DANVILLE — Aldermen soundly voted down Tuesday night a proposed public safety property tax that would have generated new revenue for more police officers and firefighters.
But the council did go along with billing for some services the fire department provides to individuals who don't live in the city or to businesses not in the city.
A dozen aldermen voted against creating a 5-cent property tax that could generate about $170,000 annually for the hiring of public safety personnel. Alderman Mike O'Kane, whose son is a firefighter, was the only alderman to vote in favor of the public safety tax.
Several aldermen expressed support for the public safety division but also explained why they weren't going to support the proposed tax. One of them, Alderman Rickey Williams Jr., said that while he has been a proponent of adding more police officers and firefighters, he cannot support a tax increase when he believes cuts can be made in other areas of the city budget to free up dollars to hire more personnel in public safety.
"I think it's ludicrous to ask citizens for more money," he said.
Alderman Steve Foster said he couldn't support it especially after hearing that the city's equalized assessed valuation likely would go down more than originally anticipated next year.
Earlier in the meeting, Vermilion County Supervisor of Assessments Matt Long told the council the EAV likely will decrease 4 percent rather than the 2 percent the city had assumed in preparing its property tax levy that will be approved later this month. Later in the meeting, the council amended its levy proposal based on that advice and abated, using more money from the general fund, another $150,000 from the property tax levy. That ensures that if the EAV does decrease by 4 percent, the city's tax rate will still stay below $2 per $100 of assessed valuation. The levy will be on public display for the next two weeks before the council votes on it at its Dec. 20 meeting.
The nickel public safety tax was one of four recommendations brought to the council by a public safety revenue committee that has been meeting since August and was chaired by Alderman Mike Puhr, who voted against the public safety tax, and former Alderman Nancy O'Kane, the wife of Alderman Mike O'Kane.
The council also voted down another one of the committee's recommendations, which called for creating a new command officer promotional list for the police department, a resolution that also included promoting an officer to a command position and filling the officer vacancy. Alderman O'Kane made a motion to amend the resolution to create a promotional list, which would be active for three years, but strike the part about promoting an officer and hiring an officer. But that motion failed.
The council did approve the committee's other two recommendations, to pursue billing for some services provided by the fire department and adding to the list of criminal charges for which the police department can automatically tow a suspect's vehicle, which generates revenue for the city when the vehicle is claimed.
The council discussed the billing proposal at length but finally voted 9-4 to do a request for proposals from private companies that specialize in billing for fire department services. The company generates the bills, collects the money and takes a portion of what it collects for its fee and turns the rest over to the city. The companies already know what services can be billed to an insurance company, and the city would only collect from insurance companies of residents who do not live in the city or other entities not within the city.