Editorials

Collinsville considers more power to tax power

Collinsville now charges a 1.25 percent tax on utility bills but is considering hiking it to make up for budget shortfalls.
Collinsville now charges a 1.25 percent tax on utility bills but is considering hiking it to make up for budget shortfalls. Provided

Every local unit of government — and there were 6,963 of them in Illinois — is scrambling right now to figure out finances. They cannot rely on the state, and they are feeling the whiptail effect of the bad economy and deflated housing values on property tax revenues.

Illinois municipalities may be feeling the effects more than most, because we rely much more heavily on property taxes than our peers. We are double our neighbors in Indiana and Missouri at an average of nearly 2 percent of our homes’ values, or $2,000 per person per year.

So in this tax-weary state it takes some bold leaders to ask for more. Collinsville finds itself in that position.

There may be parks to take over if voters dismantle the Collinsville Area Recreation District. They want to hire at least two of the three street department employees being sought.

Their solution is to bump up the utility tax rate from 1.25 percent. They reason that they are the lowest in the area, with Belleville and East St. Louis at the top charging 5.15 percent.

Yes, that is low by comparison, but some communities charge zero. Collinsville also collects a relatively low property tax rate at $217 per person — about half the amount per person that Belleville, Edwardsville and Granite City collect.

Councilman Jeff Stehman said he is not at City Hall to just cut.

“Are we going to tread water, go backward or move forward?” he said.

Councilwoman Nancy Moss said there should be no new taxes.

“I think the city has to tighten its belt just like everybody else does,” she said.

Whether Collinsville raises utility taxes or not, they need to tread lightly on those who pay the bills. Well-defined goals and assurances that efficiencies were achieved will make the bad medicine go down smoother if the medicine is in fact required.

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