Ritchie assumes mayor post

UNIOPOLIS — Uniopolis Village Council President Greg Ritchie will officially serve as acting mayor, and village councilors collectively selected Dave Kohlreiser to serve as the new council president during Monday’s council meeting.

However, the council seat left vacant by Ritchie’s move to the new position will be left open to save money.

Ritchie said he plans to serve in the position of mayor until the November general election. Pursuant to state law, the four year position will be open to anyone wishing to finish the remainder of former Mayor Bill Rolston’s term, who officially resigned Dec. 25. He was elected in November 2011.

Along with the mayor’s seat, four of the six positions for village council also will come open, and

councilors invited residents to become politically involved, as councilors are faced with the dilemma of keeping seats filled and tackling an operating deficit in 2013. Current projections have the village running out of money in as early as 18 months.

The positions of John Webb, Jason Wenning, Marilyn Fleck, and Ritchie all expire in November.

Fleck announced Monday that she will not seek re-election due to health reasons.

Councilor Elaine Wenning is the only council member who was elected to her post, with all other members being appointed. The village is operating on an approximate $20,000 deficit in 2013.

Councilors seemed to agree, according to their discussion, that people are not going to step up to help the village out of its financial problems and offer solutions, but they remained optimistic that someone would prove them wrong.

“I feel they are going to sit back and complain,” Fleck said.

To add to their financial woes, Village Solicitor Angela Elliott delivered more bad news about the approximate income that would be needed through passing a levy to help expand village income. While preliminary estimates show that an 11.5-mill property tax levy would help them break even accompanied by a 3-mill fire levy, Elliott said the need for income would likely be higher than that.

“A 1-mill levy would raise about $2,600,” Elliott said, “but that doesn’t take into consideration homestead tax reductions. To raise $30,000, we are likely looking at more in the 20- to 30-mill range, probably more towards that 30 end.”

Councilors also discussed the option of implementing a 1 percent income tax, but they felt the move would be unproductive with many villagers earning retirement or Social Security incomes, which would not be taxable.

Councilors agreed to circulate a letter to residents in the near future, asking residents which way to go to fix the budget. Last February, councilors agreed dissolving the village and surrendering its rights of incorporation to Union Township was the best route to go, but the move was narrowly defeated by a 60-57 vote in November.

Some councilors originally planned to put the unincorporation back on the ballot in May, but they decided to wait until November in an effort to get feedback from the community.

Councilors plans to send a survey to village residents in the near future and gather input on what direction residents think they should go.

To raise the money needed to continue to operate the village, taxpayers would see huge increases, ranging from approximately $508 per year on the low end for a 11.5-mill levy coupled with a 3-mill fire levy on a $100,000 home, to a range of $805 to $1,155 for a 20- to 30-mill levy.