NORMAL (WJBC) -- A divided Normal Town Council voted Monday night to restore funding to hire a public relations specialist, reversing a decision made only a month ago to offer modest property tax relief.
Our news partner WJBC reports the council voted 4-3 in favor of Kevin McCarthy’s motion to put back in the budget almost $97,000, thus raising the levy — the amount of property taxes to be collected next year — to just over $13 million.
McCarthy noted the average homeowner would pay only about $6 more next year.
“The average taxpayer would have paid 50 cents a month to fund a communication director and better communication that we’ve all said we wanted, and we all said we supported, but we didn’t do that. Well, I’m going to ask that we give it another shot,” said McCarthy.
Mayor Chris Koos, voting with the majority, said the action corrects an error in policy and process. Council member Kathleen Lorenz believes a PR pro would have helped the council deal with Blackstone Trails subdivision residents who felt they didn’t have a say about a new east side fire station in their neighborhood.
“That was a big deal about the property there, and the impact of a fire station. One of their chief concerns was that they didn’t have a lot of advance notice,” said Lorenz.
“Maybe a communications professional would have guided us better on that,” Lorenz said.
Council member Chemberly Cummings also voted to restore the funding.
Dissenters included Karyn Smith, who called the vote a “bad faith” move. Stan Nord and Scott Preston also voted no.
“For us tonight to change that order by first telling people that, ‘hey, we are going to not adjust your property taxes, and then not even be open and transparent, and essentially raise them, that just out of order,” said Nord.
Preston said he’s disheartened the council decided not to delay adopting the amended levy to allow for public comment.
“That levy was not established with any time for any kind of citizen knowledge or feedback at all before the final vote on that was taken. That certainly flies in the face of the practice that we have always had every year,” Preston said.
Council members left in tact a temporary plan to scale back funding of workers’ pensions to the mandated minimum of 90 percent, instead of fully-funding pensions by the year 2040, which would led to a larger property tax hike.