DECATUR– The Decatur City Council will have a new tax to consider when they meet again in two weeks and one day.
Several council members voiced their support for a local motor fuel tax in order to jump start road repairs that otherwise wouldn’t have been addressed because of restraints in the current budget.
City Manager Tim Gleason says the 5 cent tax will go towards funding road repairs on non-primary roads, “These are roads, like in neighborhoods, that otherwise wouldn’t be able to be addressed given our current financial situation.”
The council discussed the tax during a lengthy study session Monday night that included input from several residents.
“We don’t like adding new taxes, mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said, “but we have to do something to start improving our roads.”
Councilman Jerry Dawson echoed the statements by the mayor, “I don’t like the idea of a new tax but I am also tired of driving over potholes and traveling on roads with failing pavement.”
Gleason said the city will get between $1.5 and $1.8 million annually from the 5 cent tax on unleaded fuel and 1 cent tax on diesel. Gleason said the difference in tax rate between unleaded fuel and diesel fuel is because diesel fuel is already taxed additionally by the state.
The gas tax proposal that Gleason says will appear in front of council during their next meeting may include a sunset provision, as requested by several council members during the study session.
Gleason says the city will do everything they can to make the implementation of the tax, and the projects funded through it, as transparent as possible, “I will direct city staff to develop a website that lists all of the monies and all of the projects that are funded through the tax. The residents of Decatur deserve to know where their money is being spent.”
The pavement master plan created by Public Works Director Rick Marley shows that Decatur has over $21 million in needed road repairs, all of which will not be addressed through the proposed motor fuel tax.
“If we go forward with this proposal as written I would still look locally to obtain a $3 million to $5 million municipal loan to get a jump start on these projects for the 2018 construction season,” Gleason added.
Area communities such as Bloomington, Champaign, Normal, and Pekin, have four cent local motor fuel taxes; Peoria and Urbana have five cent taxes, while Carbondale has a three cent tax.
In other business… The council approved a $63,000 emergency repair at the South Water Treatment Plant to fix a broken gearbox. City Water Manager Keith Alexander said many of the parts are original and have not been replaced since the plant was built over 27 years ago.
The council also voted 6-1 in favor of adding Paulina Heinkel to the Decatur Public Library Board. Heinkel, previously Thornton, worked as an investigative reporter for WAND TV for 5 years before beginning her career at Ameren Illinois in 2015.