PEKIN — After listening to several local labor leaders and residents, the Pekin City Council approved a 0.5 percent sales tax increase that will take effect on July 1.
The Council voted 6-0 in favor of the increase.
“Frankly, I would like to see it raised more than that,” said Keith Gleason, president Teamsters Local 627. “But, a 0.5 percent is good.
“The city of Pekin has excellent city services. ... We all want the types of services provided by the city. They’re expensive, as they should be because we get excellent services. But, we’ve got to have a way to pay for them and that’s what this does. It helps us pay for the services provided by the city. ...We need our roads repaired. We need our sidewalks repaired.”
City Manager Tony Carson said that in the first 10 months of the increase, the city will raise approximately $1.3 million. In the full years that follow the increase, it will bring in $1.6 million annually.
Maquet’s Rail House Owner Dustin Maquet told the Council he is not opposed to the sales tax increase, but “What I do want to inform the Council -— given the situation that the food and beverage taxpayers in Pekin are paying — these businesses are already paying 2 percent more than anyone else in town. They pay for a $1,200 liquor license every year. I don’t know if you guys are aware of it, (but) when you sell alcohol on premise, our prices have to include the sales tax in our selling tax to the customer. So, any increase in sales tax is going to be eaten by the local owners.”
Maquet asked if those paying the food and beverage tax could be “carved out” of the sales tax to make it more fair.
Carson said the increase would preserve the city’s existing levels of service and allow the city to replenish the reserves that this Council and other Councils have raided to fill deficits. And, he made a promise.
“The Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget that I will be presenting to the mayor and Council in the next few months will be my 17th consecutive budget that I have prepared on both the city and county (levels),” said Carson. “In each of these budgets that I prepared expenses do not exceed revenue.
“I will be presenting a budget to the mayor and the Council that reflects this same type of budgeting.”
Carson said that eight months into this fiscal year the general fund is running at a deficit of $1.4 million, which “again shows the need for the additional revenue the 0.5 percent sales tax will generate.”
Councilman Rusty Dunn said he knows that the need is significant in replenishing cash reserves. He said it has been a long time since a company moved to Pekin that provides head-of-household jobs.
“What I’ve got heartburn about is ... we really don’t have any sort of economic development plan,” he said.
Carson said he will sit down immediately with department heads to look at the future budget. Every department will be examined to make sure it is operating effectively.
“That’s why I didn’t want to come out and say ‘I wanted to put x-amount in to replenish the reserves,’” said Carson. “There’s going to be times where there will be something dealing with economic development that we might want to be able to use some of that $1.6 million.”
Carson said the roads and beautification are most mentioned when he is out talking to business owners and residents.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin