Editorials

Belleville bucks tell a story that’ll make you cry

Belleville’s revenue for the 2016 fiscal year included $18.6 million in property taxes collected within tax increment financing districts. The year ended with $9 million in TIF dollars unspent. Taxpayers should expect city leaders to explain why they took twice as much as they used.
Belleville’s revenue for the 2016 fiscal year included $18.6 million in property taxes collected within tax increment financing districts. The year ended with $9 million in TIF dollars unspent. Taxpayers should expect city leaders to explain why they took twice as much as they used. Photo illustration

Belleville recently published its annual treasurer’s report for the past fiscal year, which depending on your outlook is either a great cure for insomnia or a cause for high blood pressure.

The taxes you paid included: $19.4 million in property taxes; $12.5 million in sales taxes; $3.4 million in utility taxes; $209,443 in gambling fees; $192,100 for crime-free housing; $139,270 for occupancy permits; $60 for bonfire permits, undoubtedly from Lindenwood students.

Grand total for city revenues: $95 million.

Now most of that money is in special funds. Only about 28 percent of that is in the general fund that runs basic city services.

The general fund revenue was $26.5 million, but the city spent $500,000 more than that. The money came out of the fund’s surplus, which ended the year $3 million in the black.

The city’s tax increment financing funds are the part of this story where we see the BP rise. There are 19 of the districts. They collected $18.6 million in new money, also known as your property taxes.

They ended the year with a $9 million surplus.

Now, the city can’t willy-nilly use that money for just any need, such as cops on your street. That money is supposed to stay in the district for infrastructure that will lead to economic development.

That said, one of the tax increment funds has a zero balance. Five others were in the red. The monster, TIF 3 that covers much of the city, took in $11.3 million.

Final note: Compare $11.3 million in that single district to the $26.5 million in the general fund. Getting darned close to half.

The city’s own numbers make it clear that tax increment financing drives up property taxes. That $18.6 million comes from somewhere, and that somewhere is your pocketbook.

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