Metro-East News

St. Clair County board approves property tax increase

The St. Clair County Board, lead by Chairman Mark Kern, voted to increase property taxes in the county during its Monday night meeting.
The St. Clair County Board, lead by Chairman Mark Kern, voted to increase property taxes in the county during its Monday night meeting. News-Democrat file photo

Even though voters in the county rejected a public safety sales tax increase earlier this month, the county plans to bring in more money this year.

The St. Clair County Board approved a property tax increase on Monday as it went through its annual abatement process.

The County Board in October requested to collect $64.8 million in property taxes. However, the county plans to abate $26.9 million of the amount, and will only collect about $37.8 million in property taxes, according to county documents.

In 2016, the county only collected $32 million after its annual abatement.

Director of Administration Debra Moore said the county’s property tax rate is estimated to increase to 1.0865 per $100 of equalized assessed value. The rate for 2016 was 0.9380 per $100 of EAV.

The owner of a $100,000 house could expect to pay about $40 more this year to the county in property taxes.

Moore pointed to the $5 million the state owes the county for probation services.

“The county has had a practice of abating for many many years, we always anticipate the best, as we should,” Moore said. “We’ve been on good trajectories on some areas, but we cannot counter what the state is doing. The state is not paying the reimbursements that we’re due from them.”

Moore said the county is worried a potential freeze on how much entities collect on property taxes, after annual abatements, will be detrimental to the county.

“It’s coming back to hurt us, because the state is not recognizing the benefit we’re providing to our residents,” Moore said.

Moore said this property tax increase still doesn’t match what the county would have brought in if the public safety sales tax was approved earlier this month.

“This is not a replacement for the referendum,” Moore said. “It’s impossible. The referendum would have generated a lot more money than this.”

She added other entities ask for more in property taxes than the county government.

“I would say if the resident looks at their bill, takes a hard look their bill, they will see, the county is a very small portion of their tax bill,” Moore said. “It’s the school district, typically, the municipality typically that is so much more than the county is.”

County Board member John West was among the county board members to vote in favor of the property tax increase.

“This is truly needed for the sheriff’s department, for probation, health, and I’m going to vote yes for it,” West said.

County Board member Frank Heiligenstein pointed to the state’s financial trouble, as well as the county missing out on $4 million of local property tax money being redirected to tax increment finance districts.

“Going forward on this in an effort at least for one year, I am in support of this because of these circumstances beyond our control,” Heiligenstein said.

Only two County Board members voted against the property tax increase, Republicans David Tiedemann, and Nick Miller, in the 26-2 vote.

“Basically, after the abatement stuff, we had a 15 percent tax increase,” Tiedemann said, who added there was no truth in taxation hearing because the actual levy request wasn’t increased by more than 4.99 percent.

Tiedemann said he would have wanted to see a gradual increase during the last few years, rather than the large bump this year. He added there are townships that have multipliers that will lead to even bigger increases.

“This stuff has not been going on the last 60 days. It has been going on for a number of years. ... Basically last year was the same as it was seven years ago,” Tiedemann said. “They should have been bumping it up half-million or a million a year during that time frame ... This is going to hurt people. There’s going to be some unhappy campers when those tax bills come out in a few months.”

In other action

▪  Frank Scott Parkway planning: County Board members approved an agreement with Oates Associates, of Collinsville, to prepare construction plans, and cost estimates for the widening of Frank Scott Parkway to four lanes from Old Collinsville Road to North Green Mount Road.

The planning and design work, including environmental studies and right-of-way work, is slated to cost about $432,000, highway department officials have said.

▪  Airport workers union deal: The County Board approved a union deal with District 9 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

There are positions for six maintenance workers at MidAmerica Airport, but not all are filled because of budgetary constraints, Airport Director Tim Cantwell has said.

Nate Brown, the attorney that represented the county in the negotiations said only four of the positions are filled.

The contract is for four years. It includes 1.5 percent wage increases for the first three years of the deal, and 2 percent for the fourth year.

Public Building commissioners on Thursday approved the deal.

▪  Work reimbursement: The county is being reimbursed $125,000 by the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Through a grant agreement, the county is receiving money for 11 abandoned houses it has demolished in 2016 and 2017 and for carrying out its clean sweep program, which allows residents to throw away large items such as couches, said Building and Zoning Director Anne Markezich.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

How they voted on the property tax abatement

  • Yes: Robert Allen, Bryan Bingel, Fred Boch, June Chartrand, Carol Clark, Marty Crawford, Willie Dancy, Kevin Dawson, Jerry Dinges, Ken Easterley, Steven Gomric, Susan Gruberman, James Haywood, Frank Heiligenstein, Craig Hubbard, Joan McIntosh, Lonnie Mosley, Roy Mosley Jr., Michael O’Donnell, Stephen Reeb, Paul Seibert, Kenneth Sharkey, Scott Tieman, Bob Trentman, Richard Vernier, John West.
  • No: David Tiedemann and Nick Miller

Property tax revenue

  • 2006 - $27.8 million
  • 2007 - 31.8 million
  • 2008 - $32 million
  • 2009 - $31.3 million
  • 2010 - $35.5 million
  • 2011 - $31.1 million
  • 2012 - $34.2 million
  • 2013 - 31.9 million
  • 2014 - $30.8 million
  • 2015 - $32 million
  • 2016 - $32 million
  • 2017 - $37.8 million