[PHOTO OF McLEAN COUNTY BUDGET PROPOSAL]
Board member Erik Rankin has suggested the county save money by no longer printing a more than 400-page budget proposal and simply make it available online. (Eric Stock/WJBC)
By Eric Stock
BLOOMINGTON - McLean County seeks to give pay raises and address long-delayed technical upgrades in a proposed $79 million budget for Fiscal Year 2013.
County Administrator Bill Wasson presented the proposed budget to County Board members on Tuesday. The budget is a 1.7 percent spending increase. It calls for non-union employees to get 1.5 percent pay raises. The county is still in negotiations with its union workers.
The budget also eliminates two full-time positions, the administration's budget/financial analyst and one custodian job which is currently vacant.
The budget proposes an increase in the property tax rate from $502.90 in 2012 to $508.31 for the owner of a $165,000 home. Wasson noted that the county's EAV (Equalized Assesssed Valuation) dropped in the county for the first time since 1985 and the rate increase wouldn't cover the entire drop in property values.
Wasson said sales and income tax revenue has grown, which he says is an early sign of an economic recovery.
"Now you are seeing the back end of the recession process and we are beginning to see more more positive numbers from the areas of employment and sales tax, but clearly it's going to be a couple of additional years before we see the upside of equalized assessed valuation," Wasson said.
Board member George Wendt, R-Bloomington, asked how much it would cost the county to lower the property tax rate to 2012 levels. Wasson said it would cost about $350,000. Wendt suggested the county find ways to cut so it could avoid a tax increase.
Board member Erik Rankin, D-Bloomington, suggested the county save money by simply making the budget available online and through e-mail, rather than printing out the entire 424-page document and 80-page Capital Improvement Budget for county board members, county department heads and the media.
Wasson said the county is transitioning toward going paperless, but added that there are challenges to viewing such a large document online.
The budget will be reviewed by several county board committees before the full board votes on the plan on Nov. 20.
County appoints Chambers to State's Attorney post
The McLean County Board voted unanimously to appoint State's Attorney Jason Chambers (pictured to the right) to serve the remainder of Ron Dozier's term as the county's top prosecutor. Dozier's last day will be Oct. 5.
The board appointed Dozier to the seat last November when Bill Yoder who was appointed as an associate judge. Chambers won the Republican primary for the job in the spring and is running unopposed in the November election.
County OKs enterprise zone extension
The County Board voted 18-to-1 to extend an enterprise zone 185 acres around 101 North Main Street in downtown Bloomington. The move is intended to spur development by allowing builders to take advantage of sales tax breaks on construction materials.
The enterprise zone extention would incorporate the old Coachman Motel property, the former Illinois Healthcare building, the former Elks Lodge and the Commerce Bank building.
Board member Wendt cast the only dissenting vote. He has been a critic of enterprise zones in the past saying they should only be used specifically for economically-depressed areas.
The Bloomington City Council signed off on the plan last week.