From street work to development of the former Pepsin Syrup site, City of Monticello staff hope a business district sales tax will help fund a myriad of improvements over the next 23 years or so.
City Administrator Terry Summers outlined a tentative map for the proposal to the new city council on May 13. No action was taken, but aldermen agreed on the proposed map, the next step for a consultant hired to help the city through the establishment process.
The downtown commercial area is included, with the business district spreading west as far as Foxhill Drive, east to Buchanan Street, then zig zagging around the downtown area to the FS station west of Market Street.
Shoppers would pay up to an extra 1 percent in sales tax on some items purchased within the district, bringing in an estimated $160,000 annually for infrastructure improvements, building work and other projects.
It is work that needs to be done, said Summers, but that current funding sources are not adequate.
“This will alleviate some of the strain on the general fund. There are probably three, four more miles of roads outside of this district that will need rehabilitation, resurfacing,” added Summers. “There are more roads that need addressed than the general fund can accomplish. This will address a lot downtown, and alleviate the strain on the general fund by using it outside that (business district) area.
Not all items are taxed, with most foods and pharmaceuticals not included. Agricultural machinery purchases are also exempt, although parts are not.
If implemented, the sales tax in Monticello would rise to 8.25 percent, the same as DeLand, higher than the 7.25 percent for Bement, Cerro Gordo and Mansfield, and less than Champaign (9 percent) and Decatur (9.25 percent).
Summers said the dollars could be used for streetscape work, a plaza for the Wabash Depot to guide people to the downtown area, road improvements, bike/hike trail extensions, street repair, Nick’s Park work, development of the former Pepsin site, sidewalks, facade improvements and building safety grants.
On the subject of building improvements, Summers said it would likely feature collaborative agreements with business owners, and not for projects where the city would provide all funding.
“There are about 160 sales tax collecting entities in that area, and about 100 buildings in the proposed area that could be eligible for this type of grant program,” said Summers. “The proposal here is to do a public/private collaboration. We know when it comes to the historic downtown, the aging downtown, there could be increased funds for a facade improvement program, there could be funds allocated for any type of building safety grant program.”
At least two businesses that the district will exclude are Abbott’s Chevrolet and Hoss Motors, both on Bridge Street. Since the district does not reach Rick Ridings Ford on the northeast side of town, Summers felt leaving other car dealers out made for a “level playing field.”
The tentative business district map could be tweaked in order to make the business district area meet the “blighted” standards that are required.
Summers said that, if implemented, the business district and the added sales tax would go into effect Jan. 1 of 2020.