City Council decides on three percent tax levy

By Gary Scott on December 13, 2016 at 8:37am

There was considerable discussion at last night’s City Council meeting over the 2016 tax levy.

The council was rather divided over whether the tax levy should be five percent as it was originally proposed, or lower. Eventually, after several motions, aldermen decided on a three percent tax levy.

Alderman Steve Warmoski sparked the discussion by making a motion for a two percent tax levy rather than five percent, which failed to pass. Following that motion, alderman Don Cook offered a compromise tax levy of 3.75 percent, which Warmoski seconded.

Subsequently, Warmoski made another motion for a three percent tax levy, which the Council eventually agreed upon. Warmoski explains his reasoning behind the motions for a lower tax levy.

“Two years, ago there was some back-and-forth on the property tax rate and we could’ve had, I think 3.75, but we ended up getting 4.25, and I was holding out for a lower amount. So I made the decision ahead of time, just to be theoretical, that I wanted to get as low property tax rate as we can. After we got to 3.75, I made the motion, and it was seconded, to get to three percent, so that at least covers the pension contributions we have to make, with some wiggle room for some improvement that need to be made,” says Warmoski.

Alderman Cook talks about his initial compromise of 3.75 percent and explains some of the ramifications of a three percent tax levy.

“We’re trying to do the best we can for the citizens of Jacksonville. Our cap is always at five percent and it was pretty obvious tonight that there was some divide between council members, so what I offered up was 3.75, but we eventually settled on three percent. It’s still going to give us enough money to cover the pensions and the library costs, with a little left over for the general fund, but there’s probably going to be some capital improvement projects in jeopardy,” says Cook. .

Warmoski says it’s important for the Council to try and make Jacksonville a place where people want to live, and explains how a lower tax levy could help.

“I’ve been an advocate for bringing more amenities to Jacksonville that would bring more businesses and more residents to the town to make Jacksonville a place that people want to live. If we have growth of businesses and growth of property in town, then if we have to increase a little bit, it won’t increase your property taxes because we have a higher tax base. I look back to up to 2012 and there’s been no increase in the tax base, so the City Council, I think, needs to keep that in mind. If the city’s not growing, we can’t just keep growing the city government, because somewhere down the line there’s going to be a reckoning,” says Warmoski.

There was also a number of audience members who came to share their thoughts on the tax levy situation. All of those who spoke advocated for a tax levy of less than five percent.

Aldermen also passed ordinances amending city code for alcoholic beverages at both Shopko and the Fairgrounds.