Members of the Benld City Council voted 4-1 Monday night to approve a municipal property tax levy in the amount of $113,081.76 for 2020 property taxes to be collected in 2021. The levy is approximately $5,000 less than last year’s levy due primarily to the mid-year deactivation of the Benld Police Department.
Complying with the Governor’s recently issued mandate for more stringent COVID-19 precautions, council members met in the Benld Civic Center, wore face coverings and observed social distancing protocols. The meeting was made accessible to the public and members of the press via the Zoom remote conferencing platform.
Ald. Jim Tilashalski, the sole dissenting vote on the tax levy, argued the levy should be for a higher total amount despite the savings the city will realize from contracting with the City of Gillespie for police protection services. Taxing bodies in Macoupin County are subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), which limits the amount by which annual tax levies can be increased. PTELL limits local governments to increasing their levies by no more than five percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less. The CPI typically is significantly less than five percent.
City Clerk Terri Koyne said she was advised by the Macoupin County Clerk to use 2.3 percent as an estimated CPI to use in calculating potential increases in the levy. Some line items were reduced, she said, to reflect the savings the city expects to realize from having deactivated the Police Department. Tilashalski, however, suggested last year’s levy should have been increased by 2.3 percent to generate surplus funds.
“You can’t levy for more than you intend to spend,” Finance Chair Lance Cooper said.
Tilashalski also questioned why the city included a levy for the Benld Public Library in its levy. The Library is a separate taxing body, but Koyne said the city has prepared the library’s levy request since before she assumed office.
Koyne also noted that the levy for Maintenance was substantially increased to cover the purchase of a new tractor. In a related matter, the council voted later in the meeting to pay for the tractor from the city’s General Fund instead of the Atrazine Fund as originally proposed.
The levy differs from the tax rate in that the levy establishes what the city expects to generate from property taxes for each line item in the levy. The County Clerk is responsible for setting the tax rate by determining the rate that must be applied to the city’s total equalized assessed valuation to generate the amounts set by the levy.
Broken down line by line, the new levy request is as follows: $32,000 for Corporate Purposes, compared with $32,567 last year; $18,000 for Police, compared with $18,390 last year; $17,300 for Maintenance, compared with $5,141 last year; $7,000 for Social Security, compared with $17,500 last year; $6,000 for Liability Insurance, compared with $11,853.50 last year; $7,100 for Workers Compensation Insurance, compared with $9,000 last year; $5,700 for the annual Audit, compared with $5,500 last year; $5,000 for Parks, compared with $3,500 last year; $1,260 for the Municipal Band, which is unchanged from last year; $1,000 for Unemployment Insurance, compared with $1,200 last year; and $100 for Lease, Rent and Purchase, which is unchanged from a year ago.
For the Benld Public Library, the city levied $12,621.76, compared with a levy request of $12,107.94 a year ago.
The levy was approved with a 4-1 vote on a motion made by Ald. Cooper, seconded by Ald. Dustin Fletcher. Fletcher and Cooper were joined by Ald. Brian Frensko and Ald. John Balzraine in voting to approve the levy. Ald. Tilashalski voted “no.” Ald. Mickey Robinson was absent.
Council members voted unanimously to accept the annual audit, compiled by Scheffel Boyle, CPA. The legally required audit will now be filed with the state. The auditors gave the city a “clean opinion” with no findings regarding accounting practices and diligence.
The council approved Christmas bonuses of $125 for full-time city employees and $75 for part-time employers.
Action on purchasing and installing rose bushes at the Welcome to Benld sign on Illinois Route 4 was tabled until a later date. Two bids are under consideration. One bid for $329.39 includes the purchase and delivery only. A second bid of $670 would include installation and some landscaping work.
No action followed a 20-minute executive session to discuss legal issues.