Come for the Color!
Autumn color is just a few weeks away. Randolph County is centered in one of the largest hardwood forests in the Midwest. AMAZING color. Plan to visit us for the October explosion of Fall beauty. See a preview HERE.
Randolph County Needs a Public Safety Tax
Why does Randolph County have a revenue shortage?
In the early 90’s the Federal Government (EPA) demanded a reduction in sulfur emissions from coal fired plants in the USA. In order to comply with these new standards, Dynegy started using low sulfur coal from Wyoming (Powder River Basin). Because coal was no longer being bought and consumed from mines in Randolph County an agreement was reached to consider Randolph County as the point of sale for all coal being used in Illinois power plants owned by Dynegy. This allowed Randolph County to receive sales tax for each ton of coal shipped into Illinois. This arrangement remained constant for over 30 years until 2014.
Since the beginning of 2015, Randolph County has been experiencing a steady decline in the amount of sales tax dollars collected. This decline has been traced to the Dynegy power plant in Baldwin. In 2014 Dynegy changed their purchasing of Western Coal. At that time, the EPA ruled that coal fired power plants must reduce mercury emissions. IRS Section 45 allowed financial investment in Clean Coal Technologies and Goldman Sachs provided financial backing for a firm called Clean Coal Solutions which became the supplier for the Dynegy power plants. Clean Coal Solutions chemically treats each ton of coal before it is burnt in the power plants to reduce emissions.
Sales Tax is paid by Dynegy/Clean Coal Solutions to the Department of Revenue but Randolph County no longer gets sales tax for coal used in all of the Dynegy plants in Illinois. It only gets the sales tax for coal burned at the Baldwin plant. Also, the increased supply and usage of natural gas has reduced the usage and price of coal. This has created a significant reduction in sales tax receipts for the county. In 2013 sales tax collections for Randolph County were 2 million dollars. In 2014 collections were 1.8 million dollars and in 2015 collections were 1.2 million dollars. Based on dollars currently received, we project the 2016 collections to be approximately 800,000 dollars, a reduction of 1.2 million dollars. Because of this reduction in sales tax Randolph County has used up most of its reserve dollars and faces a deficit of over a million dollars in the 2016 budget.
Why a Public Safety Tax?
The county could either ask the citizens to pay increased property taxes or pay higher sales taxes for goods purchased in the county. As county leadership thought about increasing property taxes they considered that approximately 15,000 residents or businesses own real property in the county. Recently residents who own farmland have been hit with rising property taxes as farmland reassessments have been instituted for farmers with wooded acreage. A sales tax would spread the tax burden more evenly among all 35,000 residents of the county plus the thousands of tourists who visit our county and spend money at our restaurants and hotels would contribute revenue to the county. So the decision was made to ask Randolph County taxpayers to approve a sales tax on the ballot in November.
Randolph County has never had a revenue source dedicated solely for the purpose of supporting public safety. Public safety has had to rely on funds from general sources for support. By enacting a revenue source dedicated to public safety, this will help assure proper levels of funding to provide the services Randolph County requires.
This sales tax would fund dollars in the budget used for emergency management, ambulance service, patrol deputies, corrections officers, investigators, and 911 dispatchers. The county is proposing a sales tax of 75 cents for every 100 dollars of tangible goods purchased. (A citizen purchasing a ten dollar dinner at a local restaurant would pay seven and a half cents for the Safety Tax). Exemptions to the tax would be food purchased to be prepared at home, vehicles with titles, and medicines such as diabetic supplies and prescriptions.
Without an increase in sales tax revenue the 2017 budget for Randolph County must show a reduction in expenses of over a million dollars. This could result in numerous layoffs and reductions in support for programs like law enforcement, education, health, ambulance, record keeping, property assessment, collections and the court system.
Didn’t we just approve a tax for the county?
In March of this year the County asked taxpayers for funds to repair our aging courthouse by replacing the HVAC System, putting on a new roof, and making plumbing repairs to the jail. The approval allowed us to restructure existing bonds to a lower interest rate and lower the property tax rate for citizens from 14 cents to 12 cents. It extended the payment period for the bonds another 8 years. Taxpayers are actually paying less per year for the upkeep of the courthouse and jail than they were before.
The Safety Tax is to replace the revenue lost by the changes made at Dynegy’s Baldwin power plant. Without the Safety Tax services will be severely impacted for Randolph County residents.
Chairman, Randolph County Commissioners