Mt. Vernon to Consider Repeal of Utility Capital Improvement Fee

Press Release From Mary Becthel, Mt. Vernon City Manager

On Friday, September 15 at 9 a.m. at City Hall, the City Council will be is considering repealing the Utility Capital Improvement Fee also known as the meter fee and replacing it with a sales tax to fund water and sewer improvements. If the City Council chooses to implement a sales tax, the ordinance will have to be passed and file with the State of Illinois by October 1.

The Utility Committee has been studying the water and sewer infrastructure and has identified several immediate needs, such as, water tower maintenance and replacement, water line replacements, water meter replacements, sewer lift station replacements, sewer line replacement and relining.

Also before the City Council will be a plan for equipment replacement, roadway improvement plan, demolition of condemned structures and accelerated debt reduction also funded from the newly proposed sales tax.

In a statement from Mayor Lewis, “The meter tax is putting an undue burden on a large percentage of our citizens who live at the poverty level or on fixed income. The City has some immediate needs with our water and sewer infrastructure”. This MUST be addressed. If you don’t have running water, EVERYTHING stops, the new schools, Water Park, and life as we’re used to. We have also discovered that there has been no equipment replacement program in place for many, many years. A check with our fleet supervisor revealed that there is approximately 6.4 million dollars’ worth of vehicle or equipment which needs to be replaced either because of age, mileage or upkeep maintenance has gotten out of hand.

We have whittled that list down to approximately 3 million in immediate needs but even at that level, it will take many years to get our heads above water. Further, we discovered there has not been a street maintenance program which has kept up with our deteriorating streets as well as funding the demolition of condemned structures.

Although I do not like taxes, the meter tax has to go. To replace that revenue stream, be much more affordable to our citizens, and address ALL of our immediate needs, I am proposing a 1% home rule tax. This is one of those tough decisions but the result would be the removal of your $10 per month meter tax and for the majority of our citizens, 52.8%, replace it with a tax that would cost each household $2.25 OR LESS. A savings for the vast majority of our citizens of $7.75 every month.

This tax would not apply to groceries, medicines, nor licensed vehicles. Not only would this tax save the majority of our citizen’s money, but would also be enough to fund utility system improvements, equipment replacement program, demolition program, a street improvement program AND start paying down our bond debt. Our infrastructure is part of our “house” and we must maintain it if we plan to stay in this house. Every penny will be dedicated to our infrastructure or bond reduction.

Some may wonder why the rush; the reasoning is to remove the meter fee as soon as possible. To do that the State of Illinois requires notification by October 1st in order to collect the tax receipts starting January 1st. If we wait it will not be until June of 2018, meaning the meter tax would stay in place until then.”

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