Champaign City Council plans to adopt new tax levy

By Angelica Lavito

The Champaign City Council moved forward with a plan to adopt the same estimated property tax levy as last year at Tuesday’s meeting.

A study session was held to adopt an estimated tax levy. The council voted 7-2 to move forward with the option to levy at the same adopted rate as last year, and members will vote at the Dec. 5 meeting.

Although a report to the council recommended levying at the same overall amount as the past three years, which would increase property taxes from $1.3152 per one hundred dollars to $1.3324, the council chose not to follow the recommendation.

Levying at the same adopted rate as last year will decrease the overall tax levy amount by $257,882 and the Corporate (General Fund) Levy by $215,667. However, Mayor Don Gerard said the new sources of revenue would cover the difference.

Gerard said the implementation of a local motor fuel tax and a one-quarter percentage point sales tax increase will provide the city with funds to cover paying for city services.

“We have discretionary funds, and it is my feeling that as the recession subsides and as property values are going up, we need to make a statement and say we’re going to have police, fire and other services to be a shared responsibility of anybody who visits our city, not just those who happen to own property here,” Gerard said.

Champaign City Council member Marci Dodds voted against this plan because she supported the other option to levy at the same overall amount as the prior three years. Dodds said she supported the alternative because projections show the city will face a structural deficit, and the council should begin addressing that issue now.

“To me, this was a short-term feel-good moment that will come at a long-term possibly painful cost,” Dodds said.

“As much as we love to be able to say we were able to hold the tax rate and return some money to people’s pockets, we have to be realistic.”

City Council member Karen Foster agrees there is a deficit, but thinks the council can make up for it using the funds from the sales tax. Foster voted in favor of levying at the same adopted rate as last year.

“I didn’t want to add an extra burden to property owners by making another increase, even though it would be very small,” Foster said. “The revenues are different and I don’t think we needed to continue to raise taxes.”

The council discussed the issue and was polled at a study session in October, but the absence of one member required Gerard to re-poll the question at the next meeting or special session.

Angelica can be reached [email protected]