Council Briefing: Normal Passes "One of the Toughest Budgets" Under Mayor Koos

 Normal Town Council members approved one of the leanest budgets in recent memory Monday night. Council member Kathleen Lorenz opposed a water rate hike and billing structure change at a time when she says the Town should be looking for money-saving efficiencies.

Normal Town Council members approved one of the leanest budgets in recent memory Monday night. Council member Kathleen Lorenz opposed a water rate hike and billing structure change at a time when she says the Town should be looking for money-saving efficiencies.

On Monday, Normal Town Council members passed what Mayor Chris Koos called “one of the toughest budgets” he’s seen in his tenure with the Town.

Town Council and staff members worked to make up a $3M budget deficit largely due to revenue lost from the Metrozone agreement terminated last year. Normal also faced a new 2% surcharge this year to collect its home rule sales tax and a 10% reduction in the Town’s share of income tax thanks to new state laws, along with local jobs down by the thousands.

The upcoming budget will cut 24 Town positions, the Orlando Avenue police substation, the drop-box recycling program and arts grants. The budget also eliminates the MLK Day Banquet, although Council member Chemberly Cummings said the Town might introduce a service event instead.

Water and Garbage Fees

Normal also approved higher water rates and trash collection fees beginning April 1, with bills coming monthly instead of every other month.

Council members voted 6-1 to introduce a 2% water rate increase to help keep the Town’s Water Fund afloat. The increase will cost the average household an estimated 90 cents more each month, or $10.80 more each year.

Council member Kathleen Lorenz opposed the increase as residents are seeing other bills going up at the same time. However delaying the increase would only make it harder for residents to stomach, said Council member Jeff Fritzen.

Council members also unanimously raised monthly trash collection fees from $18 to $24 to help pay for the current level of service residents have said they don’t want to lose.

Both charges will now be billed monthly instead of every other month. Council members voted 5-2 for the change supporters said was long overdue.

The new billing structure will cost the Town an estimated $136,000 a year for additional staff members transferred from another department, along with supplies and banking fees. Council members Lorenz and Scott Preston questioned the expense at a time when the Town should be looking for greater efficiencies.

Mayor Koos said the primary reason for the move is to help residents budget their income, especially those on a fixed income.

Property Tax Assessment Appeal

The Town could lose nearly $100,000 in 2016 tax revenues if the former Mitsubishi plant owner wins its appeals case before the Illinois Property Tax Assessment Board (PTAB).

Maynards Industries bought the property from Mitsubishi in 2016 after the plant closed, selling it to Rivian Automotive in January 2017. The company took its appeal to PTAB after the local Board of Review affirmed the original assessment of $7,782,308.

The company seeks an assessed value of $833,334, an 89% reduction which, if awarded, would cost the Town $98,085 in 2016 tax revenue.

Council members authorized Town intervention, approving the law firm Golan, Christie & Taglia to represent the Town in the case.

City Manager Mark Peterson said the Town and other affected taxing bodies find the proposed reduction “unrealistic,” calling the potential lost revenue “significant.”

The affected taxing bodies will share legal fees, with the Town’s share of the cost estimated around $10,000, depending on how many decide to intervene.