Urbana city officials have voted to place an income tax hike on the May ballot to help support fire and police services.
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Urbana asking voters for more taxes for police, fire divisions

The city of Urbana is asking voters again to raise taxes to support its police, fire and emergency medical services.

Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and will close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Early voting is underway and ends at 2 p.m. Monday. The Springfield News-Sun will have all the results Tuesday night at SpringfieldNewsSun.com.

The city’s income tax has remained 1.4 percent since the early 1990s.

If approved on the May 7 ballot, the tax will rise by .6 percent, making the city’s total income tax 2 percent. City officials say the proposed increase will generate about $1.3 million in funds that will be used for police, fire, EMS and other city departments, including personnel.

The initiative would go into effect on July 1.

>>EXTRA: Champaign County wind farm now wants 50 turbines, half of plan

Urbana voters have already rejected similar ballot questions twice. In May 2018, voters said no to raising income taxes 66 percent to 34 percent. The city tried again to raise income taxes in November of last year, taxpayers said no by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin.

Urbana’s mayor, Bill Bean, said before the November election that the only way Urbana could generate money is an income tax increase. At that time, Bean said the city had lost about $3 million in revenue since the state slashed the amount of Local Government Fund Revenue provided to municipalities around 2010.

Bean said about 53 percent of the city’s general fund budget is used to cover the cost of police and fire services.

Lt. Josh Jacobs with the Urbana Police Division said that funding from the levy would help the department reestablish their crime investigation unit.

“We had to disband the unit in 2015 because of lack of man power,” Jacobs said. “That unit predominately deals with things like death scenes, drug trafficking, child abuse, sex crimes, things that are a little more involved.”

Jacobs said because the levy would help fund the crime investigation unit, it would allow for the department to better serve the community.

“We want to do the most we can for the community, and we are going to do everything in our power to do that,” Jacobs said.

If the levy doesn’t pass, Jacobs said that the division will continue to, “plug through.”

“We will do what we have to do to keep serving the community,” Jacobs said. “If the community feels that the money is not needed, then we will keep plugging through to give the best service we possibly can.”

The Springfield News-Sun did not find any organized opposition to the income tax increase.

Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.