Belleville

Belleville panel rejects fee hikes; gaming, liquor proposal denied

Annissa McCaskill, who is director of economic development, planning and zoning for Belleville, also will be the director of the newly created Residential and Commercial Deveopment Services Department.
Annissa McCaskill, who is director of economic development, planning and zoning for Belleville, also will be the director of the newly created Residential and Commercial Deveopment Services Department. News-Democrat file photo

After getting a barrage of protests from business owners Monday night, the Belleville Finance Committee rejected a proposal to raise fees on video gaming terminals and liquor licenses.

The plan would have raised the city’s fee for each gaming terminal from $100 per year to $250 per year. Also, the proposal called for raising liquor license fees for large establishments from $550 a year to $600.

Alderman Trent Galetti made the motion to deny the increase of $150 for the terminal fees and the $50 increase for the liquor licenses. It passed 5-1.

Alderman Jim Davidson called for a “moratorium” on increases and said he didn’t want Belleville to be known as the “taxing” community.

Alderwoman Janet Schmidt was the only committee member to vote to allow the increases.

“I don’t think this is unreasonable,” she said. “I have a number of bars in my district, and I wish them well but I don’t think this is coming out of their pocket. It is coming (from) the people who are gambling.”

Along with Davidson and Galetti, committee Chairman Phillip Silsby and aldermen James Musgrove and Paul Seibert voted against the increase.

Keith E. Schell, chief financial officer for the The Edge, where you can get drinks and watch movies on five screens at 701 South Belt West, urged the committee to vote down the increases.

“Give us an opportunity to grow,” Schell said before the committee voted. “The businesses of Belleville are the lifeblood. You guys have a responsibility to be pro-business. Let businesses flourish. Let them take some money home.”

Schell’s comments were echoed by several bar owners and Alderwoman Lillian Schneider, who is not on the Finance Committee.

The permit fee for a video gaming terminal is $1,000 in O’Fallon, $250 in Collinsville and $25 in Columbia.

If the new fees had been approved, the city would have gained an estimated $12,000 from the fees.

According to the Illinois Gaming Board, the city’s share of gaming revenue in 2014 was about $158,000.

Each bar can only have five video gaming terminals, according to state law.

Belleville voters approved allowing the video gaming terminal in bars and restaurants across the city in 2012.

The plan to raise the fees was scheduled to be voted on later Monday by the full City Council but that item was dropped from the agenda.

Following the Finance Committee meeting, City Council members unanimously hired Annissa G. McCaskill as the city’s next director of economic development, planning and zoning.

McCaskill has previously served in the city of Chesterfield, Mo., as the lead senior planner. She also worked for the city of University City, Mo.

She said it was important for city officials to hear from residents as well as developers.

“I realize that economic development and zoning are very hot button issues for a lot of people because it affects the quality of life, so they at least need an opportunity to be heard,” she said.

Mayor Mark Eckert said he interviewed several candidates to replace Emily Fultz and believes McCaskill is the best candidate. She will earn $72,800 annually and start on April 6.

“She has the tools we need to be the leader of this department, to work with the mayor and other elected officials and staff to grow the city of Belleville,” Eckert said.

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