Belleville aldermen unanimously agreed Monday to permanently keep a 0.25 percent sales tax that was first charged to replace the city’s wheel tax over five years ago.
The sales tax produces about $1.1 million annually and supports the $28 million general fund used to pay for the city’s day-to-day operations.
The sales tax was scheduled to expire this year because in 2013 aldermen voted to put a four-year sunset on the tax.
On Monday night, aldermen decided to keep the tax and remove the sunset clause. This keeps the total sales tax in Belleville at 8.1 percent and at 9.1 percent in special business district where an extra 1 percent is charged to help pay for development costs of shopping centers. Some purchases are either exempt or don’t get the full sales tax rate, including vehicles, groceries and prescription drugs.
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Mayor Mark Eckert called for aldermen to keep the sales tax because the money is sorely needed. He said across the city, 20 positions are open because of a funding crunch.
My fear is that if we make this tax permanent at this point in time, there will not be opportunity for this council to readdress ... changes in the city’s financial situation going forward.
Kent Randle, Ward 3 alderman
“The only place that we can cut anymore would have to be in essential services of police and fire,” Eckert said.
Other revenue sources are down and the city’s share of the state income tax revenue was down $500,000 in the last fiscal year, Eckert said.
“And that’s just because people are moving out of Illinois,” Eckert said. He noted businesses are also leaving the state.
Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle acknowledged the 0.25 percent sales tax is necessary this year, but he introduced a motion requiring the City Council to review the tax in four years.
“My fear is that if we make this tax permanent at this point in time, there will not be opportunity for this council to readdress ... changes in the city’s financial situation going forward,” Randle said.
Ward 8 Alderman Roger Wigginton countered: “Four years down the road, I would love to say that we could rescind that.” But he doesn’t see the economic climate improving that much in the next four years, and the city won’t be able to rescind the tax. “I think you’ve got to be very cognizant of the fact we need this money.”
Randle’s motion was defeated 11-3. Along with Randle, Ward 5 Alderman Ed Dintelman and Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore voted for the sunset clause.
The following aldermen voted to drop the sunset clause: Ken Kinsella, of Ward 1; Jane Pusa, of Ward 2; Scott Tyler, of Ward 3; Johnnie Anthony and Raffi Ovian, of Ward 4; Shelly Schaefer, of Ward 5; Andy Gaa and Mary Stiehl, of Ward 6; Dennis Weygandt, of Ward 7; and Wigginton and Roger Barfield, of Ward 8.
I think you’ve got to be very cognizant of the fact we need this money.
Roger Wigginton, Ward 8 alderman
Two of the 16 aldermen were absent: Joe Hazel, of Ward 1, and Mike Buettner, of Ward 2.
Finance Director Jamie Maitret noted that the state gives the city two times each year — April 1 and Oct. 1 — to decide whether to make changes in the amount of sales tax it wants to collect.
Four years ago, the council voted 9-7 to have the tax expire in 2017.
The 0.25 percent sales tax first went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. It replaced the wheel tax that called for residents to pay $20 annually for each vehicle they owned.
West Main development
Aldermen unanimously approved a $235,000 TIF grant for developer Adam Hill, who plans to tear down two vacant apartment buildings on West Main Street and replace them with single-family homes and villas.
The Rob Nora apartment complex, at 7009 W. Main St., and the Forest Hills apartment complex, at 8512 W. Main St., are scheduled to be razed.
Eight villas with a base price of $185,000 are planned for the Rob Nora site, and two homes with a base price of $165,000 are planned for the Forest Hills site, Hill said.
Hill values the project at $2.65 million. Demolition is expected this fall with a ground-breaking in April.
Residents who live near the apartment complexes have said they look forward to the new development on West Main Street.