Both mayoral candidates agree property tax relief is foremost on O’Fallon residents’ minds, but differ on how to reduce it.
City Clerk Phil Goodwin said he wants a percentage of new sales tax revenue dedicated to that effort, in addition to using surplus reserves, while Alderman Herb Roach proposes a roll back of the most recent property tax increase.
The city’s 2016 tax levy is $5.7 million. Goodwin said his plan would reduce the levy to $4.6 million, a 18.2 percent reduction. The city portion of the tax burden on a $200,000 home would drop from $590 to $482 the first year.
In his official statement, Goodwin said that he is the only candidate with a plan. Roach fired back that he is on record opposing seven tax hikes since being elected in 2011.
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“He has never once spoken out until now. He has been city clerk for 16 years. Look at my voting record. I voted seven times to reduce or freeze the city’s portion of property taxes,” Roach said.
Goodwin said you can’t find Roach’s plan on his website or Facebook page. “He has been an alderman for six years and has never proposed a property tax relief plan. If he does have one, then why did he wait until I announced mine to release it six weeks before the election,” he said.
Goodwin said his plan would dedicate $1 million annually over the next four years from the city’s surplus reserves toward property tax relief, in addition to dedicating 20 percent of all new sales tax revenue toward property tax relief each year.
“This plan returns money back to the homeowners and still keeps a healthy reserve for our city to remain in strong financial condition,” Goodwin said. “In addition, I have found that the water department has a $3 million surplus, and I intend to lower water rates to return that money to all water users.”
Goodwin said Roach has sat on the city’s finance committee and could have offered solutions long before his mayoral run.
“He had full access to all the city’s records and was a key retractor in the water lease issue. Why didn’t he find the surplus? I found it in two weeks’ review and then put forth a plan to return the surplus to the residents of O’Fallon both through property tax relief and water rate reductions,” he said.
Goodwin calls his nine-point proposal his “Prosperity Plan.” One of the points would be an ordinance that dedicates 20 percent of all new sales tax revenue to reduce the city’s property tax levy each year.
Over the last three years, O’Fallon has generated an additional $718,568 in sales tax revenue due to new businesses and increased traffic at existing businesses, Goodwin said.
Such major retailers as Menards, Gander Mountain and Academy Sports have opened. St. Elizabeth’s Hospital will open in the fall.
Since 2013, sales tax revenue has increased from $6.91 million to $7.63 million. Current projections are for it to increase by 3.75 to 4 percent each year.
“This is a win-win for the homeowners of O’Fallon and the growth of our city,” Goodwin said. “It allows for property tax relief and additional revenue to keep our city’s economic development efforts forward.”
Roach explained how his rollback plan would work.
“Cash reserves currently on hand can easily meet this need for revenue while preserving the amount needed to keep O’Fallon’s good bond rating,” Roach said.
“It’s very simple, straight-forward. The amount of money would be about $350,000,” he said.
Roach dismissed Goodwin’s plan.
“That would be 20 percent of the excess. If you boil it down, a homeowner with a $150,000 home would get back something like $2,” he said.
Working with the City Council to rein in the taxes and fees that have burdened residents and businesses is one of his campaign commitments, Roach said.
“We will not add new fees or increase the cost of current city fees for services. We will study our current fees to assess whether the fee can be reduced or eliminated and will apply best business practices to simplify processing methods for those that are needed,” he said.
“I know the impact this is having on people,” he said. “In my ward, I know of 11 homes — people who lived there between 10 and 31 years — and they were adamant that they might have to move because of taxes. Ten of the 11 have left. We’ll have to watch more and more good solid people leave. We need to take care of our residents instead of over-taxing people.”
Goodwin said continued economic development efforts is the key to property tax relief.
“The strong economic development efforts of our city have netted positive results to our resources. As mayor, I plan to continue those efforts so we can generate more sales tax revenue and provide greater property tax relief every year,” he said.
Goodwin noted that St. Elizabeth’s is projected to bring 250,000 visitors to the city.
“More traffic to our city means more buyers in our stores and more sales tax revenue,” he said. “The more sales tax revenue, the more property tax relief.”
For more information, visit the candidates’ websites:
▪ Herb Roach: herbroachcares.com
▪ Phil Goodwin: goodwinformayor.com
Mayoral candidate forum is March 23
The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce, O’Fallon Progress and the O’Fallon Weekly will co-host a candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. March 23 for O’Fallon mayoral and city clerk candidates. The forum will be in the O’Fallon City Council Chambers, 255 S. Lincoln in O’Fallon. A forum moderator will introduce all candidates, ask questions, manage time and maintain proper decorum. The public is invited to attend the forums; seating will be limited. The forum will also be broadcast live on Charter Cable Channel 993 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. It will also be streamed live and available for replay under the Video on Demand button on the homepage, ofallon.org.