MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) — Despite protests from taxpayers, board members in Piatt County passed a deficit budget and a 9.6 percent tax levy increase on Tuesday with little explanation.
Board member Bob Murrell was the only member to vote against adopting a budget more than $370,000 in the red, a stance he’d vocally taken for the duration of county budget talks.
It’s possible that deficit number could shrink between now and the next county board meeting in December: board members on Tuesday tabled their vote on appropriations.
And while the deficit is lower than initially projected, the tax levy adopted Tuesday won’t help that situation specifically: the levy was adopted to address retirement contribution shortages within the county.
During public comment, resident Steve Shreffler said he didn’t believe taxpayers should bear the burden of the county’s financial shortcomings.
“It’s not our fault, and it’s not our fault that it’s gone this far,” he said.
It was a sentiment that had been echoed 13 days earlier by other taxpayers at a Truth-in-Taxation hearing: a crowd of nearly 60 attendees voiced disapproval of the proposed tax levy, adopting a deficit budget and urged the board to find other solutions.
Board chair Ray Spencer declined to publicly comment on the matter, nor did he respond to subsequent emails or phone calls from WCIA regarding the budget.
Already, less than a week before the county rolls into a new fiscal year, consequences appear to be manifesting.
Scott Docherty, of Monticello-based Top Flight Grain Cooperative, said the board’s decisions had the company questioning whether operations would expand in Piatt County.
“When we see (tax) increases like this, we stop and think ‘Where are we going to expand?'” he said. “As we roll forward and we look at expanding, this is going to come into consideration.”
Following the approval of the tax levy, Top Flight Grain expects to have to pay an additional $5-7,000 on top of the $54,000 in taxes they pay specifically to the county already.
Docherty told the board the company was looking at two expansion proposals, neither of which are in Piatt County.
And after the county board at a finance meeting approved cutting 38 percent of the state’s attorney’s budget, assistant state’s attorney and drug prosecutor Tammy Wagoner left the office earlier than had been expected.
Wagoner had announced earlier this year that she would be running for Macon County State’s Attorney; she left the position after board adjustments to the Piatt County state’s attorney budget cut the position entirely.
And Piatt County officials say the board’s back-and-forth between whether or not the county’s Emergency Management Agency would be fully funded and operational full-time caused the county to miss out on grant funding that could have helped smaller communities.
A missed deadline means that smaller jurisdictions within the county lost the chance to participate in a study that could have earned them grant funding for various infrastructure projects — upgrading community shelters, resizing culverts to handle larger water accumulations, burying power lines, anchoring air conditioning and heating units, among them.