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Joliet council members approve 2020 budget with increased taxes and fees

In a split vote, Joliet council members put an end to the deadlock over the 2020 budget at their Dec. 26 special meeting.

City council action, as taken, provided that the budget is passed with increased taxes and fees.

Councilman Mike Turk said he believes voting in opposition is the incorrect action to take.

“The last thing any elected person wants to do is raise any property tax or any user fee,” he said. “The most politically popular thing to do is vote against it, and I’ve done that before when I didn’t expect that we needed it. Prior council’s have been criticized for kicking the can down the road, and I think … it would be kicking the can down the road further and higher increases would come back next year or the year after.”

The budget, as approved, works to offset the prediction of the city ending 2019 with an estimated $11 million general fund deficit, which Interim City Manager Steve Jones said calls for increased taxes and fees.

The mayor and members of the city council called the meeting last week after a vote on the budget resulted in a tie in the absence of Councilwoman Bettye Gavin.

Gavin praised the work completed by city staff to present the council members with a budget to give consideration to.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk slammed the proposal, saying that he and the city council were blindsided by the tax increases.

Several votes were cast during the special meeting, some of which failed, some of which passed.

The council voted 5-3 against a proposal to rewrite the gas tax to allow users of diesel fuel to be charged more money to offset the burden given to other motorists and another to let a referendum decide the fate of the library’s request to complete renovations.

Ultimately, the city council passed an estimated $329 million budget for 2020. It includes, among other things, a 3-cent hike on gas taxes and a 3% increase in hotel/motel taxes. In addition, the council members approved the 2019 tax levy, which includes bonds for the library and its renovation project.

Those voting to pass the budget were Gavin, Turk and Council Members Pat Mudron, Don “Duck” Dickinson and Sherry Reardon.

Voting in opposition were Council Members Larry Hug, Terry Morris and Jan Quillman.

O’Dekirk did not vote during the Dec. 26 special meeting. Five votes are needed in order to pass the city’s budget. In the absence of Gavin last week, the mayor needed to give his input and voted against the budget, which contributed to a 4-4 tie.

Several people during the public comments section of the special meeting called into question the split between the mayor and members of the city council.

Gavin defended her voting her record, saying that no one tells her how to vote. She said there is no split between she and the mayor.

“Let me make one thing clear: my vote is not up for sale,” Gavin said. “It is not an allegiance to anybody. I take every memo that I have, go through it, and I make a decision on it myself.”

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