Bill Lackey/Staff

Urbana voters reject income tax increase; officials might go back to ballot

Voters in Urbana rejected a proposed income tax hike Tuesday that would have provided additional revenue for the city’s police and fire operations, but the issue may be back on the ballot this fall.

Unofficial results showed 66 percent of voters voted against the proposal, which would have raised Urbana’s income tax from 1.4 percent to 2 percent. About 34 percent of residents voted in favor of the levy.

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Bill Bean, Urbana’s mayor, said the revenue is needed so the city needs to take a look at its options.

“I’m disappointed it didn’t pass,” Bean said. “The fire and police need to be funded. We’re being really stretched and I don’t know what we’re going to do. There’s a possibility we might bring it back in November and really have a concerted effort to explain it to the public. I don’t think we did a good job presenting it to the public but maybe next time we will.”

Since 2010, Urbana City Administrator Kerry Brugger said calls for service to the Urbana Police Division have risen 10 percent, while fire and emergency medical service calls have climbed 17 percent since 2011.

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Data provided by the City of Urbana showed safety services accounts for approximately 53 percent of the city’s annual budget. The funds from the levy would have been divided among the fire and police departments based on need.

Urbana’s tax rate was a flat 1 percent until 1991 when voters passed an an additional four-tenths of a percent. The current rate stands at 1.4 percent on earned income, which includes wages, salaries or commissions earned in the city of Urbana.

The city had said the extra money would have provided funds for several safety service projects including police body cameras, a replacement fire engine and a secured impound storage lot.

“Our options are wide open and we’re going to take a look at them,” Bean said. “It’s very possible we might bring it back in November.’

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