Tax Increase Necessary For New Rock Island County Courthouse - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Tax Increase Necessary For New Rock Island County Courthouse

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The cost to build a new Rock Island County courthouse is an expensive one.

Construction estimates peg the cost of a new building at 20 million dollars.

50 million if the county chooses to build a combined courthouse and administration building.

Those bills will be paid off by taxpayers over time.

Voters have essentially three options in front of them when they head to the ballot box on Tuesday.

A "yes" vote for the Rock Island County Public Building Commission means they can expect to see their property taxes increase by eight dollars a year for a new courthouse, or 38 dollars a year for a combined courthouse and administration building.

If they don't approve Tuesday's referendum, the county will most likely be sued to build a new courthouse.

Leaving voters with an expected 30 dollar increase in their taxes.

"We're not looking for anything extravagant but that building that exists right now is an archaic, un-modifiable, building that has to be abandoned for court purposes," says Chief Judge Jeff O'Connor.

He says the current courthouse can't be used to maintain law anymore. It has outlived its usefulness, it's unsafe, and he says a lawsuit from anyone could shut it down.

"Here's what has to be shown, that the building is antiquated, that it doesn't conform to any minimum standards or building codes, I think that's a slam dunk," says O'Connor.

The option the county is trying to avoid for its taxpayers, is a lawsuit. If someone files suit and orders the county to build a new courthouse it has to finance that over a period of ten years as opposed to 20, which means more expense and a higher tax increase for taxpayers.

"It's either going to cost less now, to go through the Public Building Commission, and we can address it immediately, or we wait a long time to for us to plan a project, go before the voters," says Rock Island County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek.

Potentially failing and leaving the County in the same position it's in right now.

Banaszek says giving the commission the financing power allows the County to solve this problem.

"It's not going away, with the new law by the Illinois Supreme Court, by their standards we have to do something now."

Giving the County a modern court system O'Connor says it deserves.

"A modern functioning court system, where people can go and get there legal concerns adjudicated."

A County committee is studying the issue of whether to build just a courthouse or a combined courthouse and administration building.

It will also look into keeping the current building for other uses, and just simply moving the court functions to a new building.

The election is next Tuesday.

If the ballot issue fails, the County will have to wait another year to ask voters for permission to borrow money for a courthouse.

That's if a lawsuit is not filed to provide a new courthouse immediately.

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