Members of the Gillespie City Council on Monday night approved a $340,000 property tax levy for 2019 taxes to be collected in 2020 and voted narrowly to step away from writing an ordinance that would permit residents to use golf carts for transportation on city streets.
Approval of the levy was preceded by a five-minute public hearing required under the Truth in Taxation Act. During the hearing, City Treasurer Dan Fisher said the new levy totals $340,507—about 4.987 percent more than the previous year’s levy. Macoupin County municipalities are subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), which limits them to increasing their levies by no more than five percent or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is smaller. Typically, the Consumer Price Index, which measures the rate of inflation, is significantly less than five percent.
The County Clerk sets the tax rate by determining the factor by which the city’s total equalized assessed valuation must be multiplied to generate the maximum amount the city is entitled to collect for each line item in the levy. Fisher said the amount of money the city actually collects to will be substantially less than the amount levied Monday night, primarily because of the limitations imposed by PTELL. Last year, for example, the city levied $324,294 but collected $313,401 in property tax revenue.
Fisher said he expects the property tax extension next year to be in the area of $314,000 to $315,000.
While property tax revenue is an important revenue stream for the city, Fisher said it is only a portion of the city’s total revenue. To put the significance of property taxes in perspective, Fisher pointed out that city expenditures for the month of November alone was more than $518,000—about $200,000 in excess of the city’s total property tax levy.
“The levy is not an insignificant thing but it’s only a small part of the money we handle,” Fisher said.
Broken down by line item, the levy calls for generating $55,847 for Corporate purposes, $24,045 for Police, $32,577 for Streets and Bridges, $9,307 for Emergency Services and Disaster Administration, $54,294 for liability insurance, $13,9671 for Parks, $3,103 for the Municipal Band, $97,732 for Social Security and $49,641 for the Public Library.
Fisher said the city’s total equalized assessed valuation for 2018 taxes collected earlier this year was $23,527,000.
The new levy was unanimously approved on a motion by Ald. Dona Rauzi, seconded by Ald. Frank Barrett.
GOLF CART ISSUE PUT TO REST
By a vote of 4-3 the council effectively killed a proposal to allow residents to use golf carts within the city limits for transportation. The issue sparked controversy last month when City Attorney Kevin Polo presented a draft ordinance to allow golf cart usage. At that time some council members debated the minimum age for golf cart operators and the fee the city would charge for a golf cart permit. Mayor John Hicks directed the committee to hammer out details in order for Polo to draft an ordinance that would reflect the wishes of the council.
On Monday night Ald. Barrett, who previously asked for an ordinance that would be congruent with rules governing golf cart usage at Gillespie Lake, recommended keeping the general ordinance language Polo had drafted, including language to ban side-by-sides, setting the permit fee at $50 and requiring operators to have a valid driver’s license which would effectively set the minimum age for operators at 16.
“I’m personally not comfortable with the age and I think the fee should be higher,” Ald. Wendy Rolando commented after hearing Ald. Barrett’s recommendations.
“So you can have a teenager driving a three-ton vehicle but not a golf cart?” Barrett asked.
“I’m looking at it from the opposite side,” Rolando said. “What happens when there’s a three-ton vehicle coming at a teenager on a golf cart?” Ald. Rauzi agreed that the minimum age should be older than 16. When Rolando predicted possible problems with teenagers driving golf carts to school, Barrett accused her of “making up” problems.
“I think this is an unnecessary ordinance, and I’m saying that publicly,” Rolando responded.
Polo urged the council to reach a consensus on the details it wanted him to include in the ordinance. Hicks wondered if the issue should be tabled a second time to give committee members more time to come to an agreement.
“I think it’s time to vote on it and be done with it,” Ald. Dave Tucker said.
Brought to a vote, Ald. Rauzi and Ald. Rolando were joined by Ald. Rick Fulton and Ald. Bill Hayes in voting against Barrett’s recommendations. Barrett, Tucker and Ald. Jerry Dolliger voted yes.
“You’ve got four people you need to convince,” Mayor Hicks told Barrett. Barrett said he does not plan to bring the issue up again.
WATER PROJECT UPDATE
The council heard a brief report from Roger Mensinger of Curry and Associates Engineers regarding progress made to date on the city’s ongoing project to replace aging water distribution lines throughout the city and voted unanimously to approve several measures in conjunction with financing for the project. Mensinger said the general contractor, Haier Plumbing and Heating, has completed about 50 percent of the project.
“Next week they’re going to do the hardest part, which is the line behind the buildings on Main Street,” he said.
As the project moves to the city’s south side, Mensinger said the contractor will encounter some areas where neighborhoods are already serviced with PVC water lines. Those lines will not be replaced, but it will be necessary to tie into them with new PVC lines the contractor is installing to replace old cast iron lines. That process will require shutting down the entire water system for approximately one hour. Mensinger said city officials will be notified in advance when that is about to happen so they can alert city residents.
Mensinger also told council members his firm has been evaluating sewer lines and other infrastructure lying beneath the Macoupin Street business district to determine what infrastructure may need to be repaired or replaced before the city considers implementing a streetscape program. The organization Grow Gillespie has developed an extensive plan for developing the streetscape which includes adding green spaces, improving drainage and reconfiguring parking spaces. “We don’t want to have to dig that up after the streetscape is done,” Mensinger said.
Council members voted unanimously to approve Form RD440-11 to release about $4.8 million in USDA Rural Development loan funds to pay for engineering and construction costs associated with the water project, along with interest and attorney fees. The amount released includes money for payments that already have been made and that are eligible for reimbursement under terms of a USDA Rural Development grant.
Also by a unanimous vote, the council approved a “Letter of Intent to Meet Conditions” of the USDA loan—an action facilitating a reduction in the interest rate the city must pay from two percent to 1.75 percent. The measure will reduce the city’s obligation for interest payments by about $21,000.
The council also approved a payment resolution authorizing payment of bills totaling $291,577 from Haier Plumbing and Heating, Curry and Associates Engineering and City Attorney Kevin Polo, and a separate resolution to execute a Water and Waste System grant agreement with USDA. To comply with regulations in connection with the USDA financing for the project, the council approved measures to create a separate checking account for the Sewer Fund and to change the name of the city’s former Utilities Fund checking account to the Water Operations account.
Approval of a resolution to execute a promissory note with United Community Bank basically was a technicality, according to Fisher, providing for temporary financing tor the water project pending receipt of USDA grant and loan funds. The temporary loan, he said, will be paid off in full in about two weeks. City Attorney Polo said the loan had been previously approved by the council but USDA “didn’t think it was specific enough.”
CITY AGREES TO HIRE COLLECTIONS AGENCY
On the recommendation of City Attorney Polo, the council agreed to contract with Credit Collection Partners to attempt to collect delinquent fines for ordinance violations, some of which are more than 20 years old. Polo said the city is carrying more than $31,000 on the books for delinquent ordinance violation fees. The collections firm will charge 30 percent of funds collected for its services.
Polo said Circuit Clerk Lee Ross advised him that the county government uses the agency to collect delinquent county accounts. Assistant States Attorney Jordan Garrison, who attended Monday night’s meeting, said the county has been pleased with the agency’s performance and several other counties in the area use the service.
“We’re two quarters in with them and they’ve been pretty successful,” Garrison said. “We haven’t had any complaints.”
SURPLUS PROPERTY BIDS
On a motion by Ald. Tucker, the council voted unanimously to accept high bids for the sale of several pieces of property designated last month as surplus. Jim Feeley was the successful bidder to purchase a 1991 top kick truck and a 1998 Chevrolet dump truck for $713.13 each and a sewer eel for $131.13. The Village of Worden purchased an 11-foot snowplow with a bid of $300. Tom Pollard was the successful bidder to purchase a ceiling-mount furnace at a cost of $80. Larry Loveless offered a successful bid of $75 to purchase a brush hog, and Dale Demkey offered a successful bid to purchase a trash pump for $75.
Mayor Hicks said the city received no bids for the sale of a city-owned property located at 205 Francis Street. City Attorney Polo said one reason the property may have attracted no bids is because it will require some renovation work and, since the property is owned by the city, is subject to rules obligating contractors working on the house to pay their employees prevailing wages.
“As long as that house is in our name any work that’s done has to be prevailing wages,” Polo said. He said he could rewrite the contract to allow the buyer to purchase the home contract for deed and have the deed held in escrow in the buyer’s name. That provision, he said, would release the buyer from the prevailing wage requirement and should stimulate more interest from potential buyers.
In other action, the council:
- Approved a resolution authorizing the expenditure of $16,353 in Tax Increment Financing Funds to make a payment to United Community Bank pursuant to a 15-year reimbursement agreement.
- Authorized the City Treasurer and Mayor to pay off two pending EPA loans when funds are available.
- Authorized the Mayor to return a bond check to Illinois Solar pending acceptance of the solar field project at the Gillespie Water Treatment Plant.
- Approved adoption of the county’s Multi-Jurisdictional All Hazard Mitigation Plan, which enhances the city’s eligibility for FEMA funds and assistance in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
- Gave the committee power to act on accepting a bid and awarding a contract for a remodeling project at the Gillespie Police Department.
No action followed an executive session called for the purpose of discussing personnel issues.