GRANITE CITY — The city’s fiscal year 2016-2017 budget calls for rehiring police officers and firefighters lost through attrition over the last few years, but that hinges on the passage of a state budget that meets the city’s revenue projections.
The $26.4 million budget shows a surplus of $1,673. About $16.7 million is set aside for the police and fire departments.
In an interview after the city council approved the budget July 19, Mayor Ed Hagnauer said over the last few years, the city was in a hiring freeze and reduced its workforce by not replacing some employees who retire or resign. Among those positions are two firefighters and two police officers.
“It’s always been our intention to replace them,” he said.
Although the money for the positions is built into the budget, the actual hiring depends on the passage of a state budget. The General Assembly on June 30 passed a state funding bill that only covers the first half of the budget year. A number of municipal governments’ funds are dependent on state appropriations. Each year, the Illinois Municipal League sends municipal planners its projections of how much funding cities can expect to receive from the state.
Another factor affecting the city’s budget is the repayment of approximately $348,000 in Personal Property Replacement Tax funds to the state. The Illinois Department of Revenue announced in April that the state had overpaid $168 million to local governments statewide because of a calculation error.
“We were really better off until we found out this had happened,” Hagnauer said.
Despite the uncertainty on the state level, the mayor said the budget keeps services the same as previous years.
“There’s nothing we did through the budget process that cuts any of our services,” he said.
According to the city’s website, the total 2015 property tax rate for a city resident was 9.7 percent, with the city accounting for about 2.4 percent. Information on Madison County’s website states the city’s rate-setting equalized assessed value decreased from $312 million to $311 million from 2014 to 2015, with residential property value increasing but industrial value dropping during that time frame.
“I think if people look at their tax bills … the property values of Granite went up; the problem is that our industrial tax base went down,” the mayor said. “That affects us all when that happens.”
The city tries to mitigate industrial property tax reduction requests through an appeals process, Hagnauer said.
“We’re fighting as hard as we can to make sure they pay their fair share, too,” he said.