New taxes proposed for Carbondale

By Hayley Dillon, @HayleyDillon_DE

A six-figure city deficit could lead to an increase in the price of prepared food, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.

Jane Adams and Lee Fronabarger—members of the Carbondale City Council—recently proposed a packaged liquor tax and food and beverage tax, which the council could vote on next month.

This follows the council’s finding of an estimated $780,000 deficit for fiscal year 2016. The number is now down to about $300,000, said City Manager Kevin Baity but the proposal still stands. 

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The 1 percent food and beverage tax being proposed would affect all prepared foods, such as food served in restaurants or food at grocery store delis. It would generate about $800,000, said Adams, who is also running for mayor of Carbondale.

The 1 percent packaged liquor tax would affect all places selling alcohol, such as liquor stores and bars.

Both Baity and Adams are in favor of these taxes, but for different reasons.

Baity focused on the idea of balancing the city’s budget, but said the council would decide where the money will be allocated if these taxes are passed.

“Budget cuts and these taxes need to be done in combination,” Baity said. 

Adams’ opinion focused on her plans for projects that could help to revitalize the city, including a city skate park and improving technology in Carbondale.

“I am very strongly on the record being opposed to raising the taxes [for the city’s deficit],” Adams said.

John “Mike” Henry, Adams’ opponent in the April election, said “I’m not necessarily opposed to [the packaged liquor and food and beverage tax]. Of all those choices of taxes those would probably be the best to do.”

Although city officials believe these taxes could help Carbondale, one SIU student is not happy with the idea of being charged more.

Jessica Hays, a freshman from Bozeman, Mont., studying photography and forestry, said the sales tax in Jackson County was high.

“We’re already paying a ridiculously high sales tax,” Hays said. “There should definitely not be anything added.”

The Illinois sales tax is 6.25 percent, with an additional 2.25 percent home rule sales tax for a total 8.5 percent.

Baity and Adams do not think the food and beverage and liquor taxes will change much.

“You might see a month or two where people back off because they don’t think they can now afford to, but do they go out starting again after that period?” Baity said. “Yeah, that always happens.”

Adams said the taxes will not change much for people’s personal finances.

“When I eat out, I leave a tip, and that tip can be 15 percent or 20 percent, it’s kind of arbitrary,” Adams said. “You put a 1 percent tax on, next to the tip that you customarily give, it’s very small.”

These proposed taxes are not new to Carbondale.

“The city had a food and beverage tax up until somewhere around 1987, ’89,” Baity said. “They chose to do away with it in exchange for an increase in the overall sales tax.” 

However, when the tax was eliminated in the late 1980s, it was not off the table for good. The council considered restoring the tax in the spring of 2013. 

Baity said the council decided to increase the home rule sales tax instead of reinstating the food and beverage tax. Home rule sales tax is a tax implemented by a community that is not applicable to prepared foods, medical costs or anything that has a license or a title to it.

Adams said the city should not increase the home rule sales tax because it is already too high.

The city does not have many options to decrease the deficit other than new taxes, Baity said.

“Staff is very cognizant of where to cut and have been making cuts for a number of years,” he said. “We’re to the point that if we make any more cuts it’s going to affect services that are offered or programs that are offered.”

The decision will be left up to the council, which will hear proposals in meetings held in March, with a potential vote on March 21. 

“It’s going to be a balancing act between whether they choose to increase taxes or whether they choose to just make cuts,” Baity said.

Hayley Dillon can be reached at [email protected]

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