County board members voted 7-3 to put
on the April 1 ballot a referendum for an economic development
promotion tax with a maximum levy of 4 cents per $100 of assessed
valuation. Finance committee chair Chuck Ruben said that, based on
last year's assessed valuation, the maximum generated would be
$140,000 to $150,000. A 4-cent tax would cost the owner of a
$150,000 house $18. The owner of 40 acres of farmland would pay
Board member John Stewart asked why the
figure was so high if the principal purpose is to hire a director of
economic development. The salary of the previous director, Mark
Smith, who left in the summer, was $35,000. Committee members who
are conducting interviews say a larger salary is needed, but they
consider the $80,000 paid by Canton to be high.
Ruben and finance committee member Dick
Logan emphasized that the money would go for more than salary. Logan
said the levy could be applied to any of the expenses of the
economic development office, such as paper products and other office
needs, automobile expense, seminars and advertising.
"The statutes are pretty broad about
what we could do with it," Ruben explained. He said possibilities
include a short-term loan for a new business or purchase of a piece
of ground. However, these are not current plans. "Our thoughts at
the moment are pretty narrow," he clarified.
Four cents per $100 is the maximum that
could be levied, not an automatic assessment if the referendum
passes. The board could set the levy at a lower rate. Still, Ruben
cautioned, tax caps mean raises in the percentage would be slow if
the first levy is set much below maximum. The economic development
levy could be jumped to maximum only if other levies were lowered to
stay within tax caps.
"I don't think this has been thought
through enough," Stewart judged. Logan countered that the board has
dragged its feet on economic development for decades. "And what have
we got for it? Nothing."
Board member Paul Gleason said a high
tax structure might deter some businesses from locating in the
county. He pointed out that a few voters may be facing three tax
referendums on the April ballot -- for the county, the city and
Chester-East Lincoln School.
Stewart cited two state grant programs
aimed at economic development. Logan returned that someone must
apply for grants, and the someone would be the director of economic
Stewart, Mitch Brown and Pat O'Neill
opposed the motion in Thursday's show of hands. Board chair Dale Voyles was absent from the meeting. The final vote will be taken at
Tuesday night's voting session.
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Jan. 24 is the deadline to get a
referendum on the April 1 ballot. Ruben pointed out that, if the
referendum passes, it will be well into 2004 before any money is
generated. "We're hurrying a little bit," he conceded, "but we've
got a long time before the election to get information out to the
In other business, animal control chair
Pat O'Neill reported that interviews are being conducted for a
full-time assistant warden. At its Monday, Jan. 13, meeting the
committee approved upgrading the computer system and purchasing a
pager and name tags for the warden and assistant warden.
The committee also voted to ask
veterinarians to collect fees and issue tags at the time animals are
inoculated, as required by ordinance. They extended the time before
euthanizing an animal to a minimum of seven working days with a
maximum of 15 working days. In another policy decision they required
the fine to be paid before an animal is released back to its owner,
with no exceptions allowed.
The animal control committee also
raised fees. On March 1 the price of tags will jump from $6 to $10
for one year, or $15 for three years, with $2 going to the
veterinarian. The fine for abusive treatment of animals goes up to
$200 from $50.
In reports Thursday night the county
board learned that:
--The Board of Health and AFSCME have
approved a contract for 2003-05. It will be reopened annually for
money issues including wages and vacation, sick and personal days.
--For the first time the list of
institutions submitted for approval as depositories of tax money
includes a credit union -- CEFCU. Treasurer Mary Bruns said the
Health Department has a CD there. The vote on approval comes
--The county experienced one case of
West Nile virus in 2002. A 32-year-old woman contracted the disease
in September but is now fully recovered. It took months for testing
to confirm the diagnosis. Health Department Administrator Lloyd
Evans said about half the counties in the state had one or more
cases of West Nile virus.
--Security cameras have been installed
in the courthouse. They will also be placed in the safety complex,
where they may capture instances of vandalism.
has been erected at the Logan County Health Department in memory of
former employee Joyce Detmers. It will be dedicated at a later date.
The hours in Lincoln will be every first
Monday of the month, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., starting Feb. 3. The
location will be the county board conference room in the Logan
Constituents with questions, concerns
or governmental problems are welcome to come in and discuss issues
"I like to get around the 87th District
as much as possible," said Mitchell. "Talking with people and
understanding what their needs and concerns are is essential to
being an effective member of the General Assembly."
For additional assistance or
information, please contact Bill Mitchell's Forsyth office toll-free
at 1 (866) 801-1968.
represents the newly formed 87th District, which includes all or
parts of seven central Illinois counties: Christian, DeWitt, Logan,
Macon, McLean, Sangamon and Tazewell.