JOLIET – The Joliet City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the creation of an inspector general position and unanimously rejected an increase in the real estate transfer tax.
The inspector general would have the authority to investigate the performance and conduct of city employees, elected officials and contractors doing business with the city.
The real estate transfer tax would have had to go to referendum in March. Instead, the city likely will take as much as $1.1 million more out of reserve funds to replace the money the tax might have raised.
The council made one change in the inspector general ordinance that they reviewed for the first time at the meeting.
Instead of only the mayor having the authority to remove the inspector general, the council would have a vote in the dismissal.
“I thought it would be a good idea that the inspector general be accountable not only to the mayor but to the City Council as well,” Councilman John Gerl said in suggesting the change.
Gerl also suggested that inspector general reports be made to the full council, not just the mayor. But the idea was rejected when some council members said investigations should be as closed as possible.
“I think the less people that know in an investigation, the less possibility of a leak,” Councilman Larry Hug said.
Councilman Jim McFarland suggested that the ordinance go to committee for review, saying some of the language was confusing.
“This is the first time we’ve seen it in writing,” McFarland said. “I’d like to see some clarification a little bit.”
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who has urged the creation of the position, said he did not want any delay in the vote.
“I don’t have a problem with cleaning up the language, but we need to vote on this tonight,” O’Dekirk said.
Other council members agreed that any changes could be made later.
“It sounds like we do need to tweak it a little bit,” Councilwoman Bettye Gavin said. “But approve it tonight and then go back and look at it.”
The mayor has the power to appoint an inspector general. His appointment then goes to the council for approval.
No real estate transfer tax
Several Realtors came to the meeting to argue against an increase in the real estate transfer tax from the current rate of $3 per $1,000 to $5 per $1,000.
“If you think a few hundred dollars don’t matter in the process, I would seriously beg to differ with you,” Realtor Karen Robertson said.
Realtor Lori Gilmore said most surrounding towns do not have the tax, and the higher tax could add $1,300 to the price of a house on the far West Side of Joliet.
City Manager Jim Hock said with the rejection of the tax, he will take more money out of the city’s reserve funds to balance the budget.
The council previously rejected Hock’s proposal for a 5 percent increase in the property tax.
The council did approve a hike in garbage rates to cover the costs it will pay to Waste Management in the last two years of a contract.
The increase will cost residents $10.66 for the year in 2016 and an additional $10.95 for the entire year in 2017. Seniors would pay $7.30 next year and an additional $7.30 in 2017.