Randolph County Herald Tribune - Chester, IL
  • Safety Tax returns on April ballot

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  • If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
    That’s exactly what the Randolph County board is doing after passing a resolution Friday to put the Public Safety Tax back on the ballot for the April 4 election.
    The PST failed by more than 5,200 votes during the Nov. 8 general election, as 67 percent of those who voted decided against it.
    The new version has some tweaks - including a 25-cent increase to $1 for every $100 in tangible personal property sold at retail - and a promise that the county will disperse 25 percent of the funds collected to local public service agencies (municipal police and fire districts) to be used exclusively for public safety purposes.
    The amount of the disbursements will be based upon the number of people served by the particular agency.
    “It becomes a county-wide proposition other than a Randolph County Sheriff’s Office initiative,” said Commissioner Dave Holder, who is also the board’s budget director.
    As before, the ballot resolution cites the loss of sales tax revenue from the Baldwin power plant as the reason for the tax, which shall not be applicable to grocery sales (other than alcoholic beverages and soft drinks), prescription and nonprescription medicines, drugs, medical appliances and insulin, urine testing materials, syringes and needles used by diabetics.
    Food prepared for immediate consumption, which includes restaurants, would be subject to the tax.
    The board was asked what happens if the tax referendum fails again.
    “We continue to try to make things work the best we can,” said Commissioner Marc Kiehna, noting the reduction in the number of sheriff’s deputies and the hit road districts are taking in this year’s budget.
    In the weeks since the failure of the PST, the commissioners have announced four layoffs, approved three retirement/severance agreements - with one retirement still pending - and moved two full-time employees to part-time.
    The layoffs were recently put on hold due to higher-than-expected sales tax receipts and discussions with the various unions that represent the employees.
    “We have probably not cut enough yet to make it work, but I’m not sure where I’m going to look yet,” Holder said.
    Holder added he would wait a couple of months to see what happens with revenues and the pending retirement and re-evaluate the situation in the beginning of March.
    “We’re closing in on the gap, but we’re not completely there,” he said, referring to the roughly $1 million hole in the county’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget that was caused by declining coal sales tax revenue and the shutdown of Unit 3 at the Baldwin power plant.
    Page 2 of 3 - Holder said the county would explore fee increases in the county clerk’s office, sheriff’s office and courthouse security, re-project revenues and then go from there.
    “We’re basically as low as we can go without making major changes,” he said.
    He later noted that it takes five people to operate a 24-hour schedule at the sheriff’s office and the county has only eight deputies.
    “If we start going lower any more than we are now, you’re talking discontinuing 24-hour service,” Holder said.
    Holder noted that the state not having a budget causes problems and one of the possibilities being discussed in Springfield is a sales tax on services.
    “A lot of it will depend on what the State of Illinois will do,” he said.
    In other news, the commissioners received a report from County Clerk Pat Laramore on the cost of the November election.
    Total cost was $49,013.08 with the majority of that - $31,563.04 - going to election judges. There were 14,431 votes cast in the election, at a cost to the county of $3.40 per vote.
    The number of people voting was a decrease of 117 from the previous presidential election in November of 2012. The number of registered voters also decreased from 21,863 in November 2012 to 21,376 in November 2016.
    “No matter what anybody tries, we’re not increasing the turnout,” Laramore said.
    • The commissioners approved maintaining the mileage rate of 50 cents per mile.
    • The commissioners approved the quarterly meeting dates of Jan. 13, Jan. 27, Feb. 10, Feb. 24, March 10 and March 24, all at 9 a.m.
    • General assistance for the period was $1,200 with no expenses.
    • The Randolph County Care Center reported 65 residents.
    • Kiehna gave a brief courthouse improvements report update, stating that the Randolph County Jail roof replacement project is “on the downhill slide” and that it was more complicated than the courthouse roof due to the equipment that sits atop the jail roof.
    Repairs are also progressing on the plumbing inside the jail and work will soon begin on the jail gates.
    • In his report to the board, county engineer Mike Riebeling informed the commissioners of a resolution in support of motor fuel tax funds to not be used for purposes other than transportation.
    • Randolph County Health Department Administrator Tom Smith told the board the state health department is in the process of consolidating immunization regulations.
    “They’re not changing that,” he said. “But there’s always some people opposed to vaccinations.”
    Smith said he was also awaiting an announcement from the General Assembly on Jan. 1 that it had resolved the state budget.
    Page 3 of 3 - “I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said.
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