Tie-breaking vote cast for lower levy

Final vote set for next meeting would give property taxpayers same rate as last year

CHAMPAIGN — As expected, city council member Will Kyles cast the tie-breaking vote in a city council decision on property taxes Tuesday night after his absence two weeks ago left the question hanging.

Kyles opted for the lower of two options, which means residents will pay the same city property-tax rate next year as this year. It also means the city will collect a little less tax revenue as Champaign's taxable property values are expected to drop about 0.88 percent.

The difference is expected to be about $257,882 on the $19,697,750 in property taxes the city will collect next year. That amount would set the rate the same as what homeowners paid this year: $1.3152 per $100 of equalized assessed value.

The difference is about $8.60 on a $150,000 home. Champaign's property tax is about 15 percent of a homeowner's total bill.

It is the first change in the city property-tax levy in four years. Champaign had been collecting $19,955,632 from property owners during that run, which meant that the tax rate slowly crept up as property values dropped, even though taxpayers were not actually paying more.

Kyles said he thinks the city will be able to get past that drop-off in revenue despite its ongoing budget woes. He said the city will need to address structural budget issues in the long run.

"We are going to have to tackle pension and rising health care costs responsibly," Kyles said. "This is a small relief to the taxpayers, and it's the right thing."

Tuesday's poll is not final. City council members will have to finalize their decision at their next meeting.

Because the poll was a second attempt of a 4-4 tie vote that had been taken two weeks ago, Tuesday's vote happened with no public comment and no discussion among council members, in accordance with city council rules.

The city council voted twice Tuesday night. Kyles' key vote actually came during the first poll in the form of a "no" against adopting the same tax levy as last year, which would have resulted in a higher property-tax rate. Kyles joined with Mayor Don Gerard and council members Karen Foster, Deborah Frank Feinen and Paul Faraci to provide the five "no" votes.

In the second poll, council members voted 7-2 for the lower property-tax levy, resulting in the same rate as homeowners paid this year. Council members Tom Bruno and Marci Dodds were in the minority on that vote.

Earlier in the night, council members approved a 2.53 percent increase in pay for each of the next two years for Champaign firefighters. That will cost the city an extra $211,383 next year and $220,777 the year after that.

Bruno voted for the pay raise and said the collective bargaining agreement is fair. But in a preamble to the property-tax vote, he held it up as an example of how running a city gets incrementally more expensive.

"This next two years is going to cost us more than the last two years," Bruno said. "That's the reality."

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Local Yocal wrote on November 05, 2013 at 11:11 pm
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This is the psychosis of having to govern during the Tea Party Age. Appease everybody all at once for fear of retribution. So we increase expenses by giving the firemen a 2.53% pay increase for yet another extra $432,000 over the next two years; but decrease revenues by $257,882. Feinen votes yes to both, and the Chamber of Commerce will somehow claim Gerard is the culprit for increasing the structural deficit....as soon as they can figure out how to say it without saying it.

Everybody gets their way, and deficit spending continues. Maybe deficit spending isn't such a problem afterall? Don't think for a second, Mr. Kyles, you'll address deficits with another tax, fee or raised fine. Drink your kool-aid.....and keep those pay raises coming....

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 06, 2013 at 9:11 am

Median income for a Champaign firefighter is less than $37,000 per year.  The raise amounts to about $78 a month.  Would you run into a burning building for less than $38,000 a year?

Complain about the courts, politicians, and talking head front groups like the Chamber of Commerce; but don't pick on those who protect and serve.

Nice Davis wrote on November 06, 2013 at 12:11 pm

This is so inaccurate it hurts. Here is the City of Champaign's salary report for FY12-13: http://ci.champaign.il.us/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/2013-Compensation-Report-Final.pdf

N
otice how hardly anyone in the Fire Department makes less than $60,000 annually, and nobody makes less than $50,000.

Local Yocal wrote on November 06, 2013 at 6:11 am
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The Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to city council on Oct. 22 demanding council eliminate automatic wage increases. Especially automatic wage increases beyond the 1.4% of inflation. Did they show up to protest the firemens' wage increase? Chickens.

"Don't tax me" + "Pay me more" + "Re-elect me" = deficit spending with less revenues.

We'll await the Chamber's next letter lambasting Deb Feinen for the poor stewardship of tax dollars by voting to dig us into a deeper hole. Hypocrites.

Local Yocal wrote on November 06, 2013 at 11:11 am
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I don't got no problem with paying first responders what they are worth. $80,000 starting salary would be fine by me. I got a problem with people who whine about paying taxes for it, and whine further about government spending, and whine even more if the government is running a deficit. Then, they'll finance candidates who will claim lower taxes, less spending; but when the candidates get elected, they find themselves in the same boat council was in last night: "Don't tax me" + "Pay me more" + "Re-elect me" = deficit spending. The new boss is the same as the old boss.

No one will take a cut out of anything. All refuse to lose. First responders as top priority? Sure. The question the Chamber won't answer, what the council won't answer, what city staff won't answer is: are there any priorities? If everything is of equal value, then it's up to us taxpayers to accept our taxes. Which we do, even if relunctantly.

So what are the limits? Like I asked earlier, maybe deficit spending is not a big deal since the City Government's credit is good. Staff and council seem to act that way. Anyone notice how much Council spent on two new SUV's?

bluegrass wrote on November 12, 2013 at 9:11 am

You've written a lot of words, but I'm not sure where you stand other than you don't like the Chamber or the Tea Party.  If I may shed a little light into this conversation for you.  The Federal Government is somewhat different than the City of Champaign, in that the City cannot simply print money out of thin air.  William Kyles may have cast the deciding vote against raising the tax levy, but I think your mistaken to think that there is some kind of "Tea Party" influence by him, or anyone else on the City Council.  You're reading way to much into this.  These are just local people making what they believe are the right decisions.  They are not making raking in millions of dollars from industry lobbyists and corporations.  They get paid a relatively small amount of money to do a relatively big, time consuming job.  

So please inform us, had you been on the council in William Kyle's shoes, would you have voted for or against the increased tax levy?

Haba wrote on November 08, 2013 at 9:11 am

I applaud Will Kyles vote, common sense and comments. The total cost of living is Champaign continues to grow without constraint and is out of control. Many of those making these decisions have NO idea of what it is like to barely get by with little left in the budget after paying bills. They live in a totaly different world where raising these costs has little effect on what they have left over after paying their bills. They need to OPEN their eyes and step in the shoes of people who are barely scraping by before raising costs once again. What I do not see is the effort to properly manage the budget and to creatively cut costs and maximize the dollars they already have. There are a great many ways to save taxpayer dollars. Perhaps experts need to be brought in to lead them to find out how to be financially responsible with tax payer dollars instead of constantly raising costs to live in Champaign. Living in Champaign has become deeply dissappointing to say the least. Heading out on these terribly maintained city roads full of potholes is a reminder of just how mismanaged the Champaign tax dollars have become.