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City eyes this year's tax levy
  • Updated

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City Council Monday will take a first look at this year’s proposed property tax levy which is at roughly the same amount it was the prior year.

Mayor John Lewis said the city has the option of raising the levy 4.99% without being required to have a Truth in Taxation hearing. However, city officials are recommending that the council freeze the levy at last year’s amount so as not to put additional financial stress on local taxpayers, Lewis said.

“It’s always a hardship for taxpayers and everything else is just skyrocketing because of inflation,” Lewis said. “Food, gas, rent, home prices, it’s really going up right now. We’re going to not raise the levy.”

According to City Manager Mary Ellen Bechtel, last year’s levy amount ended up at $2,954,885. This year, officials are proposing a 2021 property tax levy, payable in 2022, of $2,954,900. Finance Director Steve Tate rounded off the levy amounts, Bechtel said.

“So there is no increase in the levy from last year to this year,” Bechtel said.

The City Council Monday will also hear an update on this year’s annual firefighter and police pension obligations. The firefighter pension obligation went up by $36,997 and the police pension obligation increased by $6,276. The additional money needed to cover the pension obligations will come from the city’s quarter percent sales tax that was created specifically for the city’s pension contribution deficit. This year, it’s estimated that $611,334 will come out of the sales tax to cover pension obligations.

“The additional amounts needed for the pension obligations will come from the 0.25% sales tax that was implemented just for pensions,” Bechtel said. “That amount this year is $611,334.”

The pension increase for firefighters and police was the lowest the city has seen for several years, Bechtel said.

“It was a very good year in the markets on April 31, 2021,” Bechtel said, referring to the date that was used by the state to calculate pension obligations.

Lewis said not raising the tax levy will put pressure on the city’s finances to cover rising costs. However, this should be a manageable situation for Mount Vernon. Lewis said the quarter percent sales tax is what is making it possible for the city to not have to raise the levy. He added that the sales tax is a better way to pay the pension costs because 60% of the sales tax is paid by people who don’t live in Mount Vernon.

“We’re going to freeze the levy again,” Lewis said. “It creates some issues because the cost of doing business goes up every year with inflation (and) the cost of our negotiated wage increases each year. And if the taxpayers are not paying that increase, then it has to come from other areas. But we’re going to freeze it again this year.”

This year’s proposed property tax levy will come up under a first reading at Monday’s council meeting. The levy will then likely be approved at the next council meeting after that.

Other agenda items for Monday’s council meeting include:

  • The council may grant permission to request proposals for cleaning services for municipal buildings.
  • The council may give permission to seek bids for a Woodland Drive sewer line.
  • The council may approve waiving bidding procedures to purchase space-saver storage equipment from Bradford Systems for the planned new police station.
  • The council will hear a first reading of an ordinance declaring surplus property.

The Mount Vernon City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Thomas Twiggs of Mount Vernon, CENTER, and Raylan Moore of Mount Vernon, CENTER RIGHT, stopped by the Trunk or Treat celebration Friday hosted by Nature Trail Health and Rehab Center in Mount Vernon. Twiggs dressed in a Demogorgon costume and Moore dressed as Spider Man. BELOW, Lori Bumpus, RIGHT, director of business development for Nature Trail Health and Rehab Center, gets a picture of Jaycob Riley of Bluford Friday during a Trunk or Treat event held in the Nature Trail parking lot. Jaycob decided to dress as a police officer for the event.

POLICE OFFICER — Lori Bumpus, RIGHT, director of business development for Nature Trail Health and Rehab Center, gets a picture of Jaycob Riley of Bluford Friday during a Trunk or Treat event held in the Nature Trail parking lot. Jaycob decided to dress as a police officer for the event.

Peoples National Bank recently donated $150 to the Christmas For Cops (CFC) organization to help provide Christmas fruit baskets for police officers in Jefferson County. Pictured, FROM LEFT, are Brandon Bullard and David Keen with CFC, Jim Flagg of Peoples National Bank, and CFC Board Members Mike Bullard and Rhonda Wooden.

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Johnson says Army was positive experience
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EDITOR’S NOTE — This is part of a continuing series by the Sentinel on veterans from Jefferson County. If you know of a veteran that you would like to see an article about, please call the Sentinel at (618) 246-2000.

MOUNT VERNON — Clarie Johnson of Mount Vernon said he very much enjoyed serving in the U.S. Army, especially the time he spent in Okinawa, Japan, as a driver and mechanic.

“I liked it over there,” Johnson said of Okinawa. “I liked the weather, it didn’t get cold over there. I told them I would stay in the Army for 20 years if I could stay on the island but they wouldn’t let me do it.”

Johnson said he would definitely recommend military service to young people just starting out in life.

“I think it would be good for young people to join the Army or some kind of national service,” Johnson said. “It teaches them responsibility and discipline. A lot of kids don’t have that.”

Johnson was born and raised in Mount Vernon and graduated from Mount Vernon Township High School in 1964. He joined the U.S. Army about a year after high school.

“I just decided to join,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have anything else to do at the time so I joined up. ... I just joined the Army to do it. It was during Vietnam but I didn’t go to Vietnam.”

Johnson completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and remarked that it was cold during his time there since it was wintertime. After that, he was sent to Aberdeen, Maryland, for mechanic school which he completed.

Following mechanic school, Johnson was assigned to Fort Carson in Colorado. There, he served as a mechanic at first but then volunteered for a driving job and drove officers around the base.

Later on, Johnson was assigned to a military installation in Okinawa, which is the fifth largest island of Japan, online sources state. Once again, he started out working as a mechanic for a few months but then wound up volunteering for another driving job which he did for roughly 17 months.

Johnson said he would drive from one company to another at the base, dropping off company business, messages and things of that nature.

“I was driving for battalion headquarters, kind of like a mailman over there,” Johnson said of his duties.

Johnson was honorably discharged from the Army in 1968 at the rank of Specialist 4th Class.

“All the time I was in there, I enjoyed the Army,” Johnson said. “But I wish I would have stayed in for 20 years.”

After the Army, Johnson worked for 18 years at Precision Engineering, a railroad shop in Mount Vernon. That job ended, however, when the shop closed down.

He then worked for Benoist Brothers Heating and Air for about seven years before getting a job at the Walgreens Distribution Center where he worked for roughly 15 years before retiring. He said he retired a little over 13 years ago.

Johnson currently lives in Mount Vernon. He has two adult children, a daughter-in-law, as well as several special friends who help him with a lot of things, he said. Johnson added that his hobbies are fishing, baking and having cookouts with family and friends.

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Unemployment rate decreases in area counties
  • Updated

Every county in the Sentinel's coverage area saw a decrease in its monthly unemployment rate for September. 

The unemployment rate decreased over-the-year in all 14 Illinois metropolitan areas in September for the sixth consecutive month, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).

“While today’s data shows us how much has improved across the state over the last year, we know there is still room for further recovery and to get people back to the workforce,” stated Deputy Gov. Andy Manar in a press release. “The Pritzker administration and IDES are committed to enhancing this recovery period by working with employers and dislocated workers to assist them in their search for jobseekers and career opportunities.”

Marion County’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.6% in August to 5.5% in September. In September 2020, unemployment was at 7.1%.

Jefferson County’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.9% in August to 5.5% in September. In September 2020, unemployment was at 7.5%.

Clinton County’s unemployment rate decreased from 3.9% in August to 2.9% in September. In September 2020, unemployment was at 4.4%.

Fayette County’s unemployment rate decreased from 5.4% in August to 4.2% in September. In September 2020, unemployment was at 6.2%.

Washington County's unemployment rate decreased from 3% in August to 2.9% in September. In September 2020, unemployment was at 3.3%.

Wayne County’s unemployment rate decreased from 5.7% in August to 4.5% in September. In September 2020, unemployment was at 6.1%.

In the Southern Illinois region, total non-farm employment increased by 375 compared to September 2020. Employment gains were posted in government (250 ), leisure and hospitality (75), educational and health services (50), trade, transportation, and utilities (50), information (25), and professional and business services (25).

September payrolls declined in other services (25), manufacturing (25), and natural resources and mining (25). No change was reported in construction or financial activities employment.

Illinois saw its unemployment rate drop from 6.8% in August to 5.5% in September. In September 2020, unemployment was at 10.1%.

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 5.3% in August to 4.6% in September. In September 2020, unemployment was at 7.7%.

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ISP release video of officer involved shooting
  • Updated

MOUNT VERNON — The Illinois State Police (ISP) Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Zone 7 announced Friday the release of video showing the officer involved shooting that took place on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

At around 1 p.m. Tuesday, a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office correctional officer was transporting Fredrick Goss, a 55-year-old male inmate, to the courtroom for a jury trial. While in the sally port, Goss was un-handcuffed by the officer since Goss was not to appear before the jury in restraints. After the handcuffs were removed, Goss was transferred from the transport vehicle into a wheelchair. While in the wheelchair, Goss allegedly grabbed the correctional officer’s sidearm and after a struggle, disarmed the correctional officer, an ISP news release states.

During the continued struggle for the firearm, a round was discharged. A Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputy assigned to courthouse security observed the incident on the sally port surveillance camera and responded to assist. The deputy allegedly discharged his firearm striking Goss and Goss was transported to the hospital.

In accordance with ISP Division of Criminal Investigation’s commitment to integrity and transparency, video of the event is being made available to the public, the release states. The video can be accessed through the following link —

Members of Goss’ family have been allowed the chance to view the video prior to its release to the public. This remains an ongoing investigation of the ISP DCI Zone 7 and is under review by the Jefferson County State’s Attorney’s Office.