MTD board to vote on $195,000 increase in property taxes

CHAMPAIGN — The governing board of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District will vote in December on a proposal to raise the bus system's property tax levy by 3 percent, or $195,000, next year.

The MTD board will consider approving a $6.71 million property tax levy at its Dec. 5 meeting. That's up from $6.51 million this year.

While property taxes cover about one-sixth of the MTD's operating budget, the vast majority of its funding now comes from state operating grants.

In a preliminary vote Wednesday that set the amount to be raised by the tax levy, the board vote was 6-1. Only board member Linda Bauer of Urbana voted no.

"I would just observe that the funding climate, particularly at the state and federal level, does remain a concern for us," said board member Don Uchtmann, also of Urbana. "I think that one of the worst things we could do for our community would be not to move with incremental increases that would cause us to later levy a much higher tax increase because we haven't been moving incrementally.

"This (levy increase) would approximate the cost of living increase this year and I believe it could be supported as a modest increase."

MTD Managing Director Bill Volk said the increased property tax funds would help the transit system meet personnel-related costs.

"Seventy percent of our costs are in personnel so anytime we give any raises at all, or with increases in insurance or pension costs, we're going to need an increase," he said.

Also Wednesday the board approved a $150,000 contract with the Ratio architects, a national firm with a Champaign office, to undertake a study of expanding the 12-year-old Illinois Terminal building in downtown Champaign.

The study, to be completed by next September, will look at concepts for expanded transit facilities at the building, along with potential sources to help pay for them, including more office space, apartments and parking. In addition the study will look at other development opportunities in the neighborhood of the Illinois Terminal.

Also Wednesday, three more bus riders told the board that they are concerned about a plan to move to a system-wide "designated stops" plan next year. Currently, bus users board and leave buses at virtually any corner along a bus route.

But the MTD is looking at restricting bus stops after next August.

"What we are trying to do is as we have more riders, more disabled with wheelchairs, more people with strollers, it puts pressure on the schedule," Volk said. "And when you have pressure on the schedule and you can't keep your schedule, it gives you a couple of options. One, you can put on more equipment and slow down the bus. That is inefficient from the standpoint that it costs more to provide the same level of service. You're not increasing the frequency."

Second, he said, the MTD has tried to speed up its service with low-floor buses, stopping every other block on its campus-area routes and looking at the concept of designated stops.

"It's one of the ways that we can attempt to maintain the same trip times and keep our costs at a minimum," Volk said.

Comments

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wam wrote on October 31, 2012 at 9:10 pm

So the Board pays $150,000 to a Consultant to "confirm" the things the Board wants to do..Is the Consulting firm truely at "arms-length?" Has a Consultant ever said "no?"....Find a racket, use the people's money to pay your friends to say you are doing wonderful community enhancing work and continually raise taxes to facilitate the entire process....The MTD rider statistics are more arts & crafts than science.

alumni90 wrote on October 31, 2012 at 10:10 pm

How is it that a MTD board of a few can just decide to raise property taxes because they want more money for employee raises, pensions, etc.? Guess what.....not my problem!   Why don't they just really come out and say what they really want instead of masking it with "we would like to pay for a study for a new building"; and, then they will vote for yet another tax increase to pay for a new facility with pretty little shops and apartments!  Where does it end???  How do they have so much power?  And, when Southwest Champaign did not want their services or their annoying buses in their neighborhoods; they threw a tantrum!  Again, where does it end?

thelowedown wrote on November 01, 2012 at 5:11 pm

"How is it that a MTD board of a few can just decide to raise property taxes because they want more money for employee raises, pensions, etc.?"

Legal authority vested in them by the voters of the area in 1970 and the state laws of Illinois.

"...then they will vote for yet another tax increase to pay for a new facility with pretty little shops and apartments!"

So instead of developing independent, non-tax revenue streams MTD should just rely even more on tax dollars? Sounds asinine, especially coming from your 'no more taxes for MTD' perspective.

"How do they have so much power?"

 

Authority vested in them by the voters of the area in 1970 and the state laws of Illinois.

"And, when Southwest Champaign did not want their services or their annoying buses in their neighborhoods; they threw a tantrum!" As one might recall from past N-G articles, it's the other way around in terms of "tantrum" throwing. Residents in SW Champaign actually formed their own transit district which collects taxes while providing literally zero transit services, partially in an area served by MTD, therefore double-taxing some residents while not providing them with a competing service option, all because of some irrational fear of buses.

thelowedown wrote on November 01, 2012 at 5:11 pm

If you had read and properly comprehended the article then you might understand that the only thing to "confirm" is the fact that the MTD board is hiring outside professional experts in order to determine the feasability of a potential expansion. Guess what happens if the consultanting firm says there's no market for expansion or it's too expensive? Nothing! The status quo reigns. Of course, I'm sure you would prefer MTD just go at it with no data or professional expertise whatsoever and then let the chips fall where they may in terms of unnecessary costs or empty building space.