Quincy News

Quincy City Council holds line on taxes, boosts pension contributions

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 19, 2016 10:15 pm

QUINCY -- Property taxes collected for the city of Quincy next year will remain unchanged, and $762,300 from the city's fund balance will be used to cover police and fire pensions.

Alderman Paul Havermale, R-3, sponsored the property tax amendment that won approval Monday night after a lively, but polite debate about a variety of tax levy options.

Havermale said he did not think it was the right time to approve a 17 percent property tax increase, which was originally proposed before the Illinois Department of Insurance came out with a lower suggested pension contribution. He said by using city funds that are not committed in this year's budget, it will give taxpayers a one-year reprieve from a property tax increase and still allow the city to reduce the unfunded pension liability.

"These pension obligations are not going to go away, but this is a step in the right direction," Havermale said.

The property tax ordinance requests a total tax levy of $6.293 million and should result in no change in the tax rate established by the Adams County clerk's office.

Alderman Mike Farha, R-4, supported the amendment, which passed 10-4. Farha also said the council has dealt with rising pension costs every year since he took office in 1999 and has been losing ground. He said there are only three ways to keep up with the costs: Grow the city's population and tax base at an accelerated rate, approve lower staffing levels for the Police and Fire departments, or raise taxes. He suggested that an ad hoc committee be assembled to work on solutions before next year's tax levy comes up at the end of the year.

Several aldermen opposed dipping into the city's reserves to cover the city's pension costs.

Alderman Jennifer Lepper, R-5, wondered whether the city might have higher costs coming in connection with the new county jail, which will also house the Quincy Police Department. She was opposed to depleting financial reserves.

Others, including Alderman Mike Rein, R-5, were in favor of funding pensions at the lower rate suggested by the state pension actuarial, rather than the higher level suggested by the city's private actuarial firm.

Aldermen also voted for a $155,000 strategic planning effort. By identical 12-2 margins the council approved hiring Development Strategies of St. Louis to develop the community blueprint and Maggie Strong of Quincy to act as the local facilitator working with the firm.

Aldermen Dan Brink, R-6, and Terri Heinecke, R-7, voted against the resolutions. Heinecke had voiced opposition to the cost and the timing of the effort during a mayoral campaign.

Alderman Jeff VanCamp, I-6, voted for the resolutions, saying he had spoken with about 40 of the 180 community volunteers who agreed to participate on committees working on the strategic plan. VanCamp, who has filed as a mayoral candidate, said comments from volunteers and the participation of Strong and City Planner Chuck Bevelheimer increased his comfort level.

"My vote was an acknowledgement of the fact that these community leaders were willing to step up to make Quincy a better place," VanCamp said. "As one gentleman said, ‘This could be the shot in the arm this town needs.' "

In other action, the council voted to let the Quincy Park District seek voter approval for the sale of 5.57 acres in Parker Heights Park.

Ron's Tire was awarded a $5,873 tire contract for city-owned vehicles during calendar years 2017 and 2018.

The low quote of $12,441.28 from Rush Truck Center of Quincy was approved for replacement of the transmission in a recycling truck.

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