The tax is part of a plan submitted by Mayor Keith Snyder that would
provide a better space for the police and fire departments, increase
the funding of the police and fire department pension plans, help
cover the costs of sewer improvements in the city, and contribute to
the downtown revitalization project.
The last of four members of the community to speak at the meeting
was Jeff Short. As he spoke, Short was the only one of the four
guests who said he would actually support the tax. He thought it was
needed, but he wanted the city to reconsider how it was spent and to
focus more on the needs of the city, rather than the wants.
He said the mandated projects should come first, and he said he
felt the safety complex was needed, but he felt at least some of the
plans for the downtown revitalization project were more "want" than
When Short had finished, Snyder moved immediately into talking
about a second ordinance that the council should consider, the
"Ordinance in connection with rights and responsibilities related to
locally imposed and administered taxes of the city of Lincoln,
Snyder said the ordinance is recommended by the Illinois
Municipal League to accompany taxes being collected and administered
directly by the city.
Bruce Carmitchel was the only alderman to comment on the
document, asking why the tax administrator was the city
administrator instead of an elected official of the city. City
attorney Blinn Bates said the ordinance had been written from a
model document, and that portion could be changed if the city so
Soon after, the discussion turned back to the utility tax, and
Jonie Tibbs asked how this tax would affect people who are on
level-pay plans for their utilities.
Marty Neitzel drew the picture, saying the tax would be applied
monthly, and the level-pay amount would not change. She said that
meant the consumer could owe more than anticipated in the last
month. She added that it would happen only in the first year,
though, as when the new level-pay period begins, the figure for
monthly bills will be based on the previous year.
Another comment came from Carmitchel, who indicated that at this
point he isn't exactly in favor of the tax. But, he told the council
he could support the tax if he knew that building a brand-new
building for the police and fire departments was the right and only
"I'm not convinced that we have done anything to say there is no
other alternative," Carmitchel said.
Snyder reminded him that studies have been done. He said the
police department had provided a space needs report, and there had
been an architectural study on what is needed.
"I'm not questioning they need better facilities," Carmitchel
said. "I'm saying, do we need a brand-new one?"
Snyder said the city has looked at existing locations in the
city, but one of the biggest issues is having appropriate space. He
said the properties the city has looked at are not going to be
disclosed because the city doesn't want the prices to increase on
the prospect that the city is interested in purchasing them. He
added that there is nothing in the proposal that says the facility
will be a brand-new building.
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Treasurer Chuck Conzo spoke up, saying that he, and he knew others,
had received a letter from local real estate agent Dan Bock
regarding how a similar situation was handled when the county built
their existing safety complex. He said the point he wanted to make
is that the county had formed a building commission and had a plan
in place before they began raising the money through taxation and
Conzo said the city should do the same thing: form a commission,
plan the project, then consider raising taxes.
Conzo also commented on something that had occurred at a previous
meeting. "Suggestions (were) made at a recent meeting that if people
can't afford the utility tax, they should adjust their thermostats
accordingly. To me that is the same as saying, freeze in the
wintertime and roast in the summer. I think that was a very
inappropriate thing to say."
Snyder responded to Conzo, saying, "I trust you were sitting here
when Mr. Fulscher said 80 percent of the cost was covered by federal
grants, and he also said those grants are no longer available."
Conzo began his reply by saying yes, he had heard, and Snyder
broke in and said, "So you did hear him say that?" Conzo confirmed
that he did.
Melody Anderson commented, saying that she found Bock's letter
intriguing, but the explanation from Fulscher was just for the
financing of the basement. She said she did further research and
found that grant money had been used, but also they had collected 20
years of rent from the city, and they borrowed $1.2 million.
Tom O'Donohue said that all the aldermen received the letter, but
he noted that a week later they all got another letter from Bock
saying he had a lot that he could sell the city.
Conzo said he still thought it was backward. The city is coming
up with the money, then figuring out how to spend it; when they
should be figuring out what they need, then figure out how to pay
Snyder brought the whole matter to a close by saying he wanted
the taxpayer rights ordinance and the utility tax ordinance on the
agenda for Tuesday night.
David Wilmert asked if the tax administrator would be changed in
the first ordinance, and Snyder asked him which person it should be
changed to. Wilmert said he thought it should be the mayor.
Snyder then asked, "So if we change that, you'll vote yes,"
making it sound like it would be a yes vote to both ordinances.
Wilmert stumbled on that one. Which brought the entire discussion to
a close on a lighter note as the entire council chuckled at
Both items will be on the Tuesday night voting agenda. The
council is expected to vote on the motions, but they do have the
right to table any motion if they feel they are not fully prepared
for the vote.
[By NILA SMITH]
Previous articles in series
Council heats up over
kilowatts and therms
Utility tax discussions