Watseka

The City of Watseka will erect a new building on the public works property to help with changes coming when the water department becomes a city department again.

The city has opted to take the water department duties back in house when its contract with E.R.H. Enterprises ends April 30.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council agreed that public works director Marvin DeLahr should proceed with the new building. The issue could not formally be voted on because of wording on the agenda that said the matter would be discussed but not voted on.

Alderman Dennis Cahoe said that the issue needs to be decided because they would like to get it out for bid yet in November.

DeLahr said there is some work that the public works crews need to get done before the building can be erected. He would like to get some of that done now, too.

The building will replace the block building that is already on the public works property. There are three utility poles that need to be moved, he said, before that can happen.

DeLahr was told to continue moving forward with the project.

Allhands also told the council that the city will be looking at starting the facade grant program again.

The council agreed that the program should be for business owners who are in the city limits along U.S. 24 and Route 1.

Alderman Don Miller said that he is concerned that some businesses have been allowed to erect buildings with doors that open out into the public walkway. Having the doors open inside or having a recessed entry way would be safer, he said. Other aldermen agreed.

“We are looking at taking $50,000 from the revolving loan fund,” Allhands said. The match for the business would be no more than $5,000.

This measure will be discussed more at the next code enforcement meeting.

Also at the meeting, Allhands distributed information about possible tax levy matters.

“If it’s five percent or under there’s not a requirement for truth in taxation,” Allhands said.

He said he distributed the information to make sure all the aldermen had it. “Just some highlights off of the email from our city attorney (Joe Cainkar),” he said.

“In 2018 the city extended $1,452,897 in taxes which equated to 2.98532 percent in city corporate (i.e. excludes library) tax rate using the 2018 EAV of $48,688,041. The overall tax rate for the average resident in 2018 was 11.24421 percent.

“If you had increased the levy by five percent you would get an additional $72,644 in money, which would equate to a 3.13458 percent city corporate tax rate. The overall tax rate for an average resident would have been 11.39347. Basically, of you had increased the city’s extension by five percent the overall tax rate would have increased 1.327 percent.”

Cainkar went on to say that there cannot be predictions for the EVA will be in 2019 or what the CPI change will be in 2018 or what other taxing bodies will extend, so it can’t be determined what the acutal percentage increase in the tax rate will be for 2019. “I can only plug in the increase to the 2018 tax numbers to give you an idea of how the change would be for 2019,” he said.

Also not known is the fair market value on residential property in the city, “but in terms of tax bill consequences you will note the following: a property having an EAV of $100,000 ($300,000 fair market value) would have seen a $149.26 increase in the overall tax bill. A property having an EAV of $25,000 ($75,000 fair market value) would have seen a $37.32 increase in the overall tax bill. You could expect similar increases by increasing your levy in 2019 as stated above.”

The council had also talked about examining other fees, such as for utility taxes. Allhands distributed information about the utility rate possibilities and said that it could be discussed at the next finance meeting, which would be Nov 19.

Miller asked what the ultimate end goal is. “How much money are we trying to achieve?” he asked.

Allhands said that he was asked about raising it five percent and that is what he asked Cainkar to look at.

Miller said that was just for the property tax, but he wanted to know what the end goal is.

“We would have to do some figures on that, Don,” he said.

The utility tax, he said, could be any utility. It is not gasoline tax, he said.

Miller said that a gasoline tax is being done in other communities. “That would bring money in that’s not coming (soley) out of residents pockets. Some of it would,” he said.

Miller said the first thing to do is determine how much the city needs.

Alderman Mark Garfield said, “One big thing that is sitting on top of us is a very underfunded police pension. Another thing is, if anyone is following what is going on in Springfield, they are essentially talking about the state taking over downstate pensions. If that happens we won’t get a choice in what we pay or how much. They are going to dictate to us and we have to fund it that way. That’s one thing to consider.”

Garfield said they are talking about consolidating all downstate pensions, except IMRF.

Allhands said, “I think that will open them up to a little better investments. “

“Yes, but basically it’s going to raid all the downstate pensions,” Garfield said.

Allhands said that they will talk about the tax levy and possible utility tax on the finance committee agenda for more discussion.