Belleville City Council to consider fee hikes

Belleville City Council to consider fee hikes

Some businesses would see license fees double, among other fee hikes meant to shore up city finances.

Belleville City Council is expected to vote on $180,000 worth of fee hikes March 5, according to the Belleville News-Democrat. 

The fee increases would affect the cost of liquor licenses, trash bins, housing inspections, business licenses and more.

Some of the more dramatic changes are related to the cost of owning and operating video gaming machines. Stickers for the machines would increase to $300 from $100 annually. The proposal would also enact a new $500 per location fee in the form of a video gaming terminal operator’s license, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.

Some business owners would see their business license fee increase to $50 from $25. And the fee for a new trash bin would rise to $75 from $50 per bin.

Mayor Mark Eckert has cited a decrease in state funding as justification for the fee hikes. But this isn’t the only cost-driver that’s pushing local politicians toward taxpayer wallets.

In December, Belleville aldermen approved a $1.2 million property tax hike to pay for pensions. But even that infusion of cash is unlikely to be enough to solve the city’s pension woes.

From 2012 to 2016, taxpayer contributions to Belleville’s fire pension fund rose by more than 34 percentaccording to the Illinois Department of Insurance’s 2017 Biennial Report. But despite the surge of taxpayer dollars, the pension’s funding ratio climbed less than two percentage points in four years, to 42.9 percent in 2016 from 41.4 percent in 2012.

Belleville’s police pension fund doesn’t look much better, with only 53 cents on hand for every dollar needed to pay out future benefits.

Until state lawmakers tackle reforms empowering local politicians to better control costs, Belleville residents can expect to see further tax and fee hikes.

The full City Council meeting will take place at City Hall on March 5 at 7 p.m.

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