Of the eight city aldermen, three have been very vocal on their
opinions about the tax. Melody Anderson and Tom O'Donohue are
clearly in favor of the tax, while David Wilmert is clearly opposed
to it. Bruce Carmitchel appears to still be undecided, though
possibly leaning toward opposition. The balance of the council --
Jeff Hoinacki, Kathy Horn, Marty Neitzel and Jonie Tibbs -- have not
spoken out a great deal in council chambers.
The issue was
scheduled to be voted upon last week, but Mayor Keith Snyder
informed the council that there was an issue in how he and city
administrator Sue McLaughlin had explained the application of the
tax. This was due to a miscommunication between the city and Ameren
Illinois, wherein Ameren had given the city the formula used for a
home rule municipality, while the city of Lincoln is actually a
non-home rule municipality.
This week, Snyder and McLaughlin provided new information about
how the tax will be applied to natural gas as well as electricity.
When looking at a typical residential utility bill, the top half
of Page 2 will show the natural gas usage for the month. On the
left-hand side of the bill, the following definitions of charges are
Delivery Charge Gas
Rider GER charge
Total Delivery Service Amount
Gas charge (PGA)
Total Supply amount
Below this will also be a section with a heading of TAXES.
The 4 percent charge on natural gas will be applied to the dollar
figure that is listed as "Total Supply amount."
Using an actual bill from a midwinter month in Lincoln as an
For a home with gas heat that was charged $62.17 as the Total
Supply amount, when the 4 percent tax is applied, it would be
$2.4868, or almost $2.50 added.
On the electric side of the tax, the formula is a bit more
complicated. For a residence that uses less than 2,000
kilowatt-hours per month, the 4 percent tax would be calculated
using a multiplier of 0.00488 per kilowatt.
If the home exceeds 2,000 kwh per month, the kilowatts over the
first 2,000 will be calculated using a multiplier of 0.00320 per
Using the same bill as an example, at the very top of Page 2 is a
table showing the total kilowatts used in a billing period. On this
particular bill, the total comes to 607 kilowatts. Calculating the
tax would then mean multiplying the 607 by 0.00488, which would
equal $2.96212, almost $3.
This would bring the total tax charged on both gas and
electricity for the month to $5.45, rounded to the nearest penny.
Therefore, had the tax been applied at that time, this bill that in
January of 2013 totaled $147.24 would have totaled $152.69.
[to top of second column]
If a bill were to indicate the consumer used 3,500 kilowatts in a
billing period, then the first 2,000 would be calculated at 0.00488
and would equal $9.76. The additional 1,500 would be calculated at
0.00320 and would come to $4.80. Consequently, the tax on
electricity only on that bill would total $14.56.
At a rate of 4 percent, the city is anticipating they will
collect $983,300 per year.
During the course of discussion on Tuesday night, McLaughlin said
that one thing everyone needed to remember is that it will not be
city residents who provide the lion's share of this total. The
biggest part of the tax revenue will come from local business and
industry, as they are the larger consumers who will on a regular
basis exceed the 2,000 kwh per month.
As actual discussion on the topic began, Snyder reminded the
council that he had placed copies of letters of endorsement for the
tax on their desks.
There were two letters from union representatives for the city
fire and police departments.
Lincoln firefighter Jason Van Winkle signed the fire department
letter as the Lincoln Fire Local 3092 president. The letter states
that the union has reviewed the proposal of a utility tax in the
plan titled "Rebuilding our foundation" and "wholeheartedly agree"
with the plan for securing pension obligations. Regarding the
proposal of a new fire department building, police station and
infrastructure improvements, the letter said the union finds those
"agreeable as well."
Officer Matthew Vlahovich of the Lincoln Police Department signed
the police letter as the president of Fraternal Order of Police
Lodge 208. The first paragraph of the letter was identical to that
of the fire department, but Vlahovich had added additional
information saying the members of the FOP have been urging city
officials for several years to secure the pensions, improve
infrastructure and find a place for both the police and fire
departments to "function efficiently."
There were four people in the gallery who wanted to address the
council regarding this tax. Snyder called on them in the order in
which they had filled out their requests to speak.
Those who spoke were Wanda Lee Rohlfs, Richard Sinks, Don Bauer
and Jeff Short. LDN will provide complete coverage of those
discussions, beginning with the exchanges between Rohlfs, the
aldermen and Snyder, in the next segment of this series.
[By NILA SMITH]