Residents with a $100,000 home paid about $718 in property taxes to the city last year. This year, that tax is estimated to be about $788. The property tax money is primarily used to pay pensions for police officers and firefighters.
The city’s general fund, which includes the police and fire departments, will be $28 million. This is a 2.18 percent increase from last year’s budget.
In December, city officials had estimated the property taxes for a $100,000 home to increase an estimated $9 but the estimate was changed because of the impact of property tax cuts for disabled vets.
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Last year, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation expanding property tax breaks for disabled veterans. Veterans who have a disability rating of 70 percent or higher do not have to pay any property taxes and other disabled veterans also qualify for property tax breaks.
It raised our levy more than we would like, more than we anticipated but our levy ... goes for primarily paying pensions of the police and firemen and it’s important that we keep them on track to get them fully funded.
Mayor Mark Eckert
When the law was passed, the Illinois Policy Institute said the cost of the tax break most likely would be shifted to other taxpayers.
Finance Director Jamie Maitret said St. Clair County first estimated the assessed value of property in the city at $415 million but later changed the estimate to $394.7 million.
Mayor Mark Eckert said the new tax break for veterans is one of the reasons for the drop in assessed valuation.
Eckert said the county reported there may a few cases where veterans with homes valued at $300,000 to $400,000 will be taken off the property tax rolls in the city.
“It raised our levy more than we would like, more than we anticipated but our levy ... goes for primarily paying pensions of the police and firemen and it’s important that we keep them on track to get them fully funded,” Eckert said.
“We hate any increase,” Eckert said in an interview after the budget was approved unanimously.
The budget takes effect on May 1.
In other business
The council also approved these economic development measures:
▪ Adam’s Auction & Real Estate Services of Belleville was granted about $298,000 in tax incentives to build the St. Clair County Event Center, which will include a restaurant, at 1550 E. State Route 15 on the east side of Belleville. This project is valued at $2.6 million.
Adam Jokisch, president and CEO of the company, will receive an estimated $206,435 in property tax rebates over five years and an estimated $91,206 in state sales tax exemptions for material purchased to construct the center.
Jokisch, who found his company in 1988 and will retain his office at 120 W. Main St., has said the center would host his company’s auctions and possibly be rented out other organizations for events such as car shows.
The development agreement requires the center to be open for at least 10 years. If it closes before then, all public money granted to the center must be repaid to the city.
▪ The council approved the Economic Development and Annexation Committee’s recommendation that the city seek bids for the redevelopment of the Meredith Home at 16 S. Illinois St.
City officials had been in talks with a possible developer for more than a year but those negotiations were closed when the company declined to buy the large, brick building from the city. This company wanted to open retail and office space on the first two floors and apartments on the top four floors.
A potential developer must agree to buy the 1931 building for $500,000 and provide a parking plan that does not reduce the existing number of downtown public parking spaces.
▪ Aldermen OK’d the site plan submitted by developers of the Hofbräuhaus, hotel and restaurant development off Illinois 15 across from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Other sections of the development are expected to include a sports complex with 11 soccer fields developed by Kansas City-based Game On Sports Development and a Jack Flash convenience store developed by Wortman Properties of Effingham.
The Hofbräuhaus German restaurant and brewery, which is already under construction, is scheduled to open this fall. The Keller family of Effingham has not yet announced the hotel brands planned for the site, which has 1,352 parking spaces.
The entire project has been valued at over $100 million and aldermen have approved tax incentives worth up to $38 million based on revenue generated at the site. If all the planned businesses are constructed, the city could reap about $1 million a year in sales tax revenue.
▪ Norcom 2000 Inc., an internet services company, was granted an estimated $16,200 in state sales tax exemptions for material purchased for renovation of its office at 105-107 W. Washington St.
The development agreement calls for Norcom to invest at least $300,000 in the project and remain open for at least five years.
The council approved four-year contracts for three unions. Each contract is retroactive to May 1, 2015, and will end on April 30, 2019. The employees will receive 2 percent raises in each of the first three years of the contract and a 3 percent raise in the fourth year.
Firefighters Local 53, Teamsters Drivers 50 and Laborers Local 459 were the three unions that received new contracts.
Ward 3Alderman Scott Tyler, who is a firefighter, abstained from the vote for firefighters.
Fire Chief Tom Pour said firefighters voted 35-1 in favor of the contract.
“I think everybody is happy we’re moving forward,” Pour said after the council ratified the contract.
In the contract that expired last spring, a probationary firefighter’s starting salary was $49,861. This jumped to $54,696 after the first year. The pay scale topped out at $82,434 for a battalion chief.