The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

July 26, 2013

Vermilion County officials hope to avoid tax increase

BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — Officials could be adding another year to Vermilion County’s streak of years without a tax increase.

For the last five years, county residents have enjoyed no property tax increases as a result of the Vermilion County Board’s budget work.

Chairman Gary Weinard said things are still coming together at this point for the county, which begins its fiscal year on Dec. 1. But at this point, there is a good chance that property taxes will not see an increase.

“It’s more in pieces than anything else right now,” he said. “But the budgets that have come through look pretty favorable.”

Two areas have increased assessed valuation in Vermilion County — farm land and wind farm, he said. On the other side, the county is expecting to see a small increase in expenses during the upcoming fiscal year.

Weinard cautioned that if the need for a property tax increase does emerge in the coming weeks, he expects such an increase would be minimal.

“There’s still a lot that can happen, but it looks positive for us,” he said.

At this point, Weinard said he hopes to be able to bring the budget before the county board in September. The board — according to statute — must then vote to put the document out for public viewing for a month.

A final vote on the budget would then come in October, although Weinard said he is not against a final vote on the budget in November should it be warranted.

At this point, members of the county’s committees have been looking at budget items since the beginning of the month as elected officials and officeholders bring their revenues and expenses for the next fiscal year.

Weinard said careful budgeting is almost an understood “culture” among officials right now.

“They’re trying to do as much as they can with as little as they can,” he said. “They are conscious that they are spending tax dollars and want to do it in a wise economical way.”

Although the outlook is positive, there are some unknowns for the county, specifically the union contracts still under negotiation. Weinard said officials for both sides are basically on the same page, so the final negotiated terms aren’t a complete unknown.

Currently, the county is in negotiations with the Teamsters at the highway department, the Laborers union at the Juvenile Detention Center and the IBEW for two contracts, judicial and non-judicial employees.

Weinard also noted the county's budget outlook for the current fiscal year was looking up, with the potential $1 million deficit originally expected when the budget was approved last year continuing to drop as the year continues.