Danville residents can expect increases in their taxes on real estate and their cars. Also, the lodging tax will go up and hotel-room customers can anticipate a $2-per-day room occupancy tax.
But one councilman opposes all of those changes and believes “Draconian cuts” — including job eliminations — could have been made to save taxpayers millions of dollars.
During a March 28 city council special budget work session, Madison Whittle called for officials to consider cutting 200 employees.
“Nobody wants to hear it, but [the city] has to start cutting employees,” Whittle said at the work session, adding it would save $10 million.
Danville City Council voted for the tax increases during its meeting Tuesday night and Whittle was the lone vote against all of them — except for the 10-cent bump in the personal property tax rate, which Vice Mayor Lee Vogler also opposed.
Councilman Adam Tomer was absent because of illness.
The city’s real estate tax rate will increase from 80 cents per $100 of assessed value to 84 cents and the personal property tax rate will go up from $3.50 per $100 of assessed value to $3.60.
Also, hotel and motel occupants will see a 1- percentage-point increase in the lodging tax from 7% to 8% and a new $2-per-day room occupancy tax.
During discussion of the real estate tax increase, councilmen said it was a tough decision but Danville needs the revenue for education.
Turning the school system around is important, Councilman Fred Shanks said, adding however he does not want the city to make a habit of raising taxes in the future.
“I’m seriously opposed to continuing the process of tax increases,” Shanks said, before voting to approve the increase.
Councilman Larry Campbell Jr. said, “Nobody wants to see tax increases. We have to invest in our community and our youth.”
“There’s no need in kicking the can down the road,” Councilman James Buckner said. “It’s a tough decision we all have to make. It’s a necessary evil. Sometimes, for the greater good for our city, we have to make the tough decisions.”
The city still has to operate and provide mandated services for its citizens, Councilman Sherman Saunders said. Attracting businesses to the city can help prevent or reduce tax increases, he added.
“Anytime we can bring businesses to our city, they pay taxes to our city, and our city citizens do not have to pay as much,” Saunders said.
Vogler pointed out the 4-cent increase is a compromise and “some of us believe there will be a serious increase in revenue coming” from more businesses bringing jobs the city.
Also, “we cannot have a strong city without a strong, thriving school system,” Vogler added.
The school system has weathered cuts in state funding over the last 10 to 15 years, he said. Even with the 4-cent increase, Danville is still on the low end of the scale compared to other cities, Vogler said.
“Without supporting our school system, we will not succeed as a city,” he said.
“Unless you’re talking about Draconian cuts, there was nothing else that could be done this year,” he added.
But that is exactly what Whittle wanted the city to consider. He is for the Draconian cuts, Whittle said during the meeting.
“Hopefully next year, we’ll find a new source of revenue,” he said.
During an interview after the meeting, Whittle said he was disappointed an informal straw poll among councilman was not taken during the March 28 budget work session.
The city has about 1,200 employees, not including constitutional officers or school system employees.
An 8 to 10% reduction in city staff and a reduction in the school system by 5% would bring about $10 million in savings, Whittle said.
In other matters, councilmen approved a rezoning request and a special use permit for indoor recreation for Famous 716 Foods and River City Kitchens at 750 Main St. in the former YWCA building.
The owners plan to open a restaurant, commercial kitchen and ax-throwing venue at the location.
Also, council approved a request from Driftwood LLC to rezone property at 201 Eastwood Drive from commercial to light industrial use. The rezoning allows for for manufacturing involving hemp processing.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7987.