Highland News Leader

Highland eyes plan to raise city sales taxes

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The city of Highland has hired a consultant to study the idea of implementing an additional sales tax on local retail businesses in order to pay for a new public safety building and fund private economic development.

On July 3, the Highland City Council approved a $41,900 contract with Keith Moran of Edwardsville firm Moran Economic Development to develop an outline for creating new business districts that could be subjected to additional city sales tax — as much as 1 percent.

“This plan is projected to provide a revenue source for funding for the new Public Safety Building as well as identify development opportunities, including potential redevelopment of underutilized properties, key future commercial development sites and areas that should be targeted for conservation,” Assistant City Manager Lisa Peck and Police Chief Terry Bell wrote in a joint memo to council members.

“In addition to providing a funding source for public safety needs, the Business Plan will establish goals, provide a general description of the types of projects to be undertaken within the Business District, provide a general land use plan, redevelopment and future development in these areas,” Peck and Bell wrote.

Moran helped the city develop its second tax increment financing district and the Madison County Discovery Zone, a regional enterprise zone of which Highland is a part.

Under a state new law, the Business District Development and Redevelopment Act, non-home rule municipalities, such as Highland, can increase sales tax within a defined area by up to 1 percent, Moran said. That money can then be used to fund development and redevelopment projects within the business districts.

A 1 percent sales tax increase in three areas preliminarily laid out as potential business districts would mean somewhere north of an extra $1 million for the city’s coffers. One district as currently envisioned would incorporate the downtown area and areas along Broadway and Highland Road. A second area would include Northtown, as well as areas along Walnut Street and U.S. Highway 40. The third would be centered along Frank Watson Parkway, much of which is still undeveloped.

Moran said Highland would still be “business friendly,” even with an additional sales tax.

Highland’s total sales tax rate now sits at 7.85 percent. Troy’s overall sales tax rate is the same as Highland’s, though other nearby commerce centers, such as Edwardsville at 8.10 percent, are higher.

“This is going to keep you right in line with most of your neighbors,” Moran said.

If ultimately passed, the new sales tax will only effect 30 percent of general sales, Moran said. Items such as cars and groceries would not be subject to the tax.

Other business

County fair funding approved

The council approved funding for the annual Madison County Fair, which is scheduled for July 25-30. The Madison County Fair Association requested funding in the amount of $4,235 from the city’s hotel/motel tax fund to help offset advertising costs associated with the fair. The money will be used for print and radio ads.

The Madison County Fair Association estimates that this year the fair will draw 60,000 people to the Highland area over the six days of the events. Fair events will include over 1,800 exhibits, a tractor pull, a rodeo, a combine demolition derby, beef shows, hog shows, a 4-H auction, a car and lawn mower demolition derby, Pork Producers BBQ day, races and contests.

AXS renewal approved

The council gave the green light to Highland Communication Services to renew a contract with NTTC, a television provider, that allows the service to carry AXS programming.

In a memo, Angela Imming, the HCS director of technology and innovation, said that AXS is a popular channel that is generally inexpensive. She said HCS currently carries AXS on the basic digital family package, while other providers offer it in higher tier packaging.

Painting bid letting approved

The council approved the bid letting for the repainting of the exterior of the Korte Recreation Center.

In a memo, the Director of Parks and Recreation Mark Rosen said that the rec center is in need of having the outside repainted due to “bubbling” of the paint. He said that the city received input from third-party, independent consultants that recommended proceeding with a process that should help keep the same problems from happening again.

The specifications from the consultants include removing paint, re-caulking joints and repainting the walls window frames and trim of the KRC. This project was part of the KRC’s 2017-2018 fiscal budget and is estimated to cost $90,000. Rosen said that The Korte Co. agreed to manage the project free of charge.

Water, sewer bid letting approved

The council allowed the bid letting for a project that will extend the water and sewer mains. The mains will extend to help service several properties along Highland Road that have recently been incorporated by the city, according to a memo from Joe Gillespie, director of the Public Works Department. The mains will extend from the end of Monroe Street, near Eaton B-Line, and will run along the east and south property lines of the Drake property to Korte & Luitjohan Contractors Inc.

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