The William Blagg Nature Trail” in town.
Last weekend, Lunch with Santa, the Holiday Light Parade, and the Tree Lighting Ceremony were held. Also held on Dec. 3 was the first of four Harbor Forums, with mayoral, trustee and village clerk candidates. Sponsored by Cornerstone Realty Group, the next forum will be held Jan. 21.
This Saturday, Dec. 10, the recreation department’s annual craft show will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Schlader Recreation Center.