Village addresses income tax ordinance

By Nick Walton -

ST. PARIS – The village council on Monday heard the first reading of an amendment to the village’s income tax ordinance that would remove the village’s income tax credit if approved.

During the July 20 meeting, council member Brad Kennedy asked for an ordinance for council to review concerning the removal of a tax credit. This action was taken after council discussed moving forward on getting revenue to continue to operate and improve the infrastructure in the village during a work session held before the meeting.

On Monday, council voted on whether to remove the credit through an amendment or to let the public decide through a ballot issue.

A motion for a ballot issue was defeated 2-3, with council members Jana Crawford, Lynn Miller and Kennedy voting against the motion.

A motion to amend the tax credit ordinance then passed 3-2 with council members Terry Ervin and Niven Jester voting against the motion.

Before council voted on what percentage would be removed, Mayor Joe Reneer reminded council that the village had a 100 percent tax credit. When asked to clarify how much revenue would be generated, Reneer said if the village gave a 75 percent credit at the 1 percent tax rate, $28,286 would be generated for the village’s general fund.

Reneer said if the village gave a zero percent credit it would cause an increase of $113,143 based on 2012 numbers.

Council voted to establish the rate, as a zero percent tax credit as part of the amendment, 3-2, with Ervin and Jester voting against it.

Village Administrator Joe Sampson said the original tax credit ordinance was passed by ballot in 1972 and the proposed amendment states the removal of the tax credit would go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

Council will vote to decide what happens to the tax credit following the amendment’s third reading next month.

Council passes mowing ordinance

Council unanimously approved an ordinance to address the issue of mowing yards at abandoned properties.

At the July 6 meeting, Sampson said the village’s current ordinance allowed for hiring an outside contractor to mow properties at the owner’s expense. The village still had to pay the cost of an outside contractor.

The new ordinance states that any vacated property owner within the village with grass or weeds 12 inches or more will be notified by mail at the last known address that the owner has five days to cut the yard below 12 inches.

After the five-day grace period, the village will cut the yard with village employees and village equipment at the owner’s expense. This expense would include a $150 administrative fee and $100 per hour for one village employee and equipment. Any other employees that would be needed would be billed at the same rate and any other equipment would be billed at current Federal Emergency Management Agency prices for the piece of equipment.

The ordinance states an employee who cuts the grass will keep track of the time spent and equipment used on a form provided by the village and upon completion will turn in the form to village administrator. When the administrator receives the form, he will prepare an invoice for the $150 administrative fee and the hours calculated by the employee doing the work and any other equipment that was needed to perform the job.

The invoice would then be sent to whoever’s name is listed on the Champaign County auditor’s website for that address.

If the bill is not paid within a 30-day period from when it was mailed, the village administrator may turn the bill over to the county treasurer for tax collection plus 10 percent for collection and administrative fees, or the invoice may be held until such time that the vacant property is claimed.

Sampson said the new ordinance allows the village to cut the grass without hiring an outside contractor and other expenses.

“If we go mow the yard right now according to (the old ordinance) we have to put that in the newspaper, which is a cost, then most likely we’ll have to put that out to bid, which is a cost, and then we have to pay the contractor to mow the grass, which is another cost,” Sampson said. “This way we don’t have any out of pocket expense.”

Council suspended three readings of the ordinance and passed it as an emergency measure.

Council approves nepotism policy

Following up on action from the July 20 meeting, council unanimously approved a resolution enacting a nepotism policy for the village administration and elected offices.

Speaking on the policy, Kennedy said the village was in a position it has not been in many years, where it can avoid conflicts of interest, favoritism or undue influence when someone has the impact to impact a supervisory relationship.

Reneer questioned if this policy would restrict who could be elected.

“No, not at all,” Kennedy responded. “Anybody could be elected. If my wife was the village administrator and I wanted to be a mayor then we would have to have a discussion and decide whether or not she wanted to maintain that position and let me have mine.”

Kennedy added the village does not want to be in a situation in which family influence regarding grievances and work conflicts impact the village’s direction.

Reneer said he believed the policy was to keep former village street commissioner Tyler Adkins from running for village council. Adkins’ wife, Cathlyn, is the village’s fiscal officer.

A petition for Mr. Adkins running for village council was filed with the Champaign County Board of Elections on July 29.

Mr. Adkins was terminated as a village employee on June 15 following an evidentiary hearing on allegations of misconduct including incompetence, gross neglect of duty, insubordination, failure of good behavior, nonfeasance and violation of the village’s personnel policy manual and work rules.

Mr. Adkins had worked as the street commissioner since 2003. He was present at Monday night’s meeting.

“I believe that if Mr. Adkins is elected then they would have to choose between him being on council or Cathy working for the village,” Reneer said regarding the resolution. “I believe this is basically saying ‘you cannot run for council; otherwise we will cause financial distress on your family.’”

As the discussion over the policy continued, Kennedy said no one is preventing Mr. Adkins from running or having Mrs. Adkins work with the village.

“What we’re saying is, via nepotism, is that we can’t have family members working within the village workforce, just like any other company,” Kennedy said.

“These folks have to make a decision and decide what they want to do. It doesn’t matter to me either way what they decide; that’s their personal family business.”

Jester said council started talking about this policy before election discussions started and it is a counter measure to a problem that existed before the election started. When asked by a resident what the problem was, Jester said council could not discuss the problem because it resulted in the termination of an employee.

In other action:

•Council appointed resident Susie Gray to the Johnson-St. Paris fire board following a nomination from Kennedy. The appointment was made after council previously appointed Ed Mason to fill a vacancy on the board on July 6, but Kennedy said Mason declined the offer.

By Nick Walton

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.