Mt. Vernon city leaders frustrated with Illinois budget - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Mt. Vernon city leaders frustrated with Illinois budget

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UPDATE: The Illinois Municipal clarified some of its analysis regarding the LGDF payment reductions (state income tax). It says while the payments are being reduced by 10 percent, the total number of payments to municipalities will increase from 12 to 14. It says that should result in a "slight increase" in revenue for municipalities. However, Mt. Vernon city manager Mary Ellen Bechtel said her city already factored the payments into its accounting, and maintains the city will still be $251,000 in the red.

WSIL - Mt. Vernon's mayor says the new Illinois budget will cost his city more than a quarter-million dollars; a sudden, sharp and unexpected shortfall that will be difficult to fill.

At almost two-thousand pages, the bills that make up the Illinois budget aren't exactly considered light reading, which is why it took analysts a few days to pick them apart.

What analysts with the Illinois Municipal League stumbled upon doesn't sit well with Mt. Vernon mayor John Lewis.

"I've heard a lot of people breathe a sigh of relief because they believe our problems in this state are on the way to be mended because of the budget that was just passed in this state. I am here to tell you as mayor of one of those municipalities that the legislators of this state are not being completely truthful with you," said Lewis.

Lewis and City Manager Mary Ellen Bechtel say hidden provisions in the budget allow the state to keep a larger share of income tax and sales tax revenue that normally goes back to cities and counties.

They said that puts the city at least $251,000 in the red.

"It would've been nice if these provisions, which politicians stuck in this legislation, had been discussed or disclosed to the cities prior to the vote to ascertain if there might be any negative ramifications," said Lewis. "I am hoping there is nothing else hidden in this budget that might raise its ugly head and negatively impact our city budget further."

Lower than expected revenue forced Mt. Vernon to make deep cuts last year and lay off seven city employees.

Now, city leaders find themselves back at square one, trying to figure out how to make up for another shortfall.

Lewis said some of the taxes enacted in 2008 and 2012 were obligated to pay off some of the bonds taken out for various project. 

"Now we will have to find extra funds within our budget to make up the difference in those bond payments," Lewis said. "At this time, I assure you we are not looking at any more layoffs, but we are looking at everything else, including overtime expended and equipment purchases."

Bechte also added that cities will get none of the new income tax dollars generated by the income tax hike state lawmakers passed.

As for the sudden shortfall, she said the city council will likely address the issue next month. 

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