Saturday, April 2


Public safety sales tax goes to the voters

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[APRIL 2, 2005]  On Tuesday Logan County voters will decide whether to approve a half-cent sales tax increase or not.   The tax would be applied on general merchandise sales. It would not be applied to groceries, prescriptions and medical devices or licensed personal property, such as vehicles. 

[See details of tax application]

Below are several questions and information of key importance to help you understand why the increase is being asked for and the potential impact if it is not passed.

First, how much sales tax are we paying and how much would it become?

If approved, the proposed one-half percent "retailers occupational sales tax" would:

  • Raise the sales tax in the smaller towns from 6.25 percent to 6.75 percent.
  • Raise the sales tax in Lincoln from 6.75 percent to 7.25 percent.

It increases a nickel on every $10 and 50 cents on every $100.

How do our rates compare to other communities?

Sales tax rates around us:

  • Peoria, 8 percent
  • Springfield, 7.75 percent
  • Bloomington, 7.50 percent
  • Champaign, 7.50 percent
  • Clinton, 6.75 percent

Sales tax rates in communities like us:

  • Marion, 7.25 percent
  • Carbondale, 7.25 percent
  • Quincy, 7.75 percent

With one exception, Clinton, the increase would raise us to the lowest level of any of the other communities.

Just why would this county need to look for increased revenues?

Like other counties and communities in Illinois and across the nation, costs are going up faster than revenues. There are increased state demands and reduced state funding.

Nearby Peoria County Board chairman wrote in their 2005 budget brief: "The examination of our services continues as expenses grow faster than our revenue base. Also, state budget cuts forced us to look at whether we could afford to offer many services at the level we have historically."

Like Peoria, Logan County has been hard-hit with uncontrollable cost increases. Several are exorbitant. One of the more extreme examples has been the increased liability insurance costs. Since 9/11, liability for government has skyrocketed.

July 15 to July 15:

  • 2001 -- $74,000

  • 2002 -- $116,410

  • 2003 -- $173,460

  • 2004 -- $186,254

  • 2005 -- Unknown, but advance information indicates a 10 percent to 12 percent increase.

In a four-year time span, liability insurance went up nearly 400 percent.

Health insurance is a similar story. In 1992 the cost was $185 per employee. For 2004 the cost was $303, a 64 percent increase.

The county has 150 employees on health insurance.

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The county financial pie shows that funds are distributed in the following percentages:

  • 30 percent -- general government operations
  • 65 percent -- public safety and court system
  • 4 percent -- county development
  • 1 percent -- transfers

What has the county done up to now?

The board has been working with all the departments for as long as this trend has been taking place -- about three years. They asked all the departments to look for ways to increase revenue and cut expenses.

All of the departments complied. Some raised or instituted fines and fees; some put off projects temporarily, such as road work. The effects of these cutbacks were not all that noticeable, but that is about to change.

Without the funds this tax can supply, there will be a reduction of services in all departments that will be noticed. For example, from the clerk's office there will likely be fewer services and delays getting public documents. This will affect many people and the court system. You may even have to go to another county to get something like a passport, which is an optional service that is provided, County Clerk Sally Litterly said in her report to the finance committee in February.

The board and departments deliberated hard in forming the last two years' budgets. Outside support services, such as the senior citizens, economic development and tourism were closely considered for elimination. But they not only affect the quality of life but are also key to future solutions; and summed together they are not near enough to cover the declining revenues.

This brief space is not sufficient to fully explain all that has been done or what would happen without the additional revenue this tax can provide. The sales tax is even collected from those passing through the area, further reducing the burden on Logan County residents. Your county leaders see this as the most equal means and least burdensome manner in raising revenues to where they need to be.

It is up to you to decide.

[Jan Youngquist]

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