Metro-East News

Swansea proposal calls for higher village property taxes

Firefighters at a burning Swansea home in the 700 bloc of Morgan Street last year.
Firefighters at a burning Swansea home in the 700 bloc of Morgan Street last year. News-Democrat file photo

A 30-year-old fire truck that will need to be replaced is one of the reasons Swansea leaders proposed a plan that could raise village property taxes an estimated 18 percent, or $26 annually, for the owner of a $100,000 home.

A public hearing on the plan will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Swansea Government Center at 1400 N. Illinois St. The Village Board is expected to vote on the proposal on Dec. 7.

Mayor Ken Mueller said he supports the plan. “I think it’s realistic,” Mueller said.

Along with setting aside money for a new pumper for the fire department, the additional revenue also would be used for the police officer and firefighter pension fund, pay for a school resource officer and update the police department’s fleet of vehicles.

Obviously nobody’s ever really in favor of more taxes, but people do expect a level of service.

Trustee Matt Lanter, chairman of the Swansea Village Board’s Finance Committee.

“Obviously nobody’s ever really in favor of more taxes, but people do expect a level of service,” said Trustee Matt Lanter, chairman of the Village Board’s Finance Committee.

When residents dial 9-1-1, they expect police officers and firefighters to show up and Lanter said the village needs to make sure the first responders “have reliable equipment.”

Lanter said a Swansea resident with a $100,000 home now pays $142 in property taxes to the village and if the plan is approved, this homeowner would pay an estimated $168 annually in Swansea property taxes.

Swansea leaders are seeking an increase in what’s officially called the property tax levy, or the amount of money they want from property taxes to help fund village expenses. During December, taxing bodies set their tax levies.

The current property tax levy is $1.3 million in Swansea and the proposal seeks a levy of $1.66 million for a 27.5 percent increase.

Lanter noted that St. Clair County will later set the actual property tax rate so village leaders can only estimate how much residents would pay in Swansea property taxes. He added that the bulk of Swansea’s budget is funded from state sales tax revenue.

The village’s current general fund budget is $5.5 million, with $3.3 million going to the police department.

Here are more details about why the village is seeking the additional property tax revenue:

Fire trucks

One of the trucks Swansea firefighters use is a 1985 pumper. The town has two other pumpers, one is eight years old and the other is 25 years old.

“It’s a pressing issue to start updating the fleet because it really is pretty antiquated,” Lanter said.

1985 Model year of Swansea Fire Department’s oldest pumper

A new fire truck can cost $500,000 to $600,000, Lanter said. Consequently, he recommends the village start saving to fund the purchase of a new truck. A purchasing plan has not yet been set because the proposed property tax levy has not yet been approved, Lanter said.

Currently, there are not property taxes levied for the fire department. The proposal calls for a levy of $125,000.

Pensions

Lanter said the state has mandated that pension funds be funded at 90 percent by 2040. He said Swansea’s police officer and firefighter pension funds are now funded at about 60 percent.

“We have a ways to go but we’re in a lot better shape than most places are,” Lanter said.

Currently, the police pension fund receives $765,000 in property taxes. The proposed increase would be by 2.7 percent to $785,909.

The firefighter pension fund currently has a property tax levy of $45,000 and the proposed increase would be by 57.8 percent to $71,001.

Police department

Swansea wants to hire a school resource officer and update its police department fleet, Lanter said. He said the village has not had a school resource officer for several years.

The property taxes currently extended for police protection total $34,000 and the proposed increase would be $200,000 for an increase of 488.3 percent.

Lanter said about $100,000 would be used to fund the school resource officer position while the remainder would be used for vehicles and equipment.

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