City council

Photo by Carla Waters

Watseka Mayor John Allhands and Alderwoman Monna Ulfers take part in Tuesday night’s Watseka City Council meeting.

The Watseka City Council Tuesday night voted down a proposal to raise the tax levy two percent.

That ordinance, 2551 for levying taxes for vernal corporate and other purposes for the fiscal year May 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020, was voted down 5-2 with city officials Benny Marcier, Dennis Cahoe, Monna Ulfers, Mark Garfield and Don Miller voting against it and aldermen Darrin Rushbrook and Brandon Barragree voting for it. Alderman Dave Mayotte was absent.

“I have a hard time putting the burden on a small group of people in the town that have to pay property taxes,” Garfield said. “I’ll put landlords in there because they will pass that tax on to their renters.”

He said there needs to be ways to raise revenue without hurting the property owners. “I can’t vote for it,” he said.

Mayor John Allhands said he agrees, noting that the property taxes are kind of high already.

Rushbrook said that the increase was proposed to help offset the budget shortfall that the city has. “It wasn’t raised above the budget shortfall,” he said.

Marcier asked when the last increase was. Several noted it was at least 10 if not 12 years ago.

City Attorney Joe Cainkar cautioned the aldermen after the vote.

“Just for the record, you have to have a levy in place…it has to be filed by the fourth Tuesday of December otherwise you will not have a levy and you will get no money,” he said. “Whatever you decide to do, I just want to recommend that you do something. You’ll need a special meeting or something.”

Mayor John Allhands said the council will now have to look at other options. “My personal opinion is that it is one of the most unfair forms of taxation,” he said of property taxes. This particular increase would help offset about $30,000 in a budget deficit, he said.

The council also approved 7-0 the ordinance for Watseka Public Library taxes. Cainkar noted that it is the same as last year.

In another matter, the council approved a facade program.

The city is taking $50,000 from the revolving loan fund to fund this project. “It’s a match,” he said, noting that the maximum a business can get is $5,000.

The council also heard from businessman Chuck Gomez, who said he has been trying to get the ice cream parlor open in the old city hall building at Fifth and Walnut.

“I sent a letter to city hall back in July,” he said. There were three questions in his letter: can he put ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) parking in back?; can he put ADA parking on the street?; and what happens if he doesn’t have any parking?

He said the first two questions were answered with no, but the city did not respond to the third question.

“The first two were against me, but the third one works in my favor and I was a little upset that that didn’t happen, so I contacted the ADA office in Springfield…again…and asked if I do not offer any parking with a picnic area in the back parking lot, with my drive up shed in the back parking lot, and a picnic area in the front; if I offered zero parking for anybody: deliveries, employees, customer, no parking available for any body, do I still need ADA parking? The state wrote me back and state ‘if parking is not provided, accessible parking spaces are not needed’.”

He said he sent that response back to the city and heard nothing. Since then there has been a change in building inspectors. The new building inspector mentioned the ADA parking issue, Gomez said.

“I have the code here. The state was kind enough to send me the entire link to the code,” he said. “It’s quite obvious. If I don’t provide any parking for anybody I do not need ADA parking. That was the last obstacle so I’m going to go ahead and ask the inspector to go ahead and give me my occupancy inspection, my final inspection. This is the only thing I’m waiting on. I have the copy of the code here and the ordinance from the ADA department of Capital Development Board in Springfield and here’s a link to it. I hope I can finally get this done and maybe have an ice cream cake for Christmas.”

Allhands asked Gomez to leave the contact information for the person in Springfield and a copy of the information he was given.