Vermilion County Board Approves Property Tax Hike
Vermilion County Board members have signed off on their first property tax hike in six years. Tuesday night’s 17-to-7 vote means the levy goes up by 3.6 percent over last year.
Republican County Board Chair Gary Weinard said the increase is necessary to restore reserve funds used to operate the county jail facilities and juvenile detention center.
“Fortunately when we started, basically six years ago, we had some pretty reasonable fund balances," he said. "And we’ve just spent those down to where it’s now time to look at putting some revenue back in those line items. I understand the school district’s dilemma, it’s exactly the same dilemma that we have. We’re trying to be as efficient as we can.”
But those who opposed the plan, including Democrat Mike Dodge, said residents can expect to see increases on other portions of their tax bill, and they’ll start to add up.
“It seems as though the (Danville) school district and everyone is raising their levies," he said. "They say it’s only a couple dollars here, and a couple dollars there. You put them all together, that adds up to be a little bit more on one person’s back.”
Another 'no' vote came from former board chair and Democrat Jim McMahon, who said hiking property taxes could start to reverse the trend of positive economic news, noting new Meijer’s and T.J. Maxx Stores that have come to Danville, and new car dealer locating in Tilton.
McMahon says taxing residents to build up reserves is the equivalent of putting those funds in a bank, so the county has them when needed.
Vermilion County’s tax increase would mean an additional $5.60 for someone with a $1,000 tax bill.
It will likely be at least next week before the Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals signs off on plans for a wind farm, and forwarding the proposal to the County Board.
The ZBA is scheduled to meet Thursday night, and Planning and Zoning Director John Hall says two of three agreements - a county road agreement and one for reclamation - have been reached.
But he says they haven't been sent to the board, and Hall says a state law requires no more than a 30-day window between the ZBA and county board meetings to discuss wind farm proposals. Hall says having another week to meet would work to the zoning board's advantage.
"Given that there are two large documents that still need to be considered, I think it would be difficult to take final action this Thursday," he said. "So, final action probably would be possible, but we need to continue anyhow, and frankly, we haven't yet got a copy of the township road agreement."
Hall says the zoning board will likely schedule another hearing for next Thursday, October 20th, prior to the 7 p.m. Champaign County Board meeting. He says that would meet the state's demands for the county board to take up the wind farm proposal by its November 17 meeting. The ZBA has been meeting on the plan since late August.
If the Vermilion County Board signs off on a road agreement with Chicago-based Invenergy this week, County Board Chair Jim McMahon says the company could begin the initial work on the county's 104 turbines as soon as Monday, starting just northeast of Kickapoo State Park. Thirty of the turbines are targeted for Champaign County.
McMahon says the lack of zoning in his county has allowed authorities to avoid other agreements that Champaign County is dealing with now.
"154 people have signed up and said 'we want wind turbines. 104 of them did get wind turbines," he said. "And without zoning, the county board has no input and should have no input without zoning on what they do with their land, unless it was an illegal action."
McMahon says the disadvantage of having no zoning is that Vermilion County can't increase setbacks on the property of anyone concerned about the noise or shadows caused by wind turbines. The Vermilion County Board meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Invenergy's wind farm is expected to start operations by early 2013.
UPDATE: Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon says the board unanimously approved the road agreement Tuesday night, and county officials plan to meet with Invenergy later this week with hopes of starting wind farm construction by Monday.