After unanimously approving the property tax levy for the current fiscal year Monday, the Bloomington City Council started looking ahead to a final decision on recreational cannabis sales.
The state law legalizing marijuana use goes into effect Jan. 1, and the council is expected to take action on the city planning commission's recommendations on Dec. 16.
Council member Jenn Carrillo encouraged her colleagues to spend the week reflecting on the social equity aspects of legalized marijuana.
"In many of our neighborhoods, there are harms that exist from the war on drugs and we have an opportunity to take leadership in repairing those past harms," said Carrillo.
But council member Kim Bray said now may not be the right time for the city to turn to recreational cannabis as a source of revenue.
"We've got to look at the realities of the situation," said Bray. "One day — 25 months from now or, I don't know, seven years from now — there may be some merit to some of the things that are being asked here today.
"At this juncture, I think we need to go carefully to preserve the treasure that is our community."
Carrillo said Bloomington has an opportunity to be "a leader and not a follower" if the council shows its courage.
"I don't think anybody can say that we rushed into this decision; we've been talking about it for months and months," she said. "We have listened to a wide variety of different experts. We have done a lot of research and we have shared research amongst each other. ... I think to opt out is to govern based on a fear of the 'what if' as opposed to governing from a place of courage."
Earlier in the meeting, the council unanimously approved a $20.5 million tax levy for the city with a virtually unchanged estimated rate of 1.08%. Based on a 1.11% increase in the Equalized Assessed Value (EAV), the taxes are expected to generate a $225,000 increase in revenue.
A $4.9 million levy for Bloomington Public Library and a property tax abatement total of $6 million were also approved.
"The property tax rate has not changed very much, just slightly since 2009," said city manager Tim Gleason, noting that the city and library account for 15% of each property's total tax bill.
All items on Monday's agenda were approved by 8-0 votes with the newly married Scott Black not in attendance. Included among them were:
- Allowing a beer garden at Eric's Too, with conditions on the liquor license closing the garden at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with alcohol sales ending one hour prior; a separate item approved a beer garden at Cadillac Jack's.
- Amending the budget to allow for purchasing up to $782,838 worth of rock salt for winter road maintenance.
- Accepting a bid of $506,078 for roof replacement and HVAC upgrades at the city-owned Creativity Center adjacent to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.
- Rejecting a bid for an insulation project at the BCPA that exceeded the project budget.
- Approving a $158,000 worker's compensation settlement with police officer Shawn Albert.
Additionally, new Bloomington firefighters Benjamin Stalets, Mathew Roux and Michael Maines were sworn in after having completed their one-year probations.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.