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Morrison tackles tax levy, infrastructure

Council also puts police levy referendum back on ballot

MORRISON – The city made progress on several fronts, including its tax levy and capital project plans at Monday’s council meeting.

The council approved a total estimated tax levy extension of $625,476 for the fiscal year that begins May 1 and ends April 30, 2020. That number represents about a 4.8 percent increase from the previous year.

While the top story for many cities at levy time is police and fire pensions, with a population of fewer than 5,000, Morrison escapes most of the headaches of the new state pension contribution mandates and associated actuarial changes.

Morrison doesn’t have a city fire department, so it just levies for the fire protection services it receives from a private company and not pensions. The city’s police pension contributions go into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

The levy process was very similar to last year’s, with no surprises or huge budget-busters.

“Last year we came in just under 5 percent and we really didn’t see anything unusual this year,” City Administrator Barry Dykhuizen said. “We’re expecting about a 3 percent EAV increase, so that always helps.”

Stable land values are important in Morrison, where they have reached cap ceilings on some of the individual levies. As expenses continue to go up, revenues become a bigger concern.

“With the caps, general fund revenues are something that we really have to keep an eye on,” Dykhuizen said. “While we don’t have the pension issues bigger cities have, we depend on state distributive funds and we like to see EAV increase each year.”

Police levy

In another levy-related matter, the council voted 6-2 to put a referendum for a police levy increase back on the April ballot.

The referendum was on ballot in November, but 53.81 percent of the vote went against the increase. The police department has six full-time officers and wants to add two more. One new hire would spend most of his or her time as a school resource officer, but that position isn’t dependent on the levy increase.

“We’re going to help pay for the school resource officer, but the general fund budget is so tight that it’s hard to see any other path than the tax increase to adding an additional officer,” Dykhuizen said.

The referendum will read differently than it did last month. The council stipulated that instead of using the “not to exceed 0.60 percent” wording to reflect the new ceiling, it will read “not to exceed 0.225 percent”.

“The council was much more comfortable with that amount, because the state statute language far exceeds what we would need,” Dykhuizen said.

Using that number, the owner of a $100,000 home would see an increase of between $60 and $75 to their annual tax bill.

School resource officer

One area that saw little progress was the school resource officer agreement that is being negotiated with the Morrison school district.

The issue was tabled, and the city plans to set up a subcommittee with representatives from both sides. Getting the city and school district together at regular government meetings is made difficult because they meet at the same time.

Police Chief Brian Melton had hoped to have the officer in the school district when the students return from winter break, but that now seems unlikely.

The biggest sticking point is the cost breakdown for the officer. The council approved an agreement that calls for the school district to pick up 70 percent and the city 30 percent, but the school board has not accepted those terms.

Main Street project

A budget of about $3 million has been drawn up for the Main Street road and water main project being considered by the council.

The council recently received updated estimates for work on the 5-block area of Main that extends from Orange to Clinton streets and would be a huge upgrade to the downtown. The roads and sidewalks portion would cost about $2 million, and the water main work about $1 million.

“The next step is to bring in a financial adviser at the beginning of the year to take a look at bond markets and terms,” Dykhuizen said.

The city is looking at financing the streets/sidewalks part of the project with bonds and the water main work with an EPA loan.

If all goes as planned, officials would like to see engineers start the design work in March.

Also, the council is working on a 5-year capital improvement plan just for water projects. The Main Street water main is at the top of the list, but officials are working to prioritize water infrastructure needs in other areas.

Tax levy summary

General corporate tax - $138,473

IMRF - $106,346

Fire protection - $65,000

Police protection - $41,542

Library tax - $83,084

Audit - $8,308

Library building and maintenance - $11,078

Social Security - $78,098

Streetlight tax - $27,695

Insurance - $64,805

Emergency services/disasters - $1,047

Total - $625,476

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