Bloomington Alderman Thinks Shared Sales Tax 'still a good idea' | WGLT

Bloomington Alderman Thinks Shared Sales Tax 'still a good idea'

May 25, 2017

A water tower, north of Bloomington-Normal near the junction of I-55 and Business 1-55, or Veterans Parkway.
Credit Ralph Weisheit

Editors note: This is the first of a series of interviews with newly elected council members in Bloomington and Normal. 

There are a "ton of details to work out," but a Bloomington Alderman is standing by campaign statements about a shared sales tax agreement between Bloomington and Normal. 

During Sound Ideas, Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy said the details are important to frame future conversations on the topic. 

"Obviously we know that Bloomington and Normal have both passed sales tax abatements at various times for various projects," said Mathy. "Every single one of those is going to have to be uncovered, looked at, and analyzed on how it affects the total situation."

Mathy said he thinks it's okay for a business to move from one community to the other because it's a sound business decision. However, the business shouldn't get a tax break for moving. 

The idea of a shared sales tax agreement between the two communities first arose among elected officials during a One Voice trip to Washington D.C. in 2016 and following the announcement that Kroger would relocate from its College Avenue location in Normal to an undeveloped parcel in Bloomington, less than a mile to the east.

Business and economic groups the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, and B-N Advantage all expressed support for a shared sales tax agreement. 

The Bloomington City Council decided not to pursue future discussion on the topic at work session June 13, 2016.  Bloomington Mayor Renner at the time characterized the issue as dead, but not buried and thought the issue could resurface after the April 2017 municipal elections. During the campaign, at a GLT-League of Women Voters candidate forum, Mathy indicated support for reopening the shared sales tax discussion. 

Mathy said he believes "interpersonal communication" is away to move forward on increased cooperation between the two municipalities after Bloomington, in late February, unilaterally discontinued its participation in the Metro Zone agreement, a smaller west side tax sharing zone.

Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy, seated next to Alderman David Sage, prior to a recent council meeting.
Credit Staff / WGLT

"We need to get people talking again," said Mathy. "We need to get back to the table. A lot of that is meetings that various aldermen are having outside of official meetings,  just one on one. You have to get to know the other person to understand what their motivations are before you can actually attempt to come to any sort of reasonable agreement on how to move forward."

Mathy said he knows about half of the Normal Town Council members and wants to meet the others and understand their goals and where Normal may be headed.

"I think if we can share those kinds of ideas and concepts, that heals a lot of wounds," said Mathy.  

During the campaign, Mathy also suggested increased cooperation between Bloomington-Normal fire departments and libraries. He said he's since met with the Bloomington Fire Chief, and discovered different department protocols could prevent sharing a firehouse. Mathy is holding out hope for increased cooperation between the Bloomington and Normal libraries. 

While elected for the first time in April, Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy is no political newcomer. He was appointed to serve as Ward 1 Alderman in 2013 by then-Mayor Steve Stockton, but later lost to Kevin Lower as a write-in candidate. He handily defeated his opponent this year and had attended two council meetings at the time of his Sound Ideas interview. 

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