Council favors rise in sales tax

Council favors rise in sales tax

Increasing rate to 9% would provide $2.8 million each year to shore up police, fire, library

CHAMPAIGN — All but one city council member said Tuesday night that they want to use a sales-tax increase to raise the money needed to restore staffing levels at the police and fire departments and avoid a reduction in hours at the Champaign Public Library.

A quarter-percentage-point increase would bring the sales-tax rate to 9 percent and raise $2.8 million annually in new money for the city. Council members say the revenue is sorely needed to start bringing service levels back to where they were before the recession.

They had already decided to give an extra $1.7 million to those departments during a May 14 straw poll, and they have yet to decide what to do with the extra revenue that would be left over. The $1.7 million would pay for six new police officers — bringing the department back to its pre-recession staffing level — keep the library on its current schedule, and fund firefighter overtime necessary to avoid losing an engine on the city's west side.

"I think most of the community think that they are necessary expenditures for serious government functions," said council member Tom Bruno. "Police, fire and library — that's what municipalities do."

Assuming the city council later confirms its decision after Tuesday night's 8-1 straw poll, the new sales tax likely would go into effect Jan. 1, per state rules. Because of lag time in how the tax is collected and paid to the city, Champaign would not start seeing the revenue bump until May 2014.

All of the spending decisions city officials have made to this point could be confirmed on June 4 when they vote on next year's budget. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Deborah Frank Feinen, the only council member to vote against the increase, said she is concerned that there was not enough effort to look elsewhere in the budget for cuts before tax raises, as city officials had done in the recession years.

"I don't see a will at this point from anybody to actually sit down and try to prioritize and see if there is a way to live within our means," Feinen said.

Council member Marci Dodds said she does "take issue with the notion that we haven't done our due diligence." She said the city council made painful cuts in the past five years totaling millions of dollars, and there's nothing left to trim.

"I am clear and comfortable that, while nobody wants this and while we would all like to have magic occur, it's not there anymore," Dodds said. "It really wasn't there five years ago, it definitely wasn't there last year and it's not here now."

Mayor Don Gerard said Champaign is in the midst of a "construction boom," and the city needs to bolster its services while it can. Now is the time to make the "investment" in basic city services, he said.

"We need the police officers, we need the fire now," Gerard said.

City council members had a debate about their options for raising new revenue — other taxes like the food-and-beverage tax, hotel-motel tax and package liquor tax were all on the table — but the thought of tax increases was met with little resistance from audience members. Some council members said they were pained by the idea of raising expenses for Champaign residents, but they saw it as necessary to provide essential city services.

Earlier in the night, City Manager Dorothy David said the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce had submitted their input in writing before the meeting. No one from the chamber made public comment during Tuesday night's meeting.

Bruno characterized the content of that letter as "not so fast, don't do this tonight," and he said that was not very helpful.

"We've been giving it thought from days and weeks leading up to this Tuesday night," Bruno said.

Bruno said that "there has been a pattern over the past two or three years that we get an emailed letter from the Chamber of Commerce" only hours before a vote or a straw poll is scheduled.

"It's not good advocacy for their cause, and it's not helpful in this deliberative process," he said.

Raising the city-only sales tax from 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent would put Champaign's share of the tax roughly on par with most comparable central Illinois cities.

But the city's total sales tax — which includes all the sales taxes charged by the state and school district — would be near the top of the list at 9 percent. Only Decatur (9 percent) and a special taxing district in Peoria (9.25 percent) would be as high or higher.

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danrice56 wrote on May 29, 2013 at 2:05 am

I'm done shopping or dining out in Champaign. They built a library they couldn't afford, then tried to go against what a library is supposed to stand for to pay for it, now they want us to pay more when we purchase to pay for their folly.

No thanks.

45solte wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

 'there's nothing left to trim...'

Would be if you would do away with those little 6'x6' 'parks' that seemingly require 5 city workers at a time to 'trim' and tend to. Have a look the next time they're planting a flower bed and do a city employee number count. How about going for best bids vs. paying more to satisfy your minority quotas when it comes to city contracts? Bruno surely can't be serious about his bare-bones spin on 'what municipalities do.' Only municipalities with a cadillac budget should build a cadillac library. Go back and try again before pressing the easy button by raising taxes. Who says we need to be back up at pre-recession levels? The economy is still in a recession. Do you think back in the great depression it was decided: well, enough of this depression stuff, geez. Let's just spend spend spend. The people are broke and the situation will become more dire once Obamacare ('affordable' LOL care LOL act) starts taking effect.

constantly amazed wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

Please don’t try to confuse the issue with things that have nothing to do with the city. The people working on those mini parks work for the Park District, a separate taxing body, and independent from the city. Yes, it is our tax money but it has as much to do with the city as the school district.

45solte wrote on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 am

Ok. So, I got one of them wrong. I will assume on your word then that the City of Champaign does not fund the Park District in any way. Still doesn't change the other things I mentioned nor the bigger picture of who this money is going to be extracted from.

UC2B. Forgot about that one. No long-term planning for funding save for sticking it to the taxpayers eventually (well, some more, I guess, as gov't 'grant' money was used initially = tax payer money). I already pay $12/month for other people's cell phone service (while I stick with my 5 year old phone to save money). Next up will be a huge annual tax hit courtesy of Unit 4. The people are taxed out. Get it? The more people joining the welfare state, the better, I guess, when it comes to this Obamination.


alabaster jones 71 wrote on May 30, 2013 at 7:05 am
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You're right, this sales tax increase is Obama's fault!  I heard he showed up at the city council meeting and personally strong armed all of them into approving the tax increase.

Big J wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

The thing that gets me is they say they are looking for ways to increase revenue to support the new hirings but they turn around and sell Lot J to one of the lowest bidders which is a money maker (from what I heard 250,000 a year) and increase sales tax for sales etc.....saying they will have extra $$$$, well not if they aren't counting on the money from the parking lot no longer coming in.

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm

The Lot J development agreement required the developer to provide at least as many public parking spaces on the site as currently exist. There will be no permanent disruption of that revenue stream. You should maybe check out the rest of the development agreement before you make complaints about things that aren't true.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Maybe you should correctly inform the readers of the fact that the taxpayer paid for that parking lot BEFORE it was sold; double revenue taken out of the reader's pockets.  What happens after that fact is irrelevent in tems of revenue stream; the taxpayer still pays for the adjoining egress connected to that lot--lights, curbs, etc.

A true complaint?

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Double revenue taken out of pockets? Are you referring to the fact that people using the parking spaces had to pay to them, and that's some sort of horrible injustice?

I guess you would prefer that the city subsidize your automobile storage even more. That wouldn't reduce your costs, of would merely hide them from you.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm

yes to both questions

Guessing should not be allowed by members of responsible governing bodies.  Preference by the vast majority of taxpayers is to not guess about easy access to a business instead of having cash sucked out of their pocket upon arrival to parking areas in the city core area.  That would reduce all costs; parking fees, parking meter employees, parking office fees, parking meter hardware costs, towing cost, legal fees, where does it end-- it is right in line with the new increase in sales tax-local government greed.

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm

If the city provides parking spaces for free, the cost does not magically disappear as you seem to assume. It costs money to build and maintain that parking space. Plus there's an opportunity cost because that space could potentially be used for something else. Even if the person parking pays a price of zero, there are still costs associated with their parking space...costs that get passed on to the taxpayer through the subsidy to the driver.

People demanding free parking are my favorite type of hypocritical "fiscal conservative". They love to decry parking charges as an evil revenue grab while unironically holding out their hands for a handout in the form of government-subsidized automobile storage space.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 30, 2013 at 9:05 am

This is exactly why we have a taxpayer/local government gap;  there are many perfectly-working and enforced and funded-through-taxpayer free parking districts throughout the US and in Illinois; likewise with libraries.  The parking patrons in Twin Falls Idaho in conjuction with the local government have both and the design of these programs puts shampoo-banana land to shame.  To label the taxpayer conservative or liberal is not the issue; the issue is the local government body makes poor, narcisisstic, self-serving decisions that don't work. period.  The library tax won't work because the original plan was too dreamy, self-serving, and impractical--not fiscally conservative. This political term has nothing to do whether it works or not; the design that is accepted from government members who have delusions of grandeur is the root of the problem. Out of touch with reality.

mark taylor's ghost wrote on June 01, 2013 at 12:06 pm

But I don't wanna pay. I love socialism for me, just not for anyone else. I'm a Tea Party Republican and I think all you moochers you should be subsidizing my lifestyle. Socialism isn't really all that bad when I benefit from it.

Danno wrote on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 am

C'mon, y' that one TV commercial sez'...'It's justa' few dollars'...

EL YATIRI wrote on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 am
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We don't need duplicate city governments and services for shampoo banana.  Trim one mayor, one city manager, etc.  The twin cities can be run more efficiently and less expensively with one city government for both.

read the DI wrote on May 29, 2013 at 11:05 am

Nothing left to trim? Good god, how wrong is that statement? How would anyone on the Council know beans about where each department's slush fund is? Believe it, they have them. The only way to get at it is to force each department to cut 3% from their budget -- without cutting people. Then you will learn where the money is hiding. Bruno, Gerard, Frank etc. are good people, but none of them is an accountant, and it shows in their budgeting process.


bluegrass wrote on May 29, 2013 at 11:05 am

Just curious what the city expenditures and revenue were in 2007, compared to 2013.  Anyone know those numbers?

Big J wrote on May 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm

At Bluegrass, get it from the Information Act

constantly amazed wrote on May 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm
parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

All cooked to convince the public that everything is kosher;  just look at the sidewalk heater right outside the entrance to the sittee bildeeng;  that says it all.

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I see the tin foil hat brigade is out in force tonight.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Careful- tin foilers might reflect a blinding light onto visually inept members of City staff/council; daytime is closed to the tin foilers where parking is not allowed unless tin money is flashed.

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm

What other government handouts would you like to beg for besides free parking? Why should the government subsidize your automobile storage?

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 30, 2013 at 10:05 am

Free parking has never been a handout and shouldn't be perceived as one.  Is free parking at the library a subsidized handout to the patron? No.  Maybe the City should transfer/install the vastly- unused parking meters from the fringe areas around the city building core  to the library parking lot-then the taxpayer would be fairly assessed ONLY IF the proceeds went directly to the library--lets see--follow the money from next annual report to see if that revenue would actually make it back to the library..

read the DI wrote on May 30, 2013 at 10:05 am

Trying to remember who paid for the roads to be's on the tip of my tongue...oh yeah, the taxpayers! So even if there's no meter, there is no such thing as "free" parking.

BrianHock wrote on May 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Let's see, there was a four cent tax on gas to fix pot holes (anyone see any), then there is a new tax included on your sanitary bill to fix sewers (well that means more work on River Walk on Campus) and now sales tax on every item you buy so we can keep library open longer and hire more emergency personel. What if the Police and Fire Department trimmed some of the management ( Chief, 3 Deputy Chiefs, 6 Lts),  plus all the Assistants that all the Management types in the CIty building have so that person can do thier work, then how about that legal department where the head guy has not seen a court room in years and cannot fight one court case because the City pays off everyone that has a complaint. Now that I am on a roll lets add in the all the houses the City is buying for low income people and then loaning them money at zero interest to make repairs, then there is the payout to Steve Carter when he left plus all the parties and plaques he got, hell why not start giving out  Garard Phones or Bruno phones as well! 

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Not only can I tell that you've never seen a courtroom, I can also tell that you've never engaged in any significant legal conflict or training. It is far more cost effective to settle a lot of cases and selectively go to trial than to go to trial for every suit. If you think the city should be going to trial for every suit, then I hope you're ready to pony up to pay for additional attorney staff time, not to mention the larger payouts in instances where the city loses.


And what is this "Gerard phone" business? Are you harkening back to the so-called "Obamaphones", which come from the same program that was created by Most Holy Saint Reagan in 1984 and is paid for through an independent non-profit, NOT tax dollars?


There is room for thoughtful and informed critiques of our municipal government. Since you seem incapable of elevating your criticism to that level, I suggest you step aside til you learn a few things and clear your head.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Naughty dummy  Davis;  the city uses taxpayer money to brainwash us into accepting their gilded palace approach is always correct in concerning policy/taxing decisions.  They have been consistently wrong since the Dodd Mayoral days.


Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Wow! It's been 30 years since Dodd took office and the city has been consistently wrong with its financial management (and they've been brainwashing us too!!), yet here we stand with a city that's very financially sound. Hmmmm...either we've been burning through the vast supersecret multimillion dollar reserves we accumulated pre-1983, or your argument is silly and baseless. Which could it be? Think, think...

P.S. keep thinking of cool nicknames for me

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm

not financially sound according to tuesday's meeting.  Baseful; no laughing sillies

when it comes to responses from the taxpayer

Ps:  hereby proclaimed "collnicknamesforme"


Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Not a bad nickname, but maybe I should hand off the naming duties to someone who knows how to properly spell and punctuate their discourse.

I would be mad at paying taxes if the public schools had failed me as bad as they failed you, I suppose.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I Think I can safely speak for more than just myself WITHOUT the politico.

cool instead of coll my utmost apologetico.

mark taylor's ghost wrote on June 01, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Oh, you can just blame in on municipal brainwashing. Gerard and Obama are lurking just in the shadows over their magical powers over our ability to think and hiding the fact that the city is really losing BILLIONS of dollars a month but is only being kept afloat by secretly laundering Kenyan-Mexican-Benghazi gun-running/drug cartel money for the Hollywood elite conspiracy to use the Fed to enslave us all!!!!!!!!!

This all really traces back to the Bilderbergers blackmailing Nixon to take us off the gold standard, of course.

Lostinspace wrote on May 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Except for a hardware store and an occasional appliance, I avoid shopping in Champaign, especially the nightmare of the big boxes, which have little choice anyway.  The city, by chasing away small, reliable retailers, has pushed me toward the internet, where I make most purchases (food, gasoline, and sundries are also purchased outside Champaign).  Go ahead, increase the sales tax to 50%.

Once they decide to impose sales tax on internet purchases, we'll see.  I wonder how much of that revenue will end up here.

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Congratulations on your brave and super effective "boycott". 

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Congratulations on the acknowledgement that retail shopping downtown/uptown/aroundtown is a city-managed disaster.

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

The only significant retail problem I see in town is that low-quality automobile oriented retail space has been overbuilt. I fail to see how that's the local government's fault.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 30, 2013 at 10:05 am

Yes-but the city has followed suit at the expense of prior-existing friendly, equal access.

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm

I am consistently amazed at how underinformed the loudest critics of local government are. In this one article we have a commenter who doesn't know that the park district and the city are two distinct units of government (but it doesn't matter because he really came here to complain about OBAMAAAAAAA), another commenter who doesn't know the details of the new development he's criticizing, and a third who thinks it's fiscally responsible to always go to trial and never settle. It's really really really easy to go to city council meetings and find documents online. Most of the whiners would rather spend their time venting their spleen online instead of learning about their own government, I suppose.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Everybody knows that council meetings are a joke and a waist of time in trying to get something done;  it is nothing more than a staged ploy to FIND OUT just how irritated the public is and then there's STRAWWWW POLLSSSS with no hay for the public to feed on its all been stolen from us.

Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Spoken like a true guy-who's-never-been-to-a-public-meeting

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm

experience of one is enough

Marti Wilkinson wrote on May 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I wonder how many people will notice a significant difference in their purchases when the new sales tax goes into effect. I have to agree with the mayor, and council members who voted on the increase. We need these vital services, and the money has to come from somewhere. I think people forget how inefficient the old library building was, and the new one better serves the needs of Champaign. When this matter was raised I sent an email to council members. I said I would be willing to deal with an increase in my property tax to pay for the library, and if it came to a choice between the library and the police/fire department, then the safety of the city ought to come first.


parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Please don't try to brainwash the taxpayer about the park district's independence; the city and district are joined at the pocket book to be one of the worst connections we have as taxpayers to deal with.  Why doesn't the city just raise the parking meter rates to those of Chicago?  There's a good source of revenue not fulfilled.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on May 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm
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Someday, someone will recognize that we don't need an increase in fire protection.


Police? Perhaps. Fire? No.



Nice Davis wrote on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I'd be curious to hear you spin this thought out a little further. If I understand you correctly (and apologies if I'm not), you're describing a situation like this:

There's a certain level of harm that we as a community decide is appropriate to incur when setting up our fire services--e.g. number of fires, amount of property lost to fire every year, minimum response time for emergencies, etc.--although we may not discuss it in those directly quantifiable terms. We can get down to that level at a particular cost (e.g. $2,000,000), but we could also spend a lot more (e.g. $4,000,000) and still see very little marginal improvement above our goal. If we're spending that higher amount from the outset, though, how do we know that we can go lower and still have the same outcomes? What is the evidence we should look at?

I agree with you in theory that it's entirely possible to overspend for adequate or even excellent fire services. I just have no idea how to judge that. I'd be curious to learn more.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on May 30, 2013 at 2:05 am
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That's a pretty good summary. The only major factor you've neglected concerns construction/electrical.  Newer buildings, fewer flammable materials, mandatory installation of suppression systems, etc.



parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 30, 2013 at 10:05 am

You got it; maintenance/consultant/legal fees either double or triple the costs of things; parking garages, library parking lots, boneyard walking paths, Lincoln hotels, parking meters, roundabouts, mayoral confrontations, shootings, -oh- and legal fees for the Olympian Drive project.

Janet wrote on May 30, 2013 at 8:05 am

Not trying to stir the pot, but what ever happened to the issue of the Champaign library being able to afford high usage by folks who live outside CU but use Champaign like it's their own?

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 31, 2013 at 3:05 pm

It turned into an embarrassment, Janet.  Come to find out; Champaign's library borrows more books from the surrounding libraries than it loans out.  The matter sort'a faded away........

Champaign's library did get a new program with equipment out of it though.

mark taylor's ghost wrote on June 01, 2013 at 12:06 pm

The issue was that people from specific districts were abusing the sharing arrangements, neglecting to fund their own libraries, and using the CPL as their de facto home library without contributing their fair share to fund it. It's gone away because measures were introduces to reduce, though not eliminate, that mooching to a more manageable level.

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 01, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Oh, that's your take on it?  The NG articles of Tues., 11/01/11, and Mon. 11/28/11 helps to clarify the issue.  Champaign felt that their library was being picked on by other smaller communities libraries patrons borrowing books from poor Champaign.  What Champaign's library board failed to research was that Champaign was borrowing more books from the smaller libraries under the Illinois Heartland Library System.  When the IHLS decided to exclude Champaign; Champaign did an about face spin, and limited the "mooching" to two books while Champaign patrons could still "mooch" books off of the smaller libraries in the IHLS.

Typical C-U arrogance, and money grubbing excuses.  Just like Urbana's whine about losing tax revenues because of other communities in Carle's area.  Champaign-Urbana should just go with the name change of ME-ME.  I am sure that you will have the last word though; no matter how distorted it is.

mark taylor's ghost wrote on June 02, 2013 at 8:06 am

I'm not going to re argue the issue but, for the record, stats show that some patrons of the Tolono/Savoy and Mahomet districts were abusing the system. I know several people who were told directly by real estate agents while looking at houses in Savoy that a great advantage of living in Savoy would be having full access to the CPL while not paying full rates.

You're distorting by looking at CPL loan rates to the entire surrounding sharing system, not to those two districts. CPL patrons were borrowing books at rates that fell within normal established parameters. Stats showed that abuse of the system occurred when some patrons from those two districts used CPL as their de facto home library. That is the undistorted reality.

Now, twist away and turn this, once again, into yet another instance to support your contention that people from rural areas are somehow morally superior to people from "metro" areas like the super duper metro CU.

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 02, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I think you made your point about morally superior people from "metro" areas.  Best stay in C-U except driving on I-57. 

The library system that the communities belong to voted Champaign out due to the sharing rules.  Tolono, and Savoy may have borrowed more books than the other communities from Champaign; but Champaign borrowed more books from the shared library system than the others.  Yes, I am looking at the loan rates to the entire surrounding sharing system.  The system could do well without Champaign.  That was the vote by the system.  However, Champaign agreed to "share" two books as long as Champaign could continue to borrow more than two books.  Most of the surrounding libraries were not pleased with the deal.  They would have preferred that the original decision of booting Champaign out of the system stayed in effect.

Champaign has the resources to spend on their good library.  It should spend the money where it chooses.  However, do not place the blame on the sharing communities for Champaign's spending.