By Randy Pierce
For the fifth year in a row, the Madison County tax levy is not increasing, something the chairman of its board’s finance and government operations committee, Chris Guy of Maryville, characterizes as “amazing.”
On behalf of that committee, at the county board’s most recent meeting, Guy elaborated on factors that were taken into consideration during the deliberations about the levy which was presented late in October then went through a series of scrutinization and review talks before being presented in its final form.
The budget process impacting the levy actually begins in the summer months, Guy explained, and involves officials like the county’s administrator, Dave Tanzyus, Kurt Prenzler, the board chairman, the chairman pro tem, vice-chairman pro tem, department heads and county-wide elected officials among others.
After much discussion and conversation, Guy said the budget was presented in a draft form and talked about further in October, commenting, “This has been a board that for five years in a row has not increased the property tax levy and that’s a pretty amazing feat to accomplish.”
It has taken some adjustments, he added, to allow for some increases in line items such as for the veterans’ assistance commission where additional expenses will be incurred as a result of unfunded mandates handed down from the state level.
Other new costs include those, Guy continued, resulting from the state’s Safety Accountability Fairness and Equity – Today Act (SAFE-T) which he said “is costing our public safety and law enforcement quite a bit of money.”
Guy further pointed out that there was a clerical error concerning a position in the state’s attorney’s office that is actually funded by an outside grant rather than that salary having to be paid for by the county. This was mistakenly line-itemed out of the budget but does need to show in it.
The capital outlay portion of the budget, upon Guy’s suggestion as a result of discussion at the committee level and elsewhere, was amended to reduce it by $1.5 million.
This money had been allocated to the county clerk’s office, Guy went on, for new voting tabulators to replace some that were about 30 years old and needed to be updated. Guy said he talked with the newly-elected county clerk, Linda Andreas, who defeated Debra Ming-Mendoza in early November, and she is supportive of holding off on this expense for the time being.
Prior to the next election, Andreas will have time to look into what types of new voting machines might be considered and available from vendors who are required to meet certain guidelines set down by the state concerning the products they provide.
Guy also mentioned the possibility of using funding support from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help bolster the general revenue portion of the county budget for the forthcoming year beginning December 1 when it goes into effect.
The budget ordinance as it was originally drafted for the county board designated $31,035,914 needed from property taxes but it was reduced to $30,754,196, based on the new information which had come forth.
Along with revenue for general operating expenses, the tax levy ordinance passed by the board covers the county detention home, health department, employees’ retirement and social security, mental health, the aforementioned veterans’ assistance program, highway and bridge costs, a matching tax and tort judgments and liability insurance.
Other members of the finance and government operations committee chaired by Guy which brought this forward for the board included Erica Harriss of Glen Carbon, Ryan Kneedler of Collinsville, Gussie Glasper of Madison and Jamie Goggin of Edwardsville.