Happy New Year 2018! We extend our thanks to Scott Air Force Base for a wonderful year of celebrating their 100th Birthday in 2017! The City of Belleville is so fortunate to call Scott Air Force Base our neighbor. Scott is truly a military base of extreme importance to the mission of keeping peace and providing freedom throughout the world. On behalf of the city, I extend my sincere appreciation to all of our military veterans and to all the men and women who currently serve our country.
Thank you to all those who volunteered to make our 4th Annual Christkindlmarkt a true success! Special thanks to Clay and Tammy Sutter and their staff of Nobleshire Carriages, Inc. for providing a wonderful holiday tradition for over two decades to our residents and visitors.
We anxiously await the results of the 2017 Art on the Square, juried by Greg Lawler's Art Fair Source Book. Once again, our sincere thanks to Patty Gregory and the Art on the Square Committee for another extraordinary art show this past May. We know it was a very successful event and we anticipate the results in January.
Thank you to all who made the City Hall renovations a success! We have received many compliments from our residents on the improvements that provide for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, asbestos abatement, improved energy efficiencies, safety and security upgrades and enhanced service areas.
Each December, the city must pass our annual real estate tax levy to provide funding for certain items in the coming year. Historically, the only items that the City levies for are: liability insurance, playground and recreation, library services, social security contributions, Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) pension contributions, a small portion of health insurance costs, and police and fire pension contributions. In May 2017, Belleville Township was dissolved and the City took over general assistance responsibilities. Therefore, this year the City must levy for these services as well. The amount of tax dollars that the City is requesting for these services is the same as was levied in the prior year by Belleville Township. Unfortunately, the total City real estate tax levy request for the coming year is increasing by $1.2 million. While $264,000 of the increase is for the general assistance services as just mentioned, and will have no effect on the overall taxes since the Belleville Township levy is gone, the reasoning for the almost $1 million in other increases is due to required police and fire pension contributions. Police and fire pension plans for all local municipalities in Illinois are governed by State statute. Municipalities are required to contribute to the plans each year, at a minimum to levels determined by State actuaries. If the minimum required contributions to the plans are not made, the State can divert other amounts due to the City, that help pay for essential services such as public safety, to give to the pension plans anyway. When pension plans such as these are not funded properly in any given year, it makes the contributions due in subsequent years exponentially higher, to help lower the unfunded liability. Large unfunded liabilities for our pension plans must be noted on our financial statements, and can hurt the City in many ways financially, including a downgrading on our bond rating.
As we celebrate another new year for Belleville, it is exciting to see all the potential growth in front of our city. 2018 promises to be a busy and positive year for our citizens.
Derelict apartment buildings located at 7009 West Main Street and 8512 West Main Street will soon be demolished to make room for new villas and single family residences.
Plans to start Phase 1 of the next streetscape project on West Main Street from 6th Street to 17th Street will begin this spring. Illinois American Water began replacing water lines on 'A' Street in November. Road improvements to 'A' Street will begin as soon as winter is behind us.
In closing, thank you to our dedicated city staff and countless volunteers who contribute in so many ways to make Belleville a great place to live. I wish all of you a very happy and prosperous 2018.