The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

November 10, 2013

County tax hike needed


The Commercial-News

---- — County tax hike needed

Recent comments and questions by some Vermilion County Board members have suggested the need to comment on the proposed 2103-2014 annual budget for Vermilion County.

After six years of responding to rising costs and shrinking resources by operating from special fund reserves, and getting great cooperation from department heads, elected officeholders and employees, our fund balances and reserves have now dwindled dangerously low.

Since the national economy crashed in 2008, we have hoped it would rebound and both Springfield and Washington would get back on track with a sound financial plan.

Six years later, it seems that neither Springfield nor Washington can arrive at a long-term financial plan. In stark contrast, Vermilion County has operated as a bi-partisan team to maintain fiscal responsibility and keep public services maintained.

Only in those areas where we were totally dependent on state funding was it necessary to reduce our services.

Today, we need to strengthen our reserves and fund balances with a small 3.6 percent increase in county real estate taxes.

Even while doing so, we will still be using our reserves to help fund critical services such as the Public Safety Building and law enforcement.

While negotiating labor contracts, we have tried to be conservative while still paying our employees for the excellent work they do serving the public.

Government, like most providers of primarily services, have labor costs that are essential and unavoidable. Not all employees were completely happy with the results of negotiations, yet there have been increases in salaries and we still provide a health insurance program.

We are caring for roads, eight public buildings and providing other traditional services upon which people rely. These services cost money. While we have cut some costs where possible, and will continue to do so, there remains the need to provide essential government services.

There remains the need to take care of long deferred maintenance of our public buildings or face greater costs in the future.

In the past, we have seen what happens if we wait too long to act: a sudden double digit tax increase to make up the difference in needed revenue. By acting prudently now, with a small increase to maintain our reserves at a safe, prudent and responsible level, we hope to avoid a large increase in the future.

Unfortunately, current revenue sources are simply insufficient to meet the needs of financing services at their current levels. Historically, Vermilion County leaders have acted together on a bipartisan basis to meet challenges and overcome them.

The current and past finance chairmen who are signing this letter, both Democrat and Republican respectively, believe we can continue to do so now and into the future.

John Dreher

District 7 representative

Danville

John Alexander

District 6 representative

Danville