"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." - Mark Twain
In our modern world with the litany of outlets for information constantly vying for our attention, it is often easy for the facts about an issue or decision to be misunderstood or misrepresented. It is our hope that this page addresses some of the misinformation and rumors that may arise about City policy, decisions, or other actions. It is the City's stance that the best discussions relating to our community and its future should be based upon the facts.
Where do my taxes go?
All the property taxes paid go to the City.
One of the sources for municipal, school, and library revenues comes from the assessing of property taxes. In Illinois, the County Assessor is charged with finding the Equalized Assessed Value of a property, determining its taxable value, and multiplying that value by the various rates established by the taxing bodies in that community. Lincoln is no different. However, it is commonly held that the majority of property tax revenue flows directly into the City coffers. When looking at your tax assessment bill, you can see that this is not the case. Let's look at a randomly chosen property within the corporate boundaries of the City.
The total annual tax bill for this property is $3,171.86. Of that total, $397.27 (the green portion in the lower left of the graph) is attributed to City taxes. This represents slightly over 12.5% of the total tax bill. By contrast, $1,844.64 or 58% is attributed to grade school taxes K-12. Other significant taxing bodies are the Lincoln Park District, Logan County, Heartland College, and the Lincoln Public Library. This is just an example tax bill, and depending on the area of the City, the City's proportion of the taxes may vary slightly, but usually city taxes range between 12% and 15% of a property owner's total tax bill.
City of Lincoln Train Depot
The Depot will be completely demolished and it's final design and use is already decided by the City of Lincoln and/or the State of Illinois.
The City of Lincoln is working with the State of Illinois as a part of the High Speed Rail Project on the Depot. The Depot will be reduced to its original footprint by the elimination of the accessory structures which once housed the restaurant facility. This includes the railcars which were used as dining area as well. The City contracted with Iowa-Pacific Holdings to remove the railcars, at no City expense, from the Depot grounds where they will be restored for rail use. The final site plan and design for the building is not determined. The State of Illinois design team is working on designs which will be presented to the City for review and comment. Additionally, the final use for the new building is yet to be determined by the Lincoln City Council.
City of Lincoln Public Safety Facility
The City Council has already begun design work on a new, $16M to $20M Public Safety Facility without citizen input. The money to pay for this new facility would be generated from additional utility and property taxes.
The City Council commissioned a study with FGM Architects to conduct a space needs and site location study to determine the size and location of a public safety facility. The study also tried to determine if a single building housing both Police and Fire Departments was in the best interest of the City or if standalone structures, each housing a single department, were preferred. The group based this study upon their review of the City's current facilities, staffing, equipment/storage needs, and functions and compared that to those with best operations practices from across the country. Recommendations were put forward based upon many factors including emergency response ability, operational impact, demolition and/or land acquisition costs, and size of lots. The results of that study which was presented July 20, 2015 can be found here. FGM used their analysis to identify six (6) potential locations for either a single public safety building or standalone structures. The claim that the project would put the City into $16M to $20M of debt is unfounded.
Just for example, the highest cost illustrated by that study was a scenario placing a single structure near Short 11th Street at a cost of $12.47M. Using that figure as a "worst case example," even a bond yielding $12.5M ammortized over a 20 year period at 7% interest comes to a total cost of $14.2M which includes debt servicing and issuance costs. In other words, using the highest cost example at an interest rate twice the market rate still projects almost $2M short of the claim.
To be clear, the City has not moved forward with any type of architectural or engineering design. A design would begin to determine the true costs of a building including operations costs (utilities, etc.) which cannot be determined by a simple space needs and site location study. The City Council would, in an open meeting, discuss moving forward with design and contract with an architect for the design. Only then would the costs of a potential building(s) and the look and location of that structure truly be determined. From the beginning of this process, it was the intention of the Council to pay for the Public Safety Building through the revenues generated from the utility tax, and not through increased property or utility taxes.
Logan County Alliance Funding
The proposals, balloon sponsorship, and retail strategy services from the Logan County Alliance costs the City $182,000.
Honestly, we're not sure where to begin with this one. The City does contract with the Logan County Alliance to act as its economic development agent on an annual basis. As with the contracts for any professional services, a portion of those contracts would be used to compensate the person or persons doing the work. The contract with the Logan County Alliance sets out certain expectations and deliverables that are benchmarks for performance. The cost of that contract is $60,504 annually or $5,042 per month. You can review the contract with the Logan County Alliance for economic development services by clicking here.
By ordinance (3-5-5), hotel/motel tax generated from the fees of occupied hotel rooms must go towards "tourism, conventions, and other special events within the city of Lincoln and otherwise to attract nonresidents to visit the City." The Council has determined to achieve the spirit of that language, they provide the revenues generated from the hotel/motel tax to the Logan County Tourism Bureau who utilize the money to promote tourism efforts in our community. This year, the amount provided for tourism is budgeted at $160,550. The City has an agreement with the Logan County Tourism Bureau that defines the expectations of the use of the hotel/motel tax. That agreement can be found here: Logan County Tourism Bureau Funding Agreement.
Finally, for many years, the City has sponsored a balloon to be flown at each year's Balloon Festival. This money is included in the payment given to The Alliance as part of the economic development services.
We understand that this total exceeds the alleged $182,000 total, but one must recognize that the monies budgeted are designated for entirely different purposes and used to achieve different strategic objectives.