Aaction Equipment Warehouse 2.3.17.jpg

The former site of the Aaction Equipment warehouse was placed on the list of Decatur structures to be considered for removal after a fire destroyed the building in Jan. 21, 2015.

JIM BOWLING, HERALD & REVIEW
DECATUR — While the city's budget picture for 2018 is not yet complete, City Manager Tim Gleason said Decatur City Council members could face a deficit of over $1 million, assuming no new revenue or cuts are made.
 
The cause stems from the $36 billion state budget enacted in July, after Illinois went over two years without one. The deal increased the state income tax from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent for individuals, but Gleason said it wasn't until mid-August that city leaders realized they would receive less income-tax revenue than the previous year. 
 
That's because of a 10-percent "withholding fee" the state lawmakers placed on the tax's revenue when the city's portion gets paid out from Springfield.
 
The state budget also includes a 2 percent "administrative fee" on local shares of the state sales tax, according to City Treasurer Gregg Zientara. Together, the losses for Decatur total nearly $1.2 million.
 
Perhaps to shield the blow, state officials notified local governments they will be catching up on delayed payments of state income taxes to the city in the next six months. Zientara said in October that will add $3.2 million of revenue city was not expecting, but that money has always been figured into city finances. It's not additional revenue.
 
Gleason said in his first year at the city, "I felt strongly that we would be able to go through the next three, maybe four years without a tax increase, and I think that'll be true to form."
 
Volunteer residents report to revitalization meeting
 
More than 100 city residents are confirmed to attend Tuesday's first volunteer meeting of the neighborhood revitalization project, a city initiative that officials hope will alleviate issues stemming from disinvestment and blight in some of Decatur's oldest neighborhoods located near downtown.
 
Gleason said the volunteer residents will be asked to participate in one of 10 working groups, each of which will tackle one topic.
 
"(Officials will) send the groups home with some homework in preparation for Session Two," he said. 
 
Officials are planning for the groups to meet six times before they present final plans to council members next spring.
 
Some of those topics will include local government regulations, beautification, jobs and job readiness, and housing development and rehabilitation.
 
The participating residents responded to the city's recruitment process through the city manager's office and decaturil.gov.
 
Gleason said he received interest from some 200 residents, and more than 100 confirmed the first scheduled meeting, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. at MacArthur High School.
 
Warehouse cleanup still a go in 2017
 
The eyesore and public nuisance on North Illinois Street in Decatur's east side is still set to get cleaned up by the end of the year, Gleason said.
 
The Aaction Equipment Warehouse burned down nearly three years ago in one of Decatur's largest fires in recent memory. Since then, neighbors say it has been a site for illegal dumping, animal nesting, and even scavenging for valuable copper piping.
 
Gleason said he's still making arrangements to make sure the expensive project is as cost-effective as possible. The project will be financed through the city budget. Officials filed criminal charges against the site's owner months after the fire, but the case was put on hold after he died in 2016.
 
Decatur wins neighborhood award for third year 
 
Susan Barnhart made it a three-peat for Decatur at the Regional Neighborhood Network Conference by winning the Stella Stewart Doing Good in the Neighborhood Award.
 
Last year's winner from Decatur was Francie Johnson, who worked closely with neighborhood groups for years through her job at Dove Inc. and continued to volunteer after state funding led to her position being cut. Jeanne Mears, an active volunteer with the Park City Neighborhood Organization, won in 2015.
 
The conference covers issues related to urban neighborhoods and services, and draws groups from cities in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

tlisi@herald-review.com | (217) 421-6949

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Staff Writer

Government-watchdog reporter for the Herald & Review.

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