Sharon Brooks Hodge Apr. 8, 2016, 4:04pm


Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler is trying to collect 17,000 signatures by May 1 in order to get this question before voters in November: 

"Shall the maximum tax rate for general county purposes of Madison County, Illinois, be established at 0.20 percent of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property therein instead of 0.25 percent, the maximum rate otherwise applicable to the next taxes to be extended?"

If the referendum were to be approved, $9.3 million would be the maximum amount raised for the county’s coffer based on current data. As a result, the highest tax allowable on a single family home valued at $100,000 would drop from $83.33 to $66.67, according to the petition.

But a Madison County official is encouraging taxpayers to get all the facts before signing a petition seeking a binding referendum on permanently reducing property taxes.

“I’m never opposed to lowering taxes,” Madison County Sheriff John Lakin told the Record. “What I am opposed to is people making a decision without knowing what impact that decision may have.”

Prenzler has said he is seeking the reduction because the county board has a history of levying more taxes than are needed. 

The sheriff, however, said the move could have a negative impact on public safety because a large portion of the sheriff’s department salaries, as well as salaries for the state’s attorney’s office and probation are funded through the county’s general fund.

“I’ve been told that if property taxes are reduced as proposed, my budget would decrease by $600,000,” Lakin said.

That likely would result in layoffs, starting at the jail, he said.The Madison County Jail was built to hold a maximum of 306 inmates. Currently, the daily average is 299, Lakin said, adding that if he has to reduce staff he also would have to come up with a way to reduce the jail population.

“I’m not trying to get into a battle with these people behind the petition, but I was elected to look out for this organization. I was elected to look out for the people living in the unincorporated rural areas of Madison County and to run the jail. This referendum will affect them and my ability to serve them,” Lakin said.

On April 6, Lakin joined State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons to brief local law enforcement leaders on what they deemed “dire consequences” the initiative would have on public safety. In addition to the projected loss of $600,000 to the sheriff’s department, the state’s attorney’s office stands to lose $200,000, according a news release issued by Lakin and Gibbons.

Gibbons and Lakin contend that the numbers promoted by the petitioners do not add up. They allege citizens are being misled on the amount of money that will be saved and the true consequences if passed.

In addition to the meeting with deputies, the sheriff is using a social media site to voice his opposition.

“Together, your Sheriff, State’s Attorney, local Police Chiefs and local residents are calling on citizens to Protect local law enforcement– Do not sign the petition,” an April 7 posting said.

Those interested in signing the petition, can go to McDonald's locations on Saturday, April 9 from 9 to 10 a.m.:

-Bethalto

-Granite City (Nameoki and Johnson Road), and

-Troy

More News