Metro-East News

St. Clair County residents to vote on public safety sales tax

Voters in April will decide whether they’re willing to pay more in sales taxes to bolster public safety purposes.

The County Board on Monday voted 21-4 to place the 1 percent sales tax hike question on the ballot.

The 1 percent sales tax would be in place for 12 years, if voters approved. About $22 million a year would come in, and would be split among several different agencies. The sales tax would not apply to groceries, medication or titled vehicles.

▪  $5.5 million a year for municipalities and unincorporated areas on a per capita basis to be used for police or fire department enhancements

▪  $2 million a year for probation services

▪  $6 million a year for jail modernization and renovations

▪  $1 million for courthouse security renovations

▪  $5.6 million for sheriff’s personnel

▪  $500,000 for a county-wide use police shooting range

▪  $50,000 for a countywide emergency alert system

▪  $250,000 for the State’s attorney’s office

▪  $500,000 to the Metro East Police District Commission for the implementation of the District public safety plan

▪  $200,000 for the coroner’s office

▪  $200,000 to support the Child Advocacy Center, Court Appointed Specials Advocates, senior citizen neglect and abuse prevention programs

▪  $200,000 for Criminal justice information technology integration

Deputy Sean McPeak, who is the vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police 148, which represents St. Clair County Sheriff deputies and corrections officers, spoke in favor of placing the question on the ballot.

He reiterated the money would not go toward subsidizing MidAmerica Airport.

He said in 2010, there were 10,000 calls for service with six to seven deputies on the street. He said call volume has doubled and there are three to four deputies on the street.

“It is crucial this tax passes,” McPeak said. “Our police department is at an all-time low for deputies being on the street. Most of these calls we go on are two-man calls, so we literally have some calls that are hanging for two to three hours at sometimes, and that’s unacceptable for you as the public …The public really needs to feel safe, in this county, and if we pass this tax it can be by adding possibly 10 to 15 deputies on the street and jail.”

Jeff Poignee, who is the recording secretary for the Local 4408 of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, which represents staff members of the St. Clair County Probation department. They supervise about 2,400 people who have been convicted of DUI, aggravated battery crimes, sexual assault, and gun crimes, among other things.

The state owes the county more than $5 million for probation costs.

“The St. Clair County probation department has been understaffed and underfunded for many years,” Poignee said. “This has led to our officers supervising some of the largest caseloads in the state.”

The referendum will appear on the ballot along with a penny sales tax referendum that would benefit school districts in the county for school infrastructure, building and capital needs.

The Rev. Kendall Granger represented the New Life Community Church and the Metro East Police Commission.

He said a successful referendum would help support local police departments improve with manpower, resources and shared services.

“We want public safety, so we could get more businesses, we have several people who want to move back into several areas, but (don’t) because of the lack of public safety,” Granger said.

Frank Heiligenstein, who voted to place the referendum on the ballot, pointed out the sales tax is a regressive tax.

“It’s needed, and the people should have a chance to vote on it,” Heiligenstein said. “We need to keep in mind through this process we have a lot of people in St. Clair county that can’t afford any more taxes and those who are paying the sales tax are the least able to pay that tax, based upon their grocery purchases and clothing and everything else.”

Becoming no-kill in Animal Services

County Board members approved a resolution to become a no-kill county by 2021 by saving all healthy and adoptable dogs and cats by December 2021.

“It’s a laudable goal, but we have a lot of friends who are going to help us,” St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said.

The board also adopted an ordinance to vaccinate all animals upon intake for distemper and parvo. The vaccines will be donated by local animal rescues.

Board vacancies

County board members formally announced two vacancies.

The seats held by Angela Grossmann-Roewe, of Belleville, who represented in District 12, and Oliver Hamilton, of East St. Louis, who held the District 6 seat, which represents part of East St. Louis, both have terms that expire in December 2018.

Grossmann-Roewe was elected to the County Board of Review. Hamilton had to resign because he pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges.

How they voted

In a 21-4 vote, the St. Clair County Board decided to place a 1 percent sales tax referendum on April’s ballot. If voters approve, the additional money would go toward bolstering public safety.

  • Voting Yes: Robert Allen, June Chartrand, Carol Clark, Marty Crawford, Jerry Dinges, Steve Gomric, James Haywood, Frank Heiligenstein, Craig Hubbard, Joan McIntosh, Nick Miller, Lonnie Mosley, Roy Mosley Jr., Mike O’Donnell, Stephen Reeb, Dixie Seibert, Ken Sharkey, Scott Tieman, Bob Trentman, Rick Vernier, John West
  • Voting No: Bryan Bingel, Fred Boch, Kevin Dawson and David Tiedemann