Belleville aldermen voted Monday to ask for a 12 percent increase in the city’s property levy, which is the amount of property tax funding the city wants for the next fiscal year.
Most of the property tax revenue will be used to support the pension funds for the city’s police officers and firefighters. Other sources of revenue such as sales tax, income tax and utility tax revenue are used to fund most of the city’s day-to-day expenses of running the city.
Along with the pensions, the city also uses property taxes for the Belleville Public Library, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, Social Security, tort liability, health insurance and playground equipment.
Finance Director Jamie Maitret has said the upcoming levy would require the owner of a $100,000 home to pay about $30 to $80 more in city property taxes next year. She said the exact amount this homeowner would pay will not be known until St. Clair County reports the equalized assessed value of all the property in the city. The county is expected to release this amount early next year.
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Belleville’s current levy is about $10.1 million and the new levy is $11.3 million. The police and firefighter pension funds will each receive $3.4 million for a total of $6.8 million.
Ten aldermen voted for the levy increase, one opposed and two abstained.
The pension situation is a problem of immense proportions throughout the state of Illinois.
Mayor Mark Eckert
The 10 aldermen who voted for the levy increase were: Ken Kinsella and Joe Hazel from Ward 1; Jane Pusa from Ward 2; Kent Randle from Ward 3; Johnnie Anthony and Raffi Ovian from Ward 4; Ed Dintelman and Shelly Schaefer from Ward 5; and Andy Gaa and Mary Stiehl from Ward 6.
Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner cast the lone no vote. Ward 3 Aldermen Scott Tyler and Ward 8 Alderman Roger Barfield abstained because of their involvement in the pension plans. Tyler is a city firefighter and Barfield is a retired city police officer.
Three aldermen were absent: Dennis Weygandt and Phil Elmore of Ward 7 and Roger Wigginton of Ward 8.
Before the vote was taken, Buettner said he has received calls from residents who said they were upset about the increase.
“They’re on fixed incomes and it becomes a burden,” Buettner said. He said he’s not opposed to the employees receiving their pensions but he asked if there was another way to handle the pensions without knocking the sales tax too high.
Eckert said city officials before the late 1990s routinely underfunded the pension funds, but in the late 1990s, a state law was passed that required municipalities support the funds and since then he said the city has been funding the pensions.
Eckert, who is president of the Illinois Municipal League, said the organization is seeking ways to find a solution to the underfunded pensions across the state.
“The pension situation is a problem of immense proportions throughout the state of Illinois,” Eckert said.
In other business
The City Council and Eckert honored Charlie Woodford and Bob Goalby for their service to the community. The football field at Belleville East is named after Woodford and the field at Belleville West is named after Goalby.
Woodford was elected the first president of the Belleville East Lancer Booster Club in 1973 and has attended Belleville East football games for over 50 years and only missed three, according to the proclamation signed by Eckert.
Goalby won the 1968 Masters in golf and has been active in charitable events throughout the community, according the city’s proclamation.