Deficit budget spells tax hike

Deficit budget spells tax hike

DANVILLE — Like the last two years, Vermilion County officials are proposing a deficit budget but hoping to spend less than projected and end the year in the black. But unlike the last two years, county officials are also proposing a slight increase in the property tax levy.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said the proposed 3.6 percent increase on the county's portion of property tax bills would mean a taxpayer with a $1,000 tax bill would pay an additional $5.60 to the county. The county is proposing an $11.99 million property tax levy, compared to an $11.58 million levy that was approved last year.

Most of the increase comes from a $499,902 increase in what's being levied for the public safety building rent fund, which pays for the juvenile detention center and other public safety services in the county. County officials said not only have costs increased in that area, but the county has been spending down fund balances in that area, and the county is going to ease up on that trend under this proposal.

The proposed budget and property tax levy were discussed during Monday night's finance committee meeting of the Vermilion County Board.

At the meeting, Weinard said it would be a modest tax increase. He said nobody likes taxes, but there comes a point when the county must be responsible. He said the county is in the business of delivering services, and to maintain the current level of services, a slight increase in the levy is necessary.

The finance committee approved the budget with an 8-0 vote and approved the property tax levy with a 7-1 vote. Board member Rick Knight said he voted "no" on the levy, because he promised his constituents when he ran for election that he would not support tax increases. But, he said, the county officials have done a good job "holding the line" as much as possible with this levy and budget.

The full county board will vote Oct. 8 to put the proposed property tax levy and budget on public display for 30 days.

The tentative budget anticipates the county, across all departments and offices, will spend $36.96 million in the new fiscal year that begins Dec. 1 and will generate $32.98 million in revenue for about a $3.9 million overall deficit. A deficit of more than $1 million is also proposed in the general fund, which is one fund within the county budget, but is the county's main operating fund. It also had a projected deficit of more than $1 million in the current budget, which was passed by the county last fall.

Weinard said the county has approved deficit budgets the last two years, and in the first of those two fiscal years, the county ended the year in the black. The second fiscal year will come to an end Nov. 30, and Weinard said there's a pretty good chance the county will again end the year in the black.

He said county officials, officeholders and department heads do their best each year to estimate expenses, but have not always spent what they've anticipated, and he believes that again this year, the county likely will not spend all the money that's projected in the proposed budget.

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