Local Government

Adams County Board seeking flat tax rate

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 15, 2020 10:10 pm Updated: Sep. 15, 2020 11:08 pm

QUINCY — The Adams County Board won't consider the county's tax levy until December, but officials believe that the county's tax rate remain flat.

Adams County Finance Committee Chairman Bret Austin, R-1, told the County Board on Tuesday the goal was to keep the tax rate flat with any growth in the overall levy coming from an increase in equalized assessed value.

Last year, the County Board approved a tax levy of $10.465 million, which produced a tax rate of .80361. The 2019 levy was up 4.9% over the previous year.

"I can't promise that it's going to be an absolute zero, but I think we're going to find ourselves in a much better spot than when we were talking March and April with all the COVID and pandemic stuff that we thought was really going to skew our sales tax numbers lower," Austin said. "We are down on fees and things, because we've been somewhat out of business. But those are catching back up."

He said that the is looking at 11% increase in health insurance costs, salary increase of about 2% and an increase in Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund contributions.

Noted as a bright spot in the county's budget was improved revenues for the Adams County Ambulance Service.

Austin said the Ambulance Service, which was more than $2 million in the red last year, has seen a jump from billing and collections.

"There's been a massive amount of changes in the billing services," Austin said. "We got some software and some training. We're up 32% in collections year over year. That's a huge win for us."

The county budgeted $2.58 million in revenue from ambulance calls in the fiscal year, and with three months remaining in the fiscal year, $2.712 million has been collected. Calls for service are the largest source of revenue for the department, which also has a dedicated tax levy. The county levied $1.5 million for the department last year.

Though the Ambulance Service operates separate from the county's general fund, it had been operating at a deficit, requiring it to be propped up by the county's general fund.

County Board Chairman Kent Snider believes the improvement in the Ambulance Service's finances will ease the county's need to access a tax anticipation loan to support the general fund until property tax disbursements take place.

"By next May, I can't anticipate that we would need that loan," Snider said. "This year we borrowed $4 million, and we used $2 million for 30 days. If they're $1 million or less in the hole, we will not need a loan."

The department hasn't ended a fiscal year in the black since 2014, when it finished the year with a balance of $37,911.