Despite requests to either keep the Belleville Township levy at about the current level or to increase it, the township board has decided to reduce the township’s levy by 23 percent.
In one of the Belleville Township board’s last major moves before the city takes over the agency’s duties in May, the board voted 3-2 Tuesday to lower the levy from $343,000 to $264,000. The levy is the amount of property taxes the township is seeking for the coming fiscal year.
That means taxes could be going down slightly.
Under the current levy, the owner of a $100,000 home paid about $24 in property taxes to the township. St. Clair County will later set the tax rate for the township after the assessed valuation of the property in the township is determined.
If the assessed valuation remained the same, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $19 in property taxes to the township, according to township Trustee Michael Hagberg.
The township board and the Belleville City Council have each passed ordinances calling for the township to be dissolved and for the city to take over the township’s duties in May.
Trustees Joy Schreiber, Joe Swierczek and Hagberg voted for the lower levy, and supervisor Dennis Korte and trustee Joe Hubbard voted against the levy. Korte and Hubbard were members of the Good Government Party that has since been dissolved, while Hagberg, Schreiber and Swierczek joined the board as independents.
I think there’s a few of them that want to brag that they cut the taxes, but they know they won’t be in the position to have to make a decision if we can’t meet the needs and we have to adjust it in the future.
Mayor Mark Eckert
Korte declined to comment on the vote.
Hubbard said he thought the township should give the city more of a “cushion” before handing over the township’s responsibilities to the city. He also noted that the city could raise the levy next year. He believes there is an increasing number of people who need help from the township and that the amount of assistance given to the needy individuals should be increased.
Hagberg, who introduced the motion for the levy request of $264,000, said in a statement, “I feel good that we were able to increase spending on social programs and community projects while eliminating unneeded overhead and reducing the levy by 23 percent.”
With the city taking over the township, there would not be any costs for rent of the township building at 111 W. A St. and for salaries of elected officials.
State lawmakers approved a bill that allowed the city and township board to vote on ordinance to close the township without a vote by the public.
I feel good that we were able to increase spending on social programs and community projects while eliminating unneeded overhead and reducing the levy by 23 percent.
Township Trustee Michael Hagberg
The township, which has the same borders as the city of Belleville except for a few sites recently annexed by the city, is tasked with providing assistance to needy individuals. Recipients typically get $245 a month in gift cards to discount stores or help in paying rent. The township also gives aid to community groups.
Belleville Township was founded in 1885, while the city was founded in 1814.
The Township Transition Task Force, which began meeting in June, recommended in November that the township tax levy be returned to the 2015 amount of $488,000 while Mayor Mark Eckert asked the board to not cut the levy “significantly.”
“With the transition of this being in the process and with the state of Illinois being as inconsistent as they’ve been with any budget whatsoever, I just ask that you be very cautious of not to cut anything significantly until we can get a better handle on everything that is changing. That would be my request,” Eckert told the board members before they voted.
After the vote, Eckert said he wished the board had not cut the levy as much as they did.
He said the city still has to determine how much it will cost the city to absorb the township’s duties, and he is concerned that the state could make cuts that affect the needy in the metro-east.
“I would have rather have them go a little bit slower,” Eckert said of the township board.
“I think there’s a few of them that want to brag that they cut the taxes, but they know they won’t be in the position to have to make a decision if we can’t meet the needs and we have to adjust it in the future,” Eckert said.
In other business
The township board unanimously approved $15,000 for hotel vouchers to be given to homeless people during extremely cold weather. Catholic Urban Programs will oversee the vouchers. This was same amount the township board authorized last year.
The board also approved giving $7,000 to the 17th Street Corridor Neighborhood Association, which runs a summer camp for kids.