However, at the onset of the meeting, Mayor Keith Snyder asked that
the item be removed from the agenda.
Snyder explained that there
had been a miscommunication between the city and Ameren Illinois, in
that Ameren had sent the city incorrect information about how the
tax would be calculated on monthly bills.
Snyder said the tax is calculated differently depending on if the
municipality is a home rule or non-home rule community. Ameren had
provided information based on the thought that Lincoln is a home
rule city when in fact it is a non-home rule city.
Later in the evening, during discussion with a visitor in the
council chamber, Snyder expanded on this, saying that the change
will primarily affect the way the utility tax is applied to the
natural gas portion of the Ameren utility bill.
At Snyder's request, the motion was made to remove the item from
the voting agenda.
In the chamber that evening were three people who wished to speak
about the tax. Snyder said they could go ahead and speak, or they
could hold off until the Tuesday meeting this week when the tax
would once again be discussed by the council.
All three chose to speak.
First to come forward was Richard Sink. Sink started coming to
city council meetings when parking issues were being discussed and
ordinance changes were being sought. He has been in regular
attendance at weekly meetings since then.
Prior to the meeting he had spent quite a while talking
one-on-one with Alderman Tom O'Donohue. When Sink took the seat to
speak to the full council, he said he had learned that one thought
he had on how to use the tax revenues might not be feasible. He
wanted to suggest to the council that instead of selling bonds and
growing deeper in debt, that the utility tax revenues be used to pay
down the long-term debt the city has with the Illinois Environmental
Protection Agency for the last round of sewer improvements.
He said he had just been told the sewer department has to be
self-sustaining and the money couldn't be used in that manner.
Snyder said that was correct; the sewer program has to be
Sink said he was just very concerned that the city was going to
put itself into a position where they would be so deep in debt they
couldn't get out. He said he didn't want to see Lincoln become
another Detroit, and with all the ideas of bonds that would have to
be paid back, he could see that happening.
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Sink said in his opinion this new tax would not entice people to
come to this community, but he also said, "I'm not so much anti-tax
as I am anti- what you're going to do with it."
Wanda Lee Rohlfs was the second person to speak to the council.
In response to some of her early conversation, Snyder took the
opportunity to further outline more of what the differences were
between non-home rule and home rule applications of the utility tax.
He said the electricity figure will still be based on actual
usage. But, the natural gas side of the tax will be figured on a
percentage of the gross receipt in dollars. He said that at the
Tuesday night meeting, aldermen will be provided a worksheet that
will help them understand how the tax will be calculated.
Rohlfs also wanted to know if the manner in which the city plans
to spend the tax money will be written out in the utility tax
Snyder said it would not, because it doesn't belong in the
ordinance and the expenditure of the revenue would be a decision for
the budgeting process.
He also told her that the proposed use of funds he had presented
to the council was really only a suggestion. The council will decide
in their budget process exactly how the money will be used.
Rohlfs also wanted to know, if the city earned more than the
currently projected amount, where that money would go. Snyder said
again that would be a budget decision for a later date.
The final person to address the council was Cliff Marble. Marble
kept his statement very brief, saying that he didn't like taxes any
better than anyone else, but he agreed with the city that they had
to do something about fixing some of the problems in town.
He said he would support the council and trust them to do what
needs done for the good of the town.
The council is expected to rehash the utility tax at tonight's
committee of the whole workshop and then bring it back for a vote in
the near future.
[By NILA SMITH]