Metro-East News

St. Clair County Board approves property tax levy, expects abatement

The St. Clair County Board on Monday approved its annual property tax levy, but doesn’t expect to take in the full amount it requested.

The approved total levy is $64.8 million, but in previous years, the county has later abated a large portion of the levy during the upcoming spring before annual property tax bills go out.

Earlier this year, the county board approved an abatement of $29.8 million of the $61.8 million the county requested in its 2015 levy.

County Administrator Debra Moore said the county expects to have an abatement again in the spring, but how much will depend on the equalized assessed property values.

Property tax bills for next year won’t be determined until property values are finalized in the spring.

“We are setting our levy to protect our levy at the maximum allowable limit,” Moore said. “We do not know our equalized assess value yet.”

County Board Member Frank Heiligenstein said requesting the higher amount allows for room to take in more money if needed.

“If we’re ever forced to (become) a tax cap county, we’ve established our ceiling at the $60-some million, and we’re only levying, after an abatement at $30-some million,” Heiligenstein said. “If the tax cap comes in, we’ve got room to move up so we’re not locked in to this $30-some million, when we really need $40 million to operate.”

County Board Member Ed Cockrell voted ‘no’ on the levy. Cockrell is running for County Board of Review and his term as County Board member ends after the November election.

In other action

▪  Front Street work: County board members approved a contract with Baxmeyer Construction to carry out the first phase of the Front Street reconstruction project in East St. Louis.

Baxmeyer was the low bid on the project for $6.39 million, which is expected to take two years to complete. The project includes reconstruction of Front Street from Trendley Avenue in East St. Louis to where the road dead-ends in Fairmont City. The project also includes resurfacing of Trendley Avenue from Front Street to Main Street, the reconstruction of West Missouri Avenue from Front Street to B Street, and reconstruction of B Street from Missouri Avenue to River Park Drive.

The engineers estimate was about $600,000 higher than the amount bid by Baxmeyer, said Jim Fields, the St. Clair County engineer.

The project is being paid for with a mixture of federal, state and private dollars.

A second phase also is planned and would include the construction of a roundabout at the entrance of the Casino Queen, Fields said.

The total estimated cost of the project of $8.1 million, includes the design and engineering expenses.

County Board Member Roy Mosley, Jr. thanked Chairman Mark Kern for the project.

“We’re excited to get this started,” Mosley said.

▪  Rock salt purchase: The County Board approved purchasing rock salt for winter operations from Compass Minerals American Inc. for $52.45 a ton.

St. Clair County plans to purchase 10,260 tons of salt for a total cost of $538,137.

The cost per ton is $11 a ton cheaper than last year, and came in under the $55 a ton budgeted amount for this year, Fields said.

▪  Speed limit changes: County board lowered the speed limit along Cross Street just north of Tamarack Lane the north side of the Interstate 64 overpass in the area of O’Fallon and Shiloh to 40 mph from 50 mph.

They also voted to lower the speed limit along South Lincoln Street from the northside of the I-64 overpass to U.S. Highway 50 to 30 mph from 35 mph.

“With the hospital in the area, and the increase traffic, ... I believe it’s the right thing to do,” Fields said during a Transportation Committee meeting last week.

▪  Church approval: County board members approved a request from Abundant Life Ministries to locate at a former Belle Valley School District building at 100 Andora Drive near Belleville. The Zoning Board of Appeals recommended the church be allowed to move into the former school, which has been vacant for several years.