Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner looks on as plans to expand the police station in the old city hall are displayed Monday night. (Photo By Paul Morello/WJBC)
By Paul Morello
NORMAL - The Normal Town Council is moving forward with a plan to consider a higher property tax rate.
The council Monday night authorized the preparation of an ordinance that would increase the rate six percent. Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said the move comes because McLean County's assessed value is expected to drop about one percent this year.
"The assessors aren't typically going to adjust assessments on annual ebbs and flows, but clearly we're seeing a trend here of depressed property values and it takes awhile for the assessment process to catch up to that. I think it has caught up," he said.
The levy will be considered again next month. The tax rate would increase six percent, meaning the owner of a $150,000 house would pay about $30 more per year, according to Peterson.
"This wasn't entirely unexpected, but I'll tell you there are a lot of communities that are seeing five or seven percent drops in equalized assessed value. That would be painful," Peterson said.
Councilmembers also got an update on Connect Transit at Monday night's meeting.
General Manager Andrew Johnson said the system saw a 21 percent increase in ridership last year, with about 2.1 million riders.
"The ridership has been growing leaps and bounds both on the educational side with Illinois State and Heartland, as well as just the general citizenry riding to work, medical stuff and other daily events," Johnson said.
Johnson said operating revenue in Fiscal Year 2012 was up fifteen percent. The recently-rebranded transit system will roll out the first of its newly painted buses this week.
The system also recently deployed GPS bus tracking using Double Map, an app available on Apple and Android phones.
Old city hall repurposing moves forward
The council will move forward in looking for bids to renovate the old city hall.
The renovation will allow the parks and recreation department to move into the space, and will expand the police department.
"We're not going to be able to provide for a lot of new people, but those we have will get some breathing room, they'll get to expand, spread out and have more appropriate space," Peterson said.
The base bid for the project is expected to be $188,300. Bidding will take place until the middle of November. The council could approve a bid as early as Nov. 19, and construction would start later that month and continue until February.
Peterson said there's no plan yet for the old parks and recreation space.
Paul Morello can be reached at email@example.com.