Springfield’s mayor says he hasn’t found the votes needed to pass a one percent sales tax increase to fund infrastructure repair and maintenance, so he’s offering members of the City Council some alternatives.
Mayor Mike Houston split the sales tax hike into three separate proposals (details below)
The fourth revenue increase proposal the mayor introduced Thursday is new and would raise sewer rates incrementally over the next decade. It would seek a long-term loan through a program offered by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
The goal is to borrow $60 million in federal grant funds over 10 years and pay it off by raising sewer rates by 5 percent each year during that period. Houston says the average Springfield household would see monthly water rates tick up by roughly 50 cents each year during that period. Put another way, most families’ water bills would be about $5 higher 1o years from now – a total increase of 50 percent.
Mayor Houston said during a press conference Thursday (read Mayor’s full comments) that it’s not a matter of whether taxpayers will need to invest in roads, sidewalks and sewers -it’s a matter of when and how.
Alderman Cory Jobe on Thursday called the federal loan program “attractive”. Jobe had been trying to gather votes on the City Council for Houston’s full 1 percent sales tax increase. He says he now plans to work with fellow aldermen to reach a consensus on the new options within the next few weeks.
Details on the four ordinances filed Thursday are as follows:
1.) Ordinance 2013-124
- ½% sales tax increase to fund $86.6 million bond issue that will fund a 3 year program targeting worst streets, sidewalks, and storm sewers.
- 15 year pay off to match the average life of asphalt overlay, would allow overlay of 135 miles out of the 360 miles of asphalt streets in the city.
2.) Ordinance 2013-125
- ¼% sales tax increase to fund ongoing maintenance of streets, sidewalks and storm sewers.
3.) Ordinance 2013-126
- ¼% sales tax increase to fund the $55 million of combined and sanitary sewer projects
- Would take approximately 12.5 years to fund
4.) Ordinance 2013-127
- Houston: “will propose a new approach to paying for our sewers which I believe are on the brink of collapse”
- EPA Clean Water Initiative would allow city to borrow funds at low interest rates
- Would borrow $6 million a year from the EPA on an annual basis for 10 years, paying each loan off over a 20 year period
- Would fund $60 million in total sewer projects over the next decade
- Would require increasing the sewer fee by 5% per year for 10 years
Average household in Springfield (10 units of water, $9.40 per month) would see less than $.50 monthly increase each year – total increase of roughly $5.00 by 2024.