DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) - Decatur City Council members have decided to look for community input after ideas for funding public safety staffing, including a referendum that could increase taxes, were discussed Monday night.

Officials talked about the idea of a non-binding referendum to create a revenue source to support increased funding for public safety staffing and pension costs. Voters could expect to the see the referenda question on the April ballot.

City Manager Scot Wrighton said in the council memo the city's portion of public safety pension costs increased by more than $1 million in 2021 over 2020. A similar increase is expected in 2022 to cover higher Tier 2 obligations and other costs.

Councilman David Horn said all police personnel, plus one and all fire personnel is fully funded in 2020. As well as 100 percent of their pension funded.

Horn made a point of talking about how Decatur could find other ways of generating revenue to support police and fire without bringing out a referendum question. He talked about eliminating retail leakage but increasing retail opportunities and trying to have a commitment from citizens to shop locally. 

Current leakage has been at around $387.8 million for establishments within 10 miles of Decatur, and Horn pointed out stopped leakage could lead to an additional $9.7 million a year for the city, since Decatur has a 2.5 percent sales tax on retail. 

Other avenues Horn suggested include the potential revenue that could be generated by a marijuana dispensary, which Decatur voted to reject earlier in 2020, video gambling fee revenue and the money Decatur could get from increased Decatur Public Transit System fares, if those were to go up. 

Councilman Bill Faber, who was in favor of a referendum, said after a discussion that he has a sense of urgency about making sure Decatur can maintain its police force. 

Faber asked how the city could maintain its full force without revenue and said he agreed with other members of the city council that other options for figuring out the pulse of the community outside of a referendum would be a good idea. He mentioned how a recent Decatur police survey proved to be effective. 

At the end of the discussion, City Manager Scot Wrighton agreed and said the city should explore alternatives for information and then discuss the issue again at a later date. 

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