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Illinois Taxpayers Still Paying for a Paid-off Jail

by Monte McCoin

Residents in Tazewell County, Illinois pay a half-cent public safety sales tax on most purchases inside county lines. The tax was approved by voters in 2000 to pay for the construction of a new $17 million jail. Although the Tazewell County Justice Center building was paid off in 2011, the tax continues to be collected and the sheriff’s annual budget continues to grow.

East Peoria Commissioner Dan Decker publicly questioned the math of the matter. If the public safety sales tax revenues are necessary to manage, maintain and operate the Justice Center, how was it able to keep up with the bills in previous years when $2 million payments were being made on the bonds?

“That’s what I don’t understand,” Decker stated.

According to an October 8, 2017 news report in the Journal Star, Tazewell County Administrator Wendy Ferrill said the tax has raised an average $5.9 million in each of the 15 years it has been collected. It is estimated to raise $6.4 million in 2018. Another county official, Board Chairman David Zimmerman, said, “We absolutely need [the sales tax revenue]. If you took away the half-cent [tax] it would be a catastrophe. It’s 20 percent of our general revenue.” He added, “Nobody ever said the tax would be retired when the [Justice Center] building was paid off.”  


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