Pension gap widening in Du Quoin Last resort is raising property taxes, says mayor
The city of Du Quoin has been keeping up with its pension obligations for retired city employees, but the situation next year is looking alarming, the mayor said.
"It's not very good," Mayor Guy Alongi told the city council bluntly last week. "Right now we're looking at a $62,000 increase over last year." And the year after could be another shortfall of $30,000 to $70,000.
"Either we have to suck it up and take the money from other sources, or we're going to have to raise property taxes."
The property tax for police and fire pensions is the only property tax Du Quoin levies.
And city leaders feel a responsibility to keep those taxes as low as possible, Alongi said.
"We have been very frugal about raising taxes over the past 5 years," he added. "But in the middle of a pandemic, the economy's not good.
"If we have to raise property taxes, people are going to have to understand that to keep a police and fire department as we have them, we'll have to raise taxes," he added.
Last year, Alongi said, the city pulled money from the taxes on gaming. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the business with slot machines shut down altogether in the spring and haven't been doing land-office business since they were allowed to reopen.
Du Quoin is short on video gaming receipts by $44,000, so far, Alongi said.
"If you follow southern Illinois news, several towns have increased property taxes -- Herrin, Marion and Carbondale," he added, naming three cities that, like Du Quoin, have full-time police and fire departments.
"We're trying to keep wages competitive in Du Quoin, which we are."
Alongi said he, Commissioner Jill Kirkpatrick and special projects coordinator Chuck Novak will look at their options, and "make the best decision we can."
The mayor said if they are going to raise property taxes next year they have to let the taxpayers know relatively soon.
"I don't know if I'm there yet," he said. "There are other ways to fulfill our obligations, like not filling positions."
Still, Alongi doesn't like the idea of running a city budget through attrition, and quoted his dad, who said, "You can't run city government on a champagne appetite and a beer pocketbook."