By MILT KELLY
For Rantoul Press
In view of the response of some to the report of our last meeting I feel I must at least make an effort to clarify my position and present an accurate portrayal of our comments at the last meeting regarding village revenue.
First, at no time and in no way was it my intent to criticize or denigrate the work of the four townships in the village of Fisher or any other taxing body to which our citizens pay tax. Property owners can look at their own tax bills and see that there are seven units of government that receive their share of the real estate tax bill.
None of them has a great surplus of cash to my knowledge. We all are pretty much in the same boat. We stretch the available resources as far as we can to make ends meet and do everything we can to spend the taxpayers’ money efficiently and carefully.
This means not always buying the newest or best equipment, using older vehicles when we would prefer to have new ones, and making tough choices about prioritizing projects.
In particular, our four neighbor townships have a track record of spending wisely, providing a valuable service, and cooperating with the village whenever the opportunity presents itself. I have seen this over the course of many years, and it is my hope that this mutual cooperation will continue long after I am gone.
I have the highest respect for all those individuals involved in the governance and daily operation of the work of the townships in our area. While it may be true that some townships and municipalities elsewhere in the state are less constrained by budgetary issues and can afford new equipment frequently, it is not the case here in these townships.
It is also important to note that while the real estate tax is a significant source of funding for the village, it is by no means our only source of revenue. We also receive revenue from the utility tax, a share of income tax and other sources.
For the townships, that is not the case. The vast majority of their funding comes from the real estate tax. It is understandable that their rate must be higher. Also, a portion of their road and bridge money comes back to the village. My sincere thanks to Scott Rodgers from East Bend and Dave Stalter and John Keith from Brown Township for helping me have a better understanding of these issues.
So what was the point of our brief discussion of revenue in the last meeting? It was simply to tell the story of the village of Fisher. We were in the process of looking at some medium- and long-range planning, and it will require significant revenue to address the needs of the village going forward over the next few years.
As one can see in looking at a tax bill, the village of Fisher has a tax rate of .35 per $100 EAV. In comparison to other units of government, this figure would seem to me to be on the low side. In fact, a recent survey reveals that out of 24 municipalities in Champaign County, we are the eighth-largest municipality, yet rank 15th in terms of municipal tax and overall tax rate.
In addition, a look at the history of our tax rate reveals that it has not risen in at least 40 years. The point is that we are now operating on a lower tax rate with a population of 2,000 than we did when the population was 1,500. For all that the village provides, that would seem to be a bargain.
While that may be pleasing to me as a taxpayer, it also is something I need to bear in mind as we contemplate making necessary improvements and maintenance which will be quite costly, but necessary.
At the end of the day we are not suggesting that the tax rates for the townships or any of the other governing bodies included on the tax bill are too high. We are simply saying that at some point in the future it will likely be necessary to ask the voters to approve an increase for the village of Fisher.
The townships have had and continue to have our full respect, support and appreciation for the manner in which they serve the community. They, like those of us in village government, the school district, the fire department and the others who share our tax revenues take their responsibility to the taxpayers very seriously and spare no effort to give the taxpayers the service they deserve in the most cost-effective manner possible.
The above statement has been endorsed and also reflects the views of Trustee Debbie Estes, who was also quoted in the previous article regarding the board meeting.
Milt Kelly is mayor of the village of Fisher.