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Food for thought: Washington would lose an estimated $500,000 annually if the state's 1% grocery sales tax is eliminated

Will Washington lose state grocery sales tax revenue from the Kroger store at the Cherry Tree Shopping Center?
Steve Stein
Will Washington lose state grocery sales tax revenue from the Kroger store at the Cherry Tree Shopping Center?

Washington has joined the list of communities across the state that oppose Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposal to eliminate the state's 1% sales tax on groceries that goes to local governments.

"We stand to lose about $500,000 a year if this happens," City Administrator Jim Snider said Monday at a Washington City Council meeting.

"This proposal continues the state's long history of taking away state tax money distributed to municipalities," Snider said.

Peoria officials estimate the city will lose $4 million annually if the grocery sales tax is eliminated. Pekin officials estimate that city's loss at $1.4 million annually.

Statewide, the loss of revenue to municipalities with the elimination of the tax is estimated at $325 million annually.

Pritzker suspended the grocery sales tax July 1, 2022 as the price of groceries soared during the pandemic, but retailers still reported sales and the state reimbursed municipalities from its general revenue fund.

The grocery sales tax was reinstated July 1, 2023. Reimbursements would not happen under Pritzker's proposal to eliminate the tax.

As a home-rule community, Washington could enact its own grocery sales tax if the state's grocery sales tax is eliminated.

That decision would be made by council.

Illinois Municipal League CEO Brad Cole is leading a statewide campaign to oppose the grocery sales tax elimination.

He's asking municipal officials to contact their state representative and state senator and voice their disapproval of Pritzker's plan.

Cole said the IML would support the elimination of the grocery sales tax if municipalities would be reimbursed for their losses.

Washington Mayor Gary Manier is the IML's second vice president.

He said Monday he's frustrated by Pritzker's proposal and other efforts by the state over the past several years to reduce funding to municipalities.

Pritzker proposed the elimination of the grocery sales tax last month during his annual State of the State address. He called the tax regressive.

City puts the brakes on excessive noise along U.S. Route 24

Excessive braking noise by trucks -- except in an emergency or if the truck has an adequate sound-muffling system -- has been banned inside the city limits along U.S. Route 24.

The council passed an ordinance implementing the ban Monday. The vote was 6-2, with Mike Brownfield and Brian Butler dissenting.

Butler said during the Feb. 19 council meeting that more discussion was needed about the ordinance, including a determination of the city's risks.

The North Cummings Lane intersection with U.S. Route 24 will be a target of enforcement. So will the Nofsinger Road intersection with U.S. Route 24 after work is completed there.

The city will place signs in the area where excessive braking noise is banned. The Illinois Department of Transportation must approve the location of the signs because it oversees U.S Route 24.

The fine for a violation is $75.

It isn't known how effective the ban will be or how police will catch violators.

Washington Police Chief Mike McCoy contacted six area communities that have similar ordinances -- Bloomington, East Peoria, El Paso, Metamora, Roanoke and Washburn -- and learned that none issued a ticket for excessive braking noise in 2023.

Complaints by Washington residents prompted the city to propose the ordinance.

Cherry Tree Shopping Center stairs blocked, Culver's ready to open, power pole relocation delays Grist Mill construction

In his regular bi-monthly report to the council, Jon Oliphant, the city's planning and development director, said Monday that city staff is working with the owner and property manager of the Cherry Tree Shopping Center to address safety concerns on the stairs that lead to second-floor spaces.

The entrance to the stairs was blocked Monday.

Oliphant also said the new Culver's restaurant at 115 N. Cummings Lane has a tentative grand opening date of March 25, and construction of the Grist Mill restaurant on the square has been delayed because Ameren must relocate a power line.

Public Works Director Brian Rittenhouse said in his report that the Feb. 9 fire at the public works storage/police evidence building remains under investigation and city staff is continuing to look for options for street sweeping this spring and summer.

The city's street sweeper was severely damaged in the fire. A new street sweeper purchased before the fire isn't expected to be delivered until August or September.

McCoy and Deputy Police Chief Jeff Stevens regularly point out "for awareness purposes" in their report the speeding citations issued during the reporting period that have the highest difference between the posted speed limit and the cited speed.

In the latest reporting period, a motorist was ticketed on Washington Road at Wagner Street for driving 70 miles per hour in a 40 MPH zone and a motorist was ticketed on Washington Road at Lakeshore Drive for driving 73 MPH in a 45 MPH zone.

Steve Stein is an award-winning news and sports writer and editor. Most recently, he covered Tazewell County communities for the Peoria Journal Star for 18 years.