DANVILLE — Vermilion County Board members approved a tax increase Tuesday night, ending a seven-year run of no increases for the county.
Board members met Tuesday to cast final vote on the budget and levy, which have been on public display since the October county board meeting. While the budget passed without comment, some members raised questions about the need for a tax increase.
Dennis Miller of District 6 voiced concern about what a tax increase would do for residents at this point.
“I’m not sure how increasing taxes is going to help the average constituent in Vermilion County,” he said.
A.J. Wright of District 7 pointed out the money the county has received as a result of the sale of the former nursing home as well an expected $500,000 owed to the county by the State of Illinois as a result of payments for the nursing home.
“All this money that’s coming in and we’re going to tax the people who are hurting,” he said.
County auditor Linda Lucas Anstey spoke to board members, trying to outline the costs the county has faced, pointing out costs for the government continue to rise.
“We also have run into some major problems with the infrastructure,” she said. “This year so far we have $400,000 to repair boilers, roads and a courtroom and we have more to go out for the damage caused by the leaking courthouse roof.”
After 15 minutes of discussion, the board voted 17-7 to approve the levy. John Criswell of District 5, Mike Dodge and Wright of District 7, Miller of District 6, Terry Stal of District 4, Daniel Walls of District 8 and Jim McMahon of District 9 voted against the levy.
Only a simple majority of the county board was needed to pass the budget and levy at Tuesday’s meeting. By law, the county must have a budget in place by the beginning of the next fiscal year, which starts on Dec. 1. The county can’t operate without a budget.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard pointed to the need to have a budget in place for the next fiscal year in speaking to board members at the meeting.
“I understand this vote may be very hard for some of you,” he told the board. “But understand that a yes vote is a responsible vote for the county and its future.”
The proposed budget will be a deficit budget with figures similar to the budget passed by the county last year. The deficit figure will be $1.08 million, a little more than $20,000 more than last year’s budget.
An increase for the Public Safety Building to cover the Juvenile Detention Center, which the PSB took during last year, eliminated that possibility of no tax increase. The payment — which totals $500,000 — was covered in the budget last year by fund balances.
The increase will equal out to $5.60 for a person who pays a $1,000 property tax bill, $14 on a $2,500 tax bill and $27 on a $5,000 property tax bill. For a $1,000 tax bill, the increase is ½ percent increase in the overall tax bill and 3.6 percent increase in the county’s portion of the bill.
According to county numbers, the fund balance for the county’s general fund has dropped from $9 million in November 2007 to less than $8 million in November last year. Estimates predict the gund will drop closer to $5 million by November 2014.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, board members approved the sale of 120 acres of county-owned farmland up for sale via auction.
Brian Neville of Farmers National said the the county-owned property could sell for around $1.3 million. The property currently brings in between $35,000 and $50,000 each year in revenue.
In addition to the original resolution approving the sale, an amendment to the resolution was OK’d by the board that dictated where revenue from the sales would go.
Chuck Mockbee of District 2 successfully moved for the resolution to specify that funds go toward the county’s capital improvement funds. Weinard had indicated prior to the meeting that county buildings — including the Vermilion County Courthouse, the Courthouse Annex and Emergency Management Agency building, among others — still have a number of repair and upkeep needs