Urbana City Council Postpones Vote On Sales Tax
By Sean Powers
On Tuesday night, the Urbana City Council held off a vote on a one-quarter percent sales tax increase.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said it is needed to address the roughly million-dollar budget gap created in part by Carle Foundation Hospital's tax-exempt status. But at Tuesday night’s meeting, Aldermen Michael P. Madigan and Carol Ammons deferred action on the plan.
“I think we owe it to the tax payers to take all the time we can possibly take to analyze the budget, and see if there are savings before a tax increase,” Madigan explained.
Ammons said she worries about the affect raising the sales tax could have on low-income people.
“The district that I represent has a high number of people struggling currently with the tax issue,” Ammons said. “Can it be a last option? Yes. Does it have to be this option at this moment? I’m not convinced that it has to be.”
According to Mayor Prussing, the tax hike would bring in $686,000 a year, money she said the city would have to make up in other ways. It would also not apply to prescription medication and groceries, and big-ticket items, like cars.
“Well, if the sales tax proposal doesn’t pass, then we’ll have to start cutting employees,” Prussing said. “I don’t see any other alternative, and I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
That worries Jason Scott, a city public works employee and president of Urbana’s AFSCME union.
“Urbana citizens certainly don’t need less services during these difficult times; they need more, and a hard winter is being forecasted in the coming months,” Scott told the city council. “Now is the time for the city to act to fund the work that needs to be done.”
The council takes up the sales tax proposal again on Sept. 16.