Belleville

Belleville Township is going away. Does that mean your taxes could go up?

A task force appointed to make recommendations to the Belleville City Council on how the city can take over the Belleville Township urges aldermen to consider reinstating the township’s tax levy that the township board had reduced by nearly a third last year.

This is one of the recommendations in a report released by the Township Transition Task Force, which has been meeting since June.

On Monday night, aldermen agreed to receive the task force’s recommendations. Mayor Mark Eckert said the city staff will review the task force’s recommendations and that he expects the City Council to address the tax levy issue next month.

Bill Kreeb, the chairman of the task force, gave a presentation on behalf of the task force.

“Belleville has always been known for trying to address the needs of the people in our community and so we believe these recommendations will enable you to accomplish that,” Kreeb told the council.

Joy Schreiber, a township board trustee, told the council that the township’s funding is strong and that a tax increase is not necessary.

Michael Hagberg, another township trustee, also spoke to the council and said the township’s tax levy could be reduced.

“By transferring the function of the township, we will eliminate much of the existing overhead,” he said in statement. “No longer will the township have to pay for rent, utilities, salaries of the supervisor, four trustees, a clerk, secretary or bookkeeper. The elimination of these and other expenses should result in a property tax reduction.

“Let me be very clear that I recommend the general assistance, community projects and social programs continue to be funded at their current levels.”

The Rev. Rob Dyer, pastor of the First United Presbyterian Church in Belleville, told the aldermen, “There is a growing need in this town. We see it on the front lines of helping people on the streets of Belleville on a regular basis.

“I just want to encourage you to consider what you can do to increase the city’s commitment to putting together funding resources so that we can address these issues in an organized manner as a community,” Dyer said.

The process to dismantle the township began after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill in 2015 that had bipartisan support to allow the township to be dissolved if both the township board and the city council voted to allow the city to take control of the township. The two local boards then passed legislation calling for the city to take over the township in May.

The township, which was founded in 1885, is tasked with giving aid to needy individuals, who can receive up $245 a month in aid such as discount store gift cards or rent assistance. It also gives grants to community organizations.

State lawmakers and local officials said they supported the legislation to dissolve the township because they expected the consolidation to save taxpayers money.

The owner of a $100,000 home in the township, which has nearly the same borders as the city of Belleville, paid $23.95 in property taxes to support the township this year, down from $33.29.

Last December, the township approved a levy of about $343,000, down from the previous levy of $488,000.

The levy is the amount of property tax revenue that a taxing body wants to collect to operate in the coming year. The township’s primary source of money is from property taxes.

“The task force is recommending both to the present township trustees and to the city of Belleville that there be no further reductions in the tax levy … until the comprehensive assessment of the entire program be completed and that the city of Belleville consider reinstating the tax levy that was recently reduced by almost one-third,” according to the report.

Other recommendation of the task force include:

▪  All duties of the township be placed under the city’s Community Development/Human Resources Department. Sherry Favre was appointed last month to be the interim director of this department.

▪  Two and one-quarter staff positions be assigned to carry out the duties now handled by the township. The township currently has two full-time employees. The one-quarter position would be the coordinator and this person could be director of the Community Development.

▪  The director of Community Development should assess the current duties of the Township Supervisor Dennis Korte and the responsibilities of the staff to assure that the duties of the township are carried out.

▪  The city’s Finance Department should be responsible for all financial transactions.

▪  An official application process should be developed for groups seeking grants.

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