Mount Vernon City Council Sneaks in a Tax Increase

Last night the Mount Vernon, IL city council passed a 0.50% tax increase. This increase puts our current tax rate on general merchandise at 8.0%. The only city within our region that compares reasonably to Mount Vernon is Effingham, and their tax rate is only 7.5% for general merchandise. There were other cities cited by proponents on the city council to compare Mount Vernon to that have higher tax rates. Sadly, each of those cities has other major economic considerations that support their tax rate!

  • Marion and Carbondale are both located along the Route 13 corridor.
  • Marion serves as a hub to the center of Route 13 and 57/24 interstates.
  • Marion grew by almost 10% from census to census.
  • Carbondale has a major university that helps support its income.
  • Carbondale has 50% more population than MtV – fair comparison?
  • Fairview Heights is in edge of the metropolitan area of Saint Louis.
  • Fairview Heights is home to many major shopping stores/centers.
  • Fairview Heights grew 11% census to census.

So, these three comparisons would be shot down by anyone who actually bothered to do some real comparison and fact-checking. Apparently our city council members are not fans of making realistic comparisons.

Here are a few other reasons I oppose this tax increase:

  • Mount Vernon has a 25.4 – 26.6% poverty rate as of latest census.
  • Is this going to pay for a pool that we will also have to pay to use?
  • Pool will only be open 3 months/year
  • Why is this tax not going to be sunset once planned items are completed?
  • An anonymous source says some of these funds being used to ‘help’ the new school.

Our poverty rate is a fact and cannot be disputed. At better than 25%, this means that our poorest citizens will now be paying closer to 10% of their income in taxes. Perhaps the goal of our city council is to alienate the poorest people in our community and force them to move elsewhere. There is strong belief that this new tax will fund a new pool that the city council is moving forward with building despite no funding in place to pay for it. This will be a nice pool with great fun to be had by everyone from the reports I have read – for 3 months of the year. The rest of the year this place will sit empty and unused by anyone except rats and mosquitoes.

The best part of possible uses for this new tax is a rumor that money will be given to the new high school to purchase property or otherwise assist with building. If that happens, I will come unglued. The last city council (Wood is still present) tried to screw city residents with a new tax to give the high school some money. This would have effectively made city residents (and shoppers) pay more toward the new, flashy high school than what their taxes were already going to be raised. District 201 is an independent taxing body. The city of Mount Vernon should not be financially supporting another taxing body. Granted, this is a rumor and should be taken as such, but they did try to screw us once before…

UPDATE:

I have received a reply from Councilman Wood that states they (council) passed the tax at the special meeting due to the unavailability of some to be at the last meeting and that they (council) wanted to pass the tax increase in a hurry because “The ordinance had to be in Springfield by about April 1.” I contend that it was rushed and should have been at a regular meeting considering it is a tax increase, but you may draw your own conclusions. Councilman Wood also states that the city has previously committed to provide infrastructure to the new school site and that other action beyond that would have to be discussed and approved at council meetings. This apparently quashes (I love that word) the rumor going about that the city will be donating or otherwise providing additional monies to District 201.

Also, the ‘they’ I refer to as trying to screw us before is a mostly replaced council. It was meant as a reference to the city council as a standing body and is not indicative of anyone in particular. It refers to action by the council with mostly different members – one of which almost admitted shady actions to me, but not quite.

In fairness, Councilman Wood was quite verbose in his reply and somewhat addressed my concerns. I still disagree with a tax being rushed and the new pool design. However, at least he (and Mayor Chesley in a separate email) replied to my concerns. Councilman Wood also took time to say I should come to council meetings and that I am misinformed regarding facts. He stated I should know better than to depend upon the newspaper for complete information. While this is true to a point, I contend that in my estimate 95% of residents never attend city council meetings and a we (the public) do depend on the newspaper, council releases, and the agendas/minutes on the city’s website to stay up to speed. If you are going to increase our taxes, then I would think that this information should be conducted at regular meetings – not special meetings that a majority are unaware of occurring.

He also said he can’t believe someone who ran for council blah blah blah… I ran against the shadiness that was going on at that time (and almost stated blatantly). Had I been elected I would have dove in headfirst and been equally as dedicated to the citizens of this city, if not more so. However I am on the outside and using all the information I can access to learn what is going on and draw conclusions. No, I didn’t call to ask if there was going to be a special meeting, but I shouldn’t have to call and ask. One would think that information would be on the city website or a distinct point made in a quote for the newspaper. Being an outsider I sent an email to communicate, aren’t we allowed to do that?

Oh yeah, the other city comparison facts stand.