The city of Urbana is considering its first tax increase in 25 years. Bill Lackey/Staff

Urbana considers 1st income tax hike in 25 years for police, fire

City of Urbana leaders are considering asking voters in November to raise the local income tax for the first time in about 25 years.

The last time taxes were raised was in the early 1990s, City Council President Marty Hess said.

“Its been a long, long, long time,” Hess said. “Close to more than 25 years since we’ve had a levy. Costs have gone up but our income has stayed the same.”

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It’s getting to the point, Hess said, where it’s getting tight to operate.

The current income tax is 1.4 percent. The proposed increase would bring it up to a total of 2 percent.

The increase would be used for the police, fire, EMS and other city departments. That includes adding personnel, Hess said.

“We have fewer policemen than we used to have,” he said. “At one time we had 23, I think we now have 19.”

Urbana Police Chief Matthew Lingrell said it would be easier if the city had more officers, Hess said, especially as several current officers have been with the department for 25 years and will retire soon.

The firefighter and medic staffs are full currently, the council president said, but some of them also will retire soon, leaving holes in staffing.

Urbana resident Larry Rosebury has lived in the city for the past three years. He likes the town but doesn’t want to see taxes hiked.

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“I don’t think they should raise the taxes any more here,” he said. “We pay enough taxes in this little town.”

Once he learned that the additional taxes would be used for the police and fire departments, he changed his mind.

“We do need the help … If we don’t have the police force and fire department, we won’t have nobody,” Rosebury said. “They’re the ones that take care of the community when it’s in need. So, yes I will support that.”

Erin Layne owns Volume Salon in Urbana. She hasn’t decided what she thinks about an additional tax. She supports her local police and fire department, especially in light of the drug epidemic across the region.

“The situation with overdoses and things in this town is very problematic. I mean even to the point where it is happening right around our building,” Layne said.

But she also wishes the city would put the money it already has to better use.

“The most things I hear from my girls (who work in the salon) is how much of their paychecks taxes already come out,” Layne said.

The proposed ballot measure first must be passed by city council members, likely in June, before it can go to voters in November.

“A few are 100 percent behind it and a few are like, ‘It’s a tough time, is this the time to put it on,’” Hess said.

It’s never a good time to put a tax levy on the ballot, he said, but he believes something must be done.